No “Lane-Stealers” Here: Central Ave. Bike Count Underscores Need for Better Infrastructure and Investment in the Community
While some might not relish the opportunity to stand out on a street corner and count passersby for two hours, I can honestly say I really enjoy the experience.
Not the act of counting of people, per se. But the chance to absorb the rhythm of a street. I actually spend a good deal of time moving along both Central Ave. (in South L.A.) and Soto St. (in Boyle Heights), where I am participating in the biennial Bike and Pedestrian Count this year. But standing in one place for two hours allows you to get a sense of how and why they are using the street — indicators that can sometimes be just as important as quantitative data in regard to policy-making.
Perhaps most striking to me during my count shift on the west side of Central Ave. (between Jefferson and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.) Wednesday was that, of the approximately 200 people that passed by me on foot or on bikes, only one elderly couple seemed to be out for a stroll. The rest appeared to be commuting, heading home from school, or running errands (many of those counted passed by a second time, often carrying something purchased at a nearby market).
That stands in stark contrast to more well-to-do neighborhoods where you are liable to see joggers at various times of the day or people taking in the sights, window shopping, walking a dog, or lingering over coffee and people watching.
When one of the students from nearby Jefferson High School (getting experience with data-gathering as part of a National Health Foundation program) was asked if she had ever walked the two blocks north to visit the 3 Worlds Cafe — a project launched by chef Roy Choi that got its start at her high school — she replied, “No, it’s not safe.”
To her and other residents I’ve spoken with, that section of Central doesn’t feel very secure.
Pinning down exactly what makes a section of a street insecure can be tough, given that that sort of information tends to travel by word-of-mouth among residents and doesn’t necessarily correlate with actual crime stats. When gang-bangers are enforcing territorial boundaries by intimidating local youth, for example, they do so knowing that those youth will not report them. So despite Compstat data showing the area around 3 Worlds Cafe as seeing less reported crime than, say, 41st St. (regularly used by students to move between Jefferson HS and Central Ave.), and despite the Newton Division of the LAPD being located practically next door to the cafe, youth are still reluctant to wander up that way.
Walkability for this community, in other words, hinges on much more than just traffic control.
But traffic is indeed a problem, too. Read more…