Skip to content

Posts from the "Traffic Calming" Category

1 Comment

Did City Admit Culpability in Boardwalk Hit and Run by Calling for Traffic Bollards?

For the most part, Council Member Mike Bonin and the City of Los Angeles have received high marks for their response to Saturday evening’s vehicular attack on the Venice Boardwalk. However, following Tuesday’s vote to install temporary bollards to physically block vehicular access to the Boardwalk, a rumble began that the city may have erred.

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin places a flower at a memorial for Venice hit-and-run victim Alice Gruppioni Monday on the Venice Boardwalk. Credit: John Schreiber/Patch

The new argument, voiced yesterday by KFI 640′s Bill Handel, is that by calling for safety improvements to quickly and forcefully, Bonin and the entire City Council are admitting guilt and basically paving the way for the family of victims to sue the city.

Not surprisingly, this argument is rejected by Bonin and other city officials.

“Hindsight is always 20/20, but this tragedy also affords us a rare opportunity to allow foresight to come into focus,” Bonin wrote in a statement. “This horrible incident showed vulnerabilities at the boardwalk and we have an obligation to do everything in our power to ensure this sort of tragedy cannot happen again.”

Bonin’s office went on to describe the act of Nathan Campbell, the man who drove onto the boardwalk and literally swerved to run-down pedestrians, killing one, as something that is unavoidable. Cameras show Campbell scouting the boardwalk immediately before getting in his car and attacking the pedestrians. If he hadn’t chose a car as his weapon, Campbell would likely have chosen something else.

Suing the city over not having bollards in place at Venice, when it is pretty clear that Campbell didn’t “accidentally” drift on to the crosswalk, would be akin to suing the owner of a building if a gunman managed access to their roof before going on a rampage. A lawsuit against the city could have a chilling impact on traffic safety in the city. If the city suddenly becomes scared to make road improvements after the crash because of a fear that it makes the city more vulnerable to legal attacks.

Even if a lawyer sees a potential payday for suing the city, it appears unlikely that the Los Angeles would be found liable if Campbell is found guilty of murder. A scan of lawsuits against cities for negligence when the attacker is guilty of murder seem limited to cases involving response time of ambulances or the police or when a police officer is actually being accused of the crime.

However, the legal record becomes more complicated if Campbell is found not-guilty of murder. The number of cases where cities are found negligent for not having the best safety features on the road is higher. I wasn’t able to find one where bollards were involved. Usually lawsuits stem from a lack of crosswalks or appropriate traffic signals.

Of course, the best thing Los Angeles or any city can do is create a road system that prioritizes safety over speed for all road users. The city can, and should, be held accountable when negligence is a cause in a traffic crash. However, lawsuits that scare officials from making safety improvements in the end will make Los Angeles a more dangerous place to use our streets.

Earlier this week, Streetsblog implored the city to learn a lesson from Saturday’s crash. Let’s hope they don’t learn the wrong one.

14 Comments

Blast from the Past? Report from “New LADOT” Looks at Benefits of Removing Speed Humps

From the, “what the heck?” file.

This public menace may be the last of its kind. It was installed in Atwater in late June of 2009. Photo:Atwater Village Newbie

On Tuesday afternoon, the City Council Transportation Committee posted a “special agenda” for yesterday’s meeting. Special agendas are added when an item is so important, that regular public notice is pushed aside so that this important report/ordinance/piece of legislation can be heard immediately.

So what was yesteday’s special item? An LADOT report examining the value of removing traffic calming devices commonly known as speed humps and banning their use in the city. Apparently, some in the city are worried that the humps are slowing down emergency response vehicle times endangering us all.

The report was requested by an unnamed member of the transportation committee  but city staff admitted surprise that the memorandum “included recommendations  and another commented that “it reads like a report they would have written six years ago…now don’t start hating LADOT again!”

Mercifully, the Committee delayed a vote so that outreach can be done to Neighborhood Councils and other stakeholders, including the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Los Angeles Walks, and pretty much everyone that reads Streetsblog.

There’s several problems with the report that LADOT presented.

First, it talks about the “public health” issues created by speed humps without once mentioning the benefits of slower traffic for bicyclists, pedestrians, people playing in their front yards, people living in their houses, and pretty much everyone except the driver that wants to go faster. Also never mentioned is the time saved for emergency vehicles by the traffic reduction on local streets caused by drivers choosing faster, non-calmed, routes on other streets. That alone should be enough to disqualify the report as a serious examination of the program. Read more…

9 Comments

Reviewing the Media Reviews of Los Angeles’ Dangerous Streets

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times got the scoop on all of us with by publishing the findings of a University of Michigan study that showed that both New York and Los Angeles are more dangerous places to walk than an average American city.

Among the study’s findings:

  • Pedestrians in Los Angeles account for about a third of all traffic fatalities – triple the national average of 11.4%,
  • 3% of L.A.’s fatalities are bicyclists, nearly double the 1.7% national average,
  • 36% of all crashes at intersection are fatal versus. “Only” 22% are fatal nationwide,
  • Nearly two-thirds of all crashes at low speed, cars going thirty five miles per hour, cause a fatality. The number is only 21.8% nationwide.

CBS uses this graphic to announce deadly crashes in Los Angeles.

These numbers were even worse in New York City, but of course New York has higher numbers of trips made on foot and on bike than Los Angeles does.

While the study isn’t particularly surprising, it does provide an interesting look at how Los Angeles’ large media organizations cover such a story. In an opinion piece today, Paul Whitfield notes that commenters at the Times split into two camps: “drivers are dangerous,” or “pedestrians are idiots.”

However, the media in general placed the blame largely on Los Angeles’ drivers, following the lead created in the Los Angeles Times’ initial story

L.A. drivers have a high rate of fatal pedestrian, cyclists crashes,” blares the headline in yesterday’s Business Section of the Times. Inside the article, author Jerry Hirsch talks to both the report author and the Bike Coalition’s Eric Bruins. Both clearly state that better investment could create better streets, although Bruins also takes time to tweak Governor Jerry Brown for vetoing the “3 Feet Please” legislation that would mandate safe passing distances between cars and bicycles.

Thanks to a content sharing agreement, KTLA and CBS 2 ran very similar stories, even quoting Bruins although he doesn’t appear on camera. On their websites, KTLA reprinted the Times’ story. Despite rolling out the tired “Nobody Walks in L.A.” line, CBS 2′s story sticks to a “just the facts” report, but the headline of the piece declares, “L.A. Drivers Kill Pedestrians at Triple the National Average.”

NBC 4 had the strangest reaction. First, it briefly reported on the story, but then changed gears to talk about traffic safety measures being taken in Santa Monica. While road conditions are similar in both cities, it seems that maybe it would make more sense to send a reporter to the City of Los Angeles for this particular report.

Fox 11 had the most outrageous report, (video only), with the reporter both warning bicyclists and pedestrians to stay inside for fear of deadly streets and excorciating drivers for being willing to “run you down, just like that.”

KPCC wasn’t satisfied just re-reporting what was in the Times. The radio station asked listeners and readers to tell them where the most dangerous intersections in Los Angeles are for a future story. The crowd sourcing project seems a better way to get people involved in the story than just telling them to stay inside or excoriating drivers. Read more…

3 Comments

LaBonge Wants Safety Study of Deadly Intersection Near Park LaBrea

The intersection of 6th Street and Hauser Boulevard just south of the popular Park La Brea residential compound has long been considered an inhospitable one for pedestrians. Residents of Park La Brea complain about crashes happening “all the time,” and the wide four lane streets encourage fast moving car traffic. But following a fatal car crash on July 11th, City Councilman Tom LaBonge is calling for changes to the intersection.

Tom LaBonge provides some personal traffic calming during the 2008 "Positively 4th Street" ride. The ride ends at Park LaBrea, blocks from the July 11th crash. Photo:Ingipet/Flickr

The July 11h crash was the kind that usually makes the evening news: A car runs a red light and crashes into another car. The force of the crash is so great that the struck car is forced off the road where it pins an elderly woman to the wall of a nearby residence. The driver of the struck car was sent to the hospital. The pedestrian died shortly thereafter.  The Beverly Hills Press has the full story.

While the intersection is signalized, it never had  automated red light cameras which were outlawed on City controlled intersections last year.

But maybe some good can come from the horror of July 11th. LaBonge’s office is pushing LADOT to create a plan to make the intersection a safer one. A motion for the City Council calls for a traffic calming plan for 6th and Hauser that includes a look at bike lanes for Hauser Boulevard. The motion goes to the City Council Transportation Committee before a final vote in front of the full Council. At this point, there’s no timetable for the motion.

“This is our opportunity to find new solutions to decrease speed here, add left-turn lanes, and possibly install bike lanes,” says LaBonge. “The Mid-City West Neighborhood Council also has expressed interest in this “road diet,” and it also has support from the Park La Brea Residents Association.” Read more…

12 Comments

The 4SBB, Homeowner’s Groups and How to Avoid a Bikelash

Councilman Tom LaBonge directs traffic at the 2008 Tour LaBonge "Positively 4th Street" Ride. Photo:Ingrid Peterson/Flickr

(The LACBC’s 4th Street Campaign has an open meeting tonight at the Halal Indian restaurant at 4th and Highland at 7:00 P.M. Just got word that the location has moved to Larchmont Bungalow, 107 Larchmont Blvd. Sorry for the last minute change.)

As a city that has for so long embraced car culture in its personality and planning, a change to pushing for bicycle and pedestrian projects is bound to create confusion and anger in some quarters and provoke a backlash from communities. After the battle on Wilbur Avenue in the Valley, where angry car drivers lobbied their City Councilman to remove a chunk of a road diet that proved popular with cyclists and the residents who lived on Wilbur itself.

LADOT expected to be on friendlier ground when pushing its concept for a Bicycle Friendly Street on 4th Street. Not only has the concept of a 4th Street Bike Boulevard has been a sort of holy grail for many cyclists, there are many more bike commuters on and near 4th Street than there are on or near Wilbur Avenue. The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition has a campaign centered around making 4th Street safe haven for cyclists and Neighborhood Councils along the route have backed the concept of a bike friendly 4th Street.

A safe and attractive route off major streets connecting Downtown to the Park La Brea development in Fairfax would be a game changer for thousands of cyclists who would use part of the route or would use it to connect to other locales north or south of the route.  4th Street has even been home to one of Councilman Tom LaBonge’s annual summer rides named “Positively 4th Street.”

But the movement to create a Bike Boulevard on 4th Street, or Bicycle Friendly Street as LADOT prefers to call them, hit a major snag last month. An organized homeowner’s group in well-to-do Hancock Park put together a survey with some pretty slanted misinformation and followed up with a petition that attracted over 200 signatures in an effort to beat off bicycle and pedestrian signal lights at two dangerous intersections, 4th and Highland and 4th and Rossmore. Their combined effort spooked Councilman LaBonge’s office who pulled their support for the proposed signal changes and LADOT has dropped the proposal.

The difficulty in explaining new infrastructure is perhaps best exemplified by an article on the controversy between LADOT and the homeowners in the Larchmont Chronicle.  Everything from the title to the text creates more confusion about what LADOT is proposing.  Crossing signals for bicyclists and pedestrians are not traffic lights and they’re certainly not stop signs.

Some proponents of the concept of a completed Bicycle Friendly Street claim the Hancock Park Homeowner’s Association is against the project because of some sort of Not-In-My-Back-Yard syndrome. Others have speculated that the group was spooked that LADOT had only one plan, instead of a variety of options, for the signals and that the residents were reacting to a “design and defend” approach to transportation planning. The Homeowners Association didn’t respond to requests to comment for this story so all we have is speculation. Read more…

4 Comments

Second Steps: The Riverdale-Maple Greenway Will Connect Parks In Glendale

For a larger image of the Greenway, and more information about the project, click here.

As part of every Policies for Livable Active Communities and the Environment (PLACE) Grants awarded by L.A. County Department of Public Health in 2008, each community had to complete a sample project that demonstrated the types of street improvements that could spread throughout their city as a result of improved planning.  The City of Culver City completed the Downtown Connector project that provides a Sharrowed street connection between the Downtown and the future Expo Station while linking residents to local schools.  Long Beach spent their money on the Green Sharrowed Lane in Belmont Shore.

Glendale’s project is completed yet, the contractor just got approval to begin construction, but it is similar to the other two projects we’ve reviewed.  The Riverdale-Maple Greenway will connect three parks in Glendale: Pacific Park and School, Maple Park and Community Center and Carr Park.  When completed the Greenway will have 124 new trees along the corridor, repaired and widened sidewalks, wayfinding and promotional signage and bike lanes on Riverdale (the western portion of the Greenway) and Sharrows along the rest of the route on Maple Street, Rock Glen Avenue and Lincoln Avenue.

PLACE Coordinator Colin Bogart explains the thinking behind the project.  ”By making it easier to access the park and the areas around the park, you’re going to get more people in the park and more people walking and biking in the neighborhoods.”

While none of the treatments considered for the Greenway are new to Glendale, this is the first time the city is coordinating a group of different designs and additions to create a special corridor friendly to all road users.  “The idea of consolidating it in one place, and to use all these funding sources to create a corridor, that was the leap,” explains Marc Stirdivant with the city’s Parks Department and one of the authors of the PLACE Grant.

Many of the new trees are already in, and what a difference they make for pedestrians. Image via the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition's special webpage for this project.

From a public health standpoint, PLACE is a public health grant after all, it’s a great low-cost investment to provide bicycle and pedestrian access to parks.  Not only does the project, spanning almost the entire east-west portion of the city, connect neighborhoods but it makes it easier for people to get to their local park without having to get into a car.  This will actually increase the physical activity of adults more than kids, as personal experience has taught me that kids have no trouble exercising at parks, and parents can get into the action mostly by exercising on the way to and from the park.

The project is a strong example of the city’s commitment to creating a walkable and bikable transportation grid.  Only $20,000 of the $320,000 from the PLACE Grant is going to cover the physical projects.  The total cost of the Greenway is roughly $500,000.  Also, the original proposal didn’t include the last two segments of the Greenway that connect to Carr Park in the Northeast corner of the map on Rock Glen and Lincoln.  After Alta Planning and Design reviewed the city’s initial plan, they urged Glendale to consider adding the spur to include the third park, and the city embraced the additional project.

At first, it seemed the main barrier to completing the project would be the intersection of Central and Maple.  The intersection was one of the most dangerous crossings, especially for pedestrians, and required Greenway users (riders and walkers) to make a pair of turns to stay on the Greenway.

“If you were a pedestrian and you wanted to cross here, you were essentially out of luck,” Bogart remarked of the road configuration.

Fixing the intersection was going to be a daunting and expensive task, until city staff noted that there was an improvement project already on the books.  Using federal stimulus funds, the city not only added new crossings to the street, but also a series of bump outs to both slow traffic and decrease the length of the crossing for pedestrians.  In addition, the city put in bike detectors connected to the traffic signal and marked their location on the street to make bike crossings easier.

Gunpowder and I rest at the intersection of Riverdale and Central and admire the new bump out.

Glendale was actually a somewhat controversial selection when the PLACE grants were first announced.  According to the census, the city is white (over 71%), middle class (median household income approaches $70,000) and suburban.  Yet, the Greenway demonstrates not just a commitment to creating livable streets where people can walk and bike where they’re going or just be outside without being harassed by traffic, but also a commitment to equity.

Read more…

27 Comments

Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority Responds to LAT Article on Stop Sign Cameras

Honestly, how the heck does anyone get a ticket when there's signs such as these up? Photo: Zach Behrens/LAist

On Monday, the Los Angeles Times printed an eye-rolling article about the use of stop sign cameras to enforce safe street laws in the state parks surrounding the Santa Monica Mountains.  In response, the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority’s executive director, Joseph T. Edmiston wrote the following letter to the staff and board of the Authority.  It’s an instructive read, especially if the traffic scofflaw community decides this is their next battleground.

One of Edmiston’s main points is most interesting.  The cameras are set to only record people blowing through the signs, someone making a “rolling stop” wouldn’t be ticketed based on the cameras settings.

So the people complaining in the Times article are really complaining that they’re really bad drivers. – DN

Dear all,

Two things to report:

1. On the good news side, Friday we got notice that the Appellate Division certified for publication the decision in MRCA vs. Kaufman. That means this decision UPHOLDING ALL ASPECTS OF THE PROGRAM is binding precedent for the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Attached is a copy of the opinion. (We got a copy of the decision and posted it here. – DN)

2. On the other hand, the Los Angeles Times this morning had this really one-sided story. What the Times felt was newsworthy was violators getting angry when they are videoed blowing through stop signs (and who isn’t miffed at getting caught).

My favorite quote in this story is the guy who takes umbrage at getting 8 violations before he noticed the program. How about noticing the stop sign buddy?

This is a good opportunity to recap the program and the rationale for it.

First of all, for those who think the California rolling-stop is a basic civil right, we aren’t impinging thereon. The cameras are set so they don’t record anything under a certain speed. (For obvious reasons I can’t reveal that speed outside of closed session, but it is well below what most people would consider a good faith effort to “stop.”) Issuing a citation isn’t automatic. The citation is issued on an individual basis by a specially trained park ranger who is also a California peace officer. The standard is: If it were your eyes instead of the camera, would you have issued the citation? Ambiguities are resolved in favor of the driver. Moreover, there are no improper incentives. The camera company gets a fixed monthly fee, irrespective of the number of violations, and the park rangers are paid from an entirely separate fund. Read more…

19 Comments

With Red Light Cameras All But Gone, What’s Next for Creating Safe Crossings

(Update: The L.A. Times reports there was more chicanery at City Council today and the motion has been sent back to the Finance and Budget Committee, Chaired by red light camera backer Bernard Parks.  Streetsblog still believes that it is wildly unlikely the program should be saved and the Council should focus on what to do with the the money “saved” by killing the program.)

While the Los Angeles City Council didn’t formally vote to end the city’s red-light camera program, the writing is clearly on the wall.  Of the twelve members present, seven voted to end the program, and of the three absent at least Greig Smith has voiced opposition to the program.  To raise the bar even higher, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is backing the Police Commission’s unanimous vote to end the program.

Richard Alarcon and Telfair Elementary School children try out the new Smart Crosswalk in 2007. With the city ending its red light camera program, some of the

While we thank Council Members Richard Alarcon, Tony Cardenas, Tom LaBonge, Bernard Parks and Jan Perry for their leadership, it’s time to turn the page and ask the City Council how they plan to make streets safer for all users if cameras aren’t the answer.  In opposing the motion to continue the program, Councilman Bill Rosendahl claimed the program cost the city $2.6 million a year and Councilman Paul Krekorian argued that “Every cent we spend on this is a cent we’re not spending on something else.”

This implies that the City Council is planning on spending the $2.6 million on something else, and not just using it to fix a small part of the City’s budget deficit.  The question should now be, how can the city most effectively spend those funds.

Obviously, none of the Council stated opposition to safe traffic crossings, although Councilman Dennis Zine is urging motorists not to pay traffic camera tickets after they break the law, and thus the Council ordered a study of whether or not extended yellow lights or short “all red” times in cycles can reduce crashes.  A study is a good first step, but as the city moves farther from the recent debate over cameras, the urgency to fund innovative projects is diminished.

So what can be done? Read more…

34 Comments

In Defense of Red Light Cameras

Last week the Los Angeles Police Commission, the citizen panel that oversees the LAPD, unanimously voted to reject the LAPD’s recommendation to extend the city’s contract with an Arizona based group that provides, maintains, and utilizes “red light cameras” at 32 Los Angeles intersections.  The move came as a shock to the LAPD, but has been widely praised, including two editorials in the city’s two largest newspapers.

The City Council can override the Police Commission with a two-thirds vote.  And while it is unlikely they will do so, it’s too bad that the program is going down without a whimper.

Red light cameras have always been a political hot potato.  Privacy advocates have long argued against the government’s right to place cameras at intersections.  Others have argued that those ticketed by the cameras don’t have the right to face their accuser as guaranteed by the Constitution.  But most people just don’t like getting ticketed when they break the law and are caught doing it.  There’s even an Orwellianly named group of “local activists” called “Safer Streets L.A.” that lobbied against the cameras by arguing that cars making right turns on red lights without stopping isn’t really that big of a deal.  Nearly two-thirds of tickets given by red light cameras are for cars making illegal right hand turns.

As we n0ted three years ago, cars making right hand turns without yielding is a major traffic safety concern.

When the Federal Highway Administration discusses the conflict between pedestrians and automobiles it ranks “right on red” as the top concern.  A look at crash fatality statistics nationwide shows that in Los Angeles, almost one quarter of all crash fatalities are pedestrians.

And as the L.A. Times noted in their editorial burying the camera program, the red light cameras are working. Read more…

5 Comments

Revitalizing San Fernando Road through Landscaping

The Sylmar Business Improvement District (BID) is seeking to improve and re-imagine a just-over-half-mile section of San Fernando Boulevard through the power of greenspace creation and landscaping.  The BID isn’t seeking to change the use of the road, all changes will happen on existing medians.  Instead, they just want to make San Fernando Boulevard a more pleasant place to be.

For more images of the Sylmar Vista Project, click here.

Last week, the BID, Councilman Richard Alarcón and the Community Redevelopment Association celebrated the groundbreaking for an interesting and colorful project that will replace concrete medians with plants, flowers, trees, benches and waste stations.  The stated goal of the project is  to beautify an ugly piece of road and create an attractive place for people to walk and bike between Hubbard Street and Polk Street, the entire jurisdiction of the BID.

The commercial property owners within this district pay a self-imposed annual assessment to improve the economic vitality.  In this case, businesses aren’t just committing to maintain the investment in a beautified Sylmar, they’re also putting their own skin in the game by paying for part of the construction.  The CRA has granted another $350,000 towards improving the roadway making the project a true public/private partnership.  The BID already paid for the planting of 36 trees and an entryway to the area announcing “The Vista at Sylmar” and will add the benches and other street decorations. Read more…