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Posts from the "Traffic Enforcement" Category

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Vision Zero or Zero Vision? L.A. Needs to Change the Way It Thinks About Safety

##http://walksf.org/2014/01/no-loss-of-life-is-acceptable-san-franciscans-call-for-vision-zero/##Walk SF## shows that with a Vision Zero philosophy, increase traffic volume can lead to fewer road fatalities.

Walk SF shows that with a Vision Zero philosophy, increase traffic volume can lead to fewer road fatalities.

Cyclist John Philips was cycling in heavy traffic in the San Fernando Valley when he was hit from behind by an impatient driver. While the driver did try to run, heavy traffic allowed witnesses to photograph both him and his vehicle. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) WAS summoned and a report was quickly taken.

As Ted Rogers writes at Biking in L.A., "Apparently tire tracks aren't significant enough evidence that one has been run over."

As Ted Rogers writes at Biking in L.A., “Apparently tire tracks aren’t significant enough evidence that one has been run over.”

Last September, a cyclist was riding on Chatsworth Boulevard. After standing up for his rights after being verbally accosted by a dangerous driver, the driver intentionally ran him over, got out of his car, and berated him as he lay in the street. The cyclist used his cell phone to take pictures and turned the pics, as well as a witness list over to the police. Tire tracks were still visible on his legs when photographed later.

In December Dan Davis (name changed) crossed the street safely on foot in Downtown Los Angeles.

In all three of these stories, the LAPD was present . In only one of these cases did they find someone to be at fault. Philips and the other anonymous cyclist were shocked to discover that the city would not pursue a case against their attackers. In both cases “insufficient evidence” was cited, despite several eyewitnesses, pictures and immediate LAPD notification. Davis received a $259 ticket because the walk signal was already a flashing orange when he began his trip across the street, even though exactly zero people were injured or placed in danger by his actions.

With the LAPD’s enforcement of traffic laws so clearly out-of-step with the city’s safety needs, it’s time for someone to lead the way towards creating a safer Los Angeles. It’s time for the city to adopt Vision Zero.

“Vision Zero” began in Sweden. In the 1970′s, Sweden decided that the amount of traffic deaths was too great, so it began to base every transportation design, construction and enforcement decision around a basic premise: “will it help reduce Sweden’s total traffic deaths to zero?”.

The term “Vision Zero” wasn’t coined until it was written into the country’s transportation laws in 1997, but the statistics are clear. With only three of every 100,000 Swedes die in crashes each year. This compares with 5.5 per 100,000 across the European Union, and 11.4 in America. Sweden’s roads are the safest in the world. America has over three times as many per capita fatalities. Read more…

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Seriously, When Is Someone Going to Take Away This Kid’s Car Keys

For the second time in 2014, the world sat witness to Justin Bieber’s private meltdown. After two years of excusing and applauding his wreckless driving history, the long arm of the law caught up with Bieber after he egged a rich guy’s house and one of his friends was busted for carrying his drugs.

Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber

Last night, the popular mega-star was arrested for DUI, resisting arrest, and drag racing in Miami Dade-County. South Florida seems to be a popular place for L.A. based celebrities to drive dangerously.

While gossip news sources and Bieber haters will delight in this news, the sad truth is our society that dismisses dangerous driving behavior is partially to blame for the Bieb’s most recent meltdown behind the wheel. Consider his recent driving history and wonder how a sane society allows this young man to operate deadly machinery.

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There’s Still Plenty of Questions About the “Eric Garcetti Crash”

From the Times's security cameras you can see the quickly arriving squad car, the Mayor's SUV but barely the crash victim.

From the Times’s security cameras you can see the quickly arriving squad car, the Mayor’s SUV but barely the crash victim.

The LAPD, Mayor’s Office and to some extent the media are downplaying the significance of yesterday’s afternoon car crash in Downtown Los Angeles involving the Mayor’s SUV. Driven by an LAPD officer, the vehicle was driven into a pedestrian inside of a crosswalk causing her hospitalization. The the officer and his passengers were traveling east on 2nd Street towards City Hall when the crash occurred at Spring Street.

A video of the crash was taken by L.A. Times security cameras, but the resolution is so grainy and the actual collision occurs off-screen.

The LAPD dismisses the crash as “minor.” And with reports already streaming in that the woman was “crossing against the signal” it is possible that the city will use this crash as justification for its widely panned pedestrian stings.

But a look at the facts of the case show that instead of this being a lesson about safely crossing the street, it could turn into a lesson for the LAPD on how it desperately needs to improve the way the department investigates crashes. Here’s a rundown of some problems with the investigation as reported:

Problem 1: The LAPD Blamed the Victim Before Completing the Investigation

From the Los Angeles Times:

Police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said the woman appeared to be crossing 2nd against the light when the accident occurred, but further investigation was needed.

The LAPD biasses its own investigation by stating the “probable” cause of the crash without all of the needed information. We don’t know if the officer had a chance to speak with the victim in the crash or what further investigation was needed. We do know that the officer assigned blame to the largest media outlet in the city before the investigation was completed.

We also know…

The Times video showed only part of the scene because of the camera’s angle. It appears to show the pedestrian was struck as Garcetti’s SUV was passing a pickup truck stopped in the crosswalk. Read more…

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Garcetti a Passenger in LAPD SUV That Struck and Injured Pedestrian

An LAPD squad car carrying Mayor Eric Garcetti struck and injured a pedestrian at 12:20 pm today near Second and Spring Streets. The woman was taken to the hospital by Fire Department. Neither LAFD nor the Mayor’s Office would comment further on her condition.

“I’m very concerned about her and wish her a speedy recovery. I look forward to speaking with her soon,” Garcetti said in a statement.

The LAPD confirmed to KNBC that the Mayor was interviewed by LAPD investigators investigating the crash. The statement from the Mayor’s Office stated that Garcetti was on the phone at the time of the crash and did not actually witness the collision.

No further details have been released as to the cause of the crash.

Streetsblog will update this story throughout the evening if more news becomes available.

UPDATE, 6:30 pm – We have confirmed that the crash happened on Second Street near Spring Street, not the other way around.

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Jaywalking and Parking Tickets: The Livable Streets Litmus Test of 2014

Over our end-of-the-year break, there were two stories related to how the city thinks about its transportation needs which kept popping up in the news: the LAPD’s “Jaywalking Crackdown”** and the movement to restructure the city’s parking fees. The two stories were both treated as stories of regular people being harassed by a money hungry government.

While much of the mainstream narrative was the same, in truth the two couldn’t be more different. The stories are really about how Los Angeles residents see public space.

The parking reform movement in speared by a pair of advocates, one of whom happens to be the force behind getting the city to end its red light camera program, creating an advocacy machine to push against the city’s parking policies. They call the fees for illegal parking exorbitant, despite the fees being on par or lower than that in New York or Chicago and other major American cities.

The cheapest parking ticket in L.A. is a $58. In Chicago the cheapest fee is $50. In New York, it’s $65. The most common ticket in L.A. is $73 for “parking in a prohibitive zone.” In New York that costs scofflaw parkers $65. In Chicago it’s $75.

Some of their proposed reforms make sense, others are thinly veiled attempts to overthrow parking norms.

But the bedrock of this movement is a simple belief that making space for cars, and giving up a public resource to car owners at below market costs, is a primary function for cities in general and Los Angeles in particular.

Naturally, L.A. Weekly is very excited about all of this. As is the local television news.

The LAPD’s “Jaywalking Crackdown” in Downtown Los Angeles supports the notion that the public resource known as “city streets” are really just private space for automobiles. The LAPD cites safety for “cracking down” on people who step off a curb moments after a traffic signal goes from white to flashing red and make it across the street with time to spare. Even a precursory look at what’s causing crashes downtown shows that pedestrians crossing at crosswalks isn’t really a major safety issue, it’s cars turning either “right on red” or left after the signal has changed  without looking. Read more…

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The Dodgers Are Failing the Yasiel Puig Test

On Saturday, December 29th, at 9:30 am, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was arrested for reckless driving in Greater Miami after being caught driving 110 miles per hour. Puig’s mother and sister were also in the car. This was the second time Puig was caught going over forty miles over the speed limit. In April, Tennessee police clocked him driving 97 miles per hour in a 50 m.p.h. zone.

Puig with his 2013 Lincoln Navigator. He leased this car to be "less conspicuous." Photo: ##http://www.edmunds.com/car-news/dodgers-sensation-yasiel-puig-goes-under-the-radar-with-2013-lincoln-navigator.html##Edmunds.com##

Puig with his 2013 Lincoln Navigator. He leased this car to be “less conspicuous.” Photo: Edmunds.com

The Florida state police deserve credit for not allowing the glare of celebrity to blind justice. They charged Puig with reckless driving, took him to Collier County Jail for processing, and blasted him in a statement for his dangerous behavior.

TMZ reports:

The officer writes in the report, “By driving in this manner Mr. Puig showed willful and a total disregard for the safety of his mother and the other two passengers and any vehicles on the roadway and placed the life’s [sic] of everyone in his vehicle and every vehicle that he was passing on the roadway in danger.”

The officer goes on to say that if a crash had occurred, ”His mother and the two passengers would not [have] survived as resulted [sic] of his action.”

Now that Puig has been caught not once, but twice, engaging in behavior that literally puts everyone near him in danger, it’s past time for the Dodgers to respond and take control of the situation. Respond they did, in a statement so weak that even the Los Angeles Times’ baseball columnist and Dodgers cheerleader Bill Platschke recognized it as woefully insufficient.

It goes without saying that if Puig were wandering the streets waiving a loaded gun around the Dodgers would do more than call him to ask him to behave nicely or commenting that they’re “very disappointed.” But when it comes to putting people’s lives in danger, Puig is basically doing the same thing. No amount of dramatic home runs or diving catches excuses that behavior.

Except of course, in modern America it does. Read more…

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What To Do After an Accident When the Police Fail to Respond?

(Farid Yaghoubtil is an attorney with the Downtown L.A. Law Group. Following last week’s story on the LAPD’s failure to cite a driver in a crash involving a cyclist, Yaghoubtil asked if he could write a piece on what cyclists can do to get the best legal results after a crash…not that it would have helped in last week’s incident. – DN)

The moments immediately following a traffic accident can be confusing, leaving the victims in a state of bewilderment and shock.  In the most serious accidents, the injured parties are hopefully quickly transferred to a local hospital where they are given immediate medical care.  Dealing with the aftermath of the accident becomes an ancillary concern, and the focus justifiably shifts to the well-being of the accident’s participants.  However, what about situations where an ER visit is not necessarily needed? 

The first step in any traffic accident situation would be to contact local police department and have them write up a report regarding the accident.  While many accident victims are tempted to forego this crucial step, it is essential to resist this urge.

Many times, the at-fault party accepts fault immediately following the accident, only to change their story once they speak to their insurance provider or when they are in a courtroom setting.  Without a police report that confirms the true story, innocent victims are frequently left with only their word in defending their position.

Further complicating the issue is the fact that time and again the police department, especially in busy metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, will simply refuse to come out to the scene of the accident.  In fact, Ted Rogers of Biking in L.A. recently reported  on the story of Melanie Freeland, which is one of the most egregious examples of police inactivity we have ever seen.

Whether this is due to police indifference, a general lack of resources, or simple police bureaucracy, the fact remains that accident victims are sometimes  left dealing with the repercussions without the benefit of police involvement.  This can be especially crippling for victims that are left with thousands of dollars worth of medical and property damage bills.

Therefore, in light of Mr. Roger’s report, the following is a list of additional measures that should be taken after an accident that could protect your rights following an accident.

1. Witnesses can be your best friends – Other than a police report, independent witnesses are the most credible pieces of evidence in proving your innocence.  Look out for anybody who may have witnessed the accident, politely ask for their information and if they would be willing to provide a statement in the future. Read more…

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Why Is Hitting a Car Still Considered More Serious Than Hitting a Person?

How do we get LAPD to treat crashes involving cyclists and pedestrians as seriously as those involving cars? For the record, the LAPD claimed repeatedly and publicly that this Hummer had full license plates. Photo: Luis

On Sunday, July 28, I was playing in the back yard with Sammy when we heard a horrible sound of twisting metal come from the front of the house. Grabbing my phone, I ran out of the house to see if anyone was hurt in what was surely another car crash at the corner of Federal and National. A dazed looking man wobbled out of a truck, and a less woozy looking man was already out of his car walking over to the truck. Not seeing anyone on the phone yet, I pulled mine and called 911. Moments later, I heard sirens. When the firetrucks arrived, I went back in the house. Everyone was fine and the authorities arrived.

Later that night, an LAPD investigator called me back wanting to know if I had witnessed the crash. I had not. He thanked me for calling and I wished him luck.

To their credit, the LAPD was taking the crash seriously. Good for them.

Sadly, this doesn’t happen everytime there is a crash. At Biking in L.A., Ted Rogers recounts the story a Melanie Freeland, a bicyclist that was hit by a car earlier this week right in front of two LAPD officers. While both officers agreed that the vehicle driver made an illegal turn, the Department is not issuing a ticket. The frustrated cyclist followed up with the LAPD on the phone and immediately after the crash, but can’t get the Department to take her case seriously.

I called the Central Traffic Division and asked to speak with the Watch Commander on duty yesterday. As I probably should have guessed it was [the Sergeant she’d spoken to at the scene].  I explained to her my phone conversation with [the desk officer] and she stated she did not know why he would state it was a rear end incident when it wasn’t.  We talked at length about why a citation would not be issued for this offense.  She stated that in order for a traffic citation to be issued two criteria must be met. An LAPD officer must witness the incident and be trained in traffic laws (taken the special course in traffic). Because the [traffic officer] didn’t witness the incident it did not meet the two criteria. Secondly, the officer who did witness the incident is not trained in traffic laws, so again it does not meet the criteria.  Thus it is now my understanding, due to the letter of the law that it is not possible for the LAPD to issue a citation to the driver who hit me.

Read more…

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Open Discussion: Hey, I’m Texting Here!

“Sammy, stop!” I shout as my son pedals down the sidewalk. It wasn’t an intersection that he was looking to race through, but one of the many curb-cut driveways that dot the last block between our residence and the market.

They have not updated this book to have Mr. Rabbit checking his Twitter feed.

This morning, while Sahra and I were having our somewhat regular Google Hangout, we were talking about the recent spate of coverage of distracted driving and walking news pieces. Most of the time, the stories focus around texting, but now a days texting is just short hand for “doing anything on the phone that isn’t talking or taking a picture.”

As usual, Sahra made the best point of the conversation. She noted that these articles all miss the major point, where are people choosing to use their phone rather than pay attention to their surroundings. She used the example of parents and kids darting across Vermont in an unmarked crosswalk but since the crossing was unmarked, they were completely aware of their surroundings. I used the example of Sammy and and me on the wide sidealks in West L.A, where he was completely unaware there could be danger as long as he was off the street.

I walk that block regularly without a toddler on a bicycle, and am often on the phone. I don’t text when I’m walking, but I have a tendency to take work calls whole also pushing a stroller.

Here’s our question for today’s discussion: Where do you you see drivers, pedestrians, or cyclists distracted by their phones, and what’s the best thing we can do to get people to pay attention to the road?

LADOT wants to remove some crosswalks, because they “give pedestrians a false sense of security,” and perhaps encourage people to step off the sidewalk without looking both ways.

The Los Angeles Times ran both an article and a commentary by Pat Morrison on the first world scourge of texting while walking. The articles are both wonders of L.A. based media thinking, and Morrison’s piece almost reads like parody.

Except she’s serious. Read more…

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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.