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Posts from the Walking Category


A Walkability Prescription For Downtown Los Angeles

How could downtown L.A. become more walkable? Image via

How could downtown L.A. become more walkable? Image via Complete Streets Prince Avenue

Transportation has always played a dominant role in shaping our urban environment. Historically, cities were built around the basis of everyday activities on foot; consequently, the prominent urban form was dense, compact, with high concentration of mixed-use development. As transportation technology progressed, the design of cities dramatically changed, in many ways to the detriment of the pedestrian. In Los Angeles, nothing has had a greater impact on the landscape than the car. Widened lanes, expansive freeways, large multi-lane systems, sprawling parking lots, and other amenities built around the needs of the car have resulted in a public realm that is often unsafe, unappealing, and stressful for the public.

These issues have created challenges for L.A. planning professionals who want to enhance and balance our transportation infrastructure. How can we retrofit the existing urban fabric to meet the needs of multi-modal transportation? We have already experienced a response to this with a rise in the number of projects aimed at implementing more progressive transportation planning practices within the last decade. Bike lanes are being installed, sidewalks widened, and public transit lines expanded. The May approval of the Mobility Plan 2035 by the L.A. City Council is a clear sign that a majority of our city’s leadership shares in a vision for creating a more livable city. Before this, the city lacked a cohesive vision or framework to institute these changes. How effective this plan will be remains to be seen, but in the least it is a step forward.

Of all the different forms of transportation to be focused on, walking is one of the most neglected in terms of infrastructure and policy development, but holds the most potential to enhance livability.

Increasing walkability should be a main focus of urban design and policy because it is the solution to many problems that plague our city including pollution, congestion, and obesity. It serves as a catalyst for increased physical activity, commerce, social interaction, and environmental sustainability. This past year, as a senior at Occidental College, I completed a yearlong research project aimed at identifying the best strategies for enhancing walkability in downtown Los Angeles. Within this project I compiled a twelve-step guide with the help of city planners, residents, business owners, architects, walking advocates, and more. Most guides to improve walkability include the big suggestions such as expanding mass transit, reducing parking, widening sidewalks, etc. Below I will list three of my steps that do not receive enough attention despite the fact that they have the power to dramatically improve walkability with minimal time and effort.

Tree-lined street in Amsterdam. Photo by Rob Young via Wikimedia

Tree-lined street in Amsterdam. Photo by Rob Young via Wikimedia

1. Plant More Trees

Planting trees is one of the most simple and cost effective ways of attracting pedestrians. Advantages include shade, reduction of ambient temperature in hot weather, absorption of pollution, reducing car speeds, and the creation of a barrier between people on the sidewalk and traffic. However, perhaps the most important benefit of planting trees is their contribution to aesthetics and creation of street character.

Read more…


Scramble Crosswalks Ready for Their Star Turn in Hollywood

Chicago's first pedestrian scramble, or "Barnes Dance", at the downtown intersection of Jackson Blvd. and State St. Pedestrians are allowed to cross all directions, including diagonally, every three light cycles. All vehicular turns have been prohibited to improve traffic flow. Photo: Chicago's first pedestrian scramble, or "Barnes Dance", at the downtown intersection of Jackson Blvd. and State St. Pedestrians are allowed to cross all directions, including diagonally, every three light cycles. All vehicular turns have been prohibited to improve traffic flow. KEVIN ZOLKIEWICZ/FLICKR via ##

Chicago’s first pedestrian scramble, or “Barnes Dance”, at the downtown intersection of Jackson Blvd. and State St. Pedestrians are allowed to cross all directions, including diagonally, every three light cycles. All vehicular turns have been prohibited to improve traffic flow. Photo: KEVIN ZOLKIEWICZ/FLICKR via Airtalk/KPCC

Responding to community concerns that the high volume of pedestrian traffic at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue was creating an unsafe crossing, City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and the Department of Transportation recently announced that a “pedestrian scramble” will be installed by the end of the year.

The pedestrian scramble, aka The Barnes Dance, is basically an intersection which has a “pedestrian only” phase in its signal timing. During this time, pedestrians are not just limited to crossing east-west or north-south, but can actually cross to the opposite corner by cutting straight through the middle of the street.

Los Angeles already has a few pedestrian scramble intersections near the college campuses of USC and UCLA. In addition, Pasadena and Beverly Hills have installed scrambles at high-volume intersections. If you’re not familiar with the scrambles, check out the below video by Streetfilms celebrating Los Angeles’ scrambles that was filmed in 2008.

“Hollywood and Highland is our red carpet entrance for people from around the world who come to experience Los Angeles’ center stage,” said Seleta Reynolds, LADOT General Manager. “The new intersection design will prioritize the safety and comfort of people walking. We plan to implement this change in consultation with the community and will evaluate the before and after effects.”

In addition to residents, workers, and tourists who may arrive by car or are staying in one of the local hotels, Hollywood and Highland is also home to a busy Red Line Metro rail station and a handful of local bus routes.  Read more…


Eyes on the Street: Safer Shorter Crossings in Silver Lake and Echo Park

Improved intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Occidental Boulevard. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog  L.A. except as noted.

Improved intersection at Sunset and Occidental Boulevards. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A., except as noted.

Sometimes neighborhood livability and walkability do not need to wait for multi-million dollar infrastructure streetscape re-vamps. Sometimes all it takes is paint. Or, as in the case of these streets, longer-lasting thermoplastic striping that doubles as “paint.”

Thanks to tips from friends of the blog, Ryan Johnson and Jessica Meaney, I recently visited two central Los Angeles intersections that the city Department of Transportation (LADOT) has re-worked for increased safety and walkability.

In both cases, streets had and have a stop sign, as well as right turns at angles greater than 90-degrees, further smoothed by gradually curving sidewalks. In the past, LADOT’s striping allowed for relatively dangerous and high-speed right turns. These weren’t quite suburban slip-lanes, but they were nearing that. Drivers could whip around the curve, endangering themselves and others.

Conversion of slip lane into plaza - graphic via SF Better Streets

Diagram showing similar conversion of slip lane into a plaza. This isn’t the exact situation as the L.A. examples, but the problems and improvements are similar. Graphic via SF Better Streets

At both locations, LADOT added a striped curb extension to help drivers to make a full stop before making a full 90-degree right turn. This makes driving safer by improving visibility and reducing speed. It also has the benefit of shortening the crossing distance for pedestrians.

The intersection of Occidental and Sunset Boulevards is in the L.A. neighborhood of Silver Lake, a block east of Silver Lake Boulevard. The re-striping was done in 2014, according to Johnson.

Conditions after at Sunset and Occidental. The stop sign has been moved from the sidewalk parkway out into the street.

Conditions after at Sunset and Occidental. The stop sign has been moved from the sidewalk parkway out into the street.

The intersection of Echo Park and Park Avenues is at the northeast corner of Echo Park (the park) in Echo Park (the neighborhood.)

Recent curb extension added at Echo Park and Park Aveneues.

Recent curb extension added at the intersection of Echo Park Avenue and Park Avenue.

Read more…


Transportation Committee Questions LAPD’s 8,000+ Annual Ped Tickets

Don't assume that you actually have 19 seconds to cross this intersection. Pedestrian countdown signal via Systemic Failure

Don’t assume that you actually have 19 seconds to cross this intersection. Pedestrian countdown signal via Systemic Failure

This afternoon the Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee discussed a motion questioning the effectiveness of LAPD’s “jaywalking” enforcement. The pedestrian enforcement motion, 15-0546, was authored by City Councilmember Mike Bonin, who chairs the committee.

LAPD reported that there was no way to provide the analysis requested in the motion, but did provide some pedestrian enforcement statistics. In 2014 LAPD issued 8,068 citations for pedestrians who entered the crosswalk after the walk signal had ended, typically during the countdown. LAPD reported a recent increase in “in-crosswalk” fatalities, which numbered 27, 26, 34, and 35 in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, respectively. When questioned by Councilmember Bonin, the police representative did not have information regarding who was determined to be at fault for these fatalities.

Councilmember Bonin pursued a number of lines of inquiry about LAPD’s pedestrian safety priorities, strategies, and effectiveness, but repeatedly came up against limited LAPD data.

Fellow committee members Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian expressed support for pedestrian safety, but generally focused their comments and questions on drivers’ ability to make turns at intersections.

Department of Transportation (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds also testified, stating that there is a near-universal lack of understanding on crosswalk laws, which have not kept pace with the recent technology, especially countdown signals. Reynolds reported on recent timing changes at the federal level, dangers to seniors and other slower moving people, and stressed that LADOT and LAPD were partnering on a city Vision Zero steering committee, which is in the process of crunching data to inform enforcement strategies.

Committee chair Bonin concluded the hearing directing LAPD and LADOT to return to the Transportation Committee in 60 days. LAPD was directed to return with additional data on fatality causes, areas targeted, and impacts of current practices. LADOT was directed to report back on possible legislative changes and adjustments to signal timing.

With change needed in state law, and no clear consensus yet on an effective enforcement strategy, it doesn’t look like there’s any quick fix to, as Bonin characterized, L.A.’s countdown signals “literally giving a mixed signal.”

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Interview with Luke Klipp of Jaydancing

Come Jaydance in DTLA this Saturday. Image via Luke Klipp

Come Jaydance in DTLA this Saturday. Image via Luke Klipp

For as long as I can remember, Streetsblog Los Angeles has been lamenting the L.A. Police Department’s targeted ticketing of pedestrians. LAPD “jaywalking” enforcement occurs mostly in downtown Los Angeles, but also outside various central Los Angeles Metro rail stations. I am excited that Los Angeles City Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Jose Huizar recently introduced a motion to begin to examine these stings, but it looks like the archaic walking law will probably need to changed at the state level.

If the LAPD’s misguided pedestrian enforcement bugs you, too, then you’ll probably like Luke Klipp. I met Klipp at a meeting where he testified in favor of full sidewalks on the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. This Saturday, he is organizing “Jaydancing L.A.” a fun demonstration using artistic flair to protest the LAPD’s jaywalking stings. I interviewed Klipp over email late last week.

Tell us a little about yourself. What’s your background? What led you to get involved in livability issues?
I grew up in Detroit, which probably doesn’t explain why I care so much about livability, except perhaps that Detroit was the antithesis of that, because it was both the Murder Capital and the Motor City. After college, I moved to California and to L.A. a few years later for love. And a few years ago, when my husband and I bought a home in Los Feliz, we found a place that was walkable, close to lots of amenities, neighborly, and still plugged in to the city.

I’ve always cared not only about livability but sustainability. When I see how we’re building our transportation network and developing our city, I think about the implications for me as I age, for our generation’s kids as they start to create their own families, and for our city’s ability to be a good steward of the environment that makes Los Angeles so livable to begin with. I was raised with the core value of leaving the world a better place, even if only in some small measure, for my having been a part of it. That’s at the heart of my passion around livability and livable cities.

What is Jaydancing? What can people expect to see? What do you hope to accomplish?
#jaydancingLA is an art protest in response to the LAPD’s ongoing targeting of people walking in Los Angeles. When the Mayor recently attempted to increase parking tickets as a revenue-generating measure, Angelenos were up in arms. And that’s for $70 tickets. In marked contrast, for at least the past four years, LAPD has been issuing jaywalking tickets at a rate of 12 per day, every single day, in downtown alone. That’s not a public safety measure, that’s a public gouging. I see an LAPD officer on average once a week posted right outside the Metro station at 7th St and Figueroa, waiting on the corner for unsuspecting pedestrians who make the mistake of stepping out into the crosswalk after the ticker has started its countdown. That’ll be $200.

So, on Saturday, June 20, from 2-3 p.m., people are invited to dance their way across, over, and through the crosswalks (legally, mind you) at some intersections in downtown LA along 7th Street. We’ll have music, signs, and a gathering afterward to celebrate. People are encouraged to post to social media using the #jaydancingLA hashtag with messages that continue to draw attention to the LAPD’s tactics.

Why dancing? This is downtown transportation – shouldn’t we be taking this very seriously?
Seeing stories of people who can barely afford the rent getting slapped with $200 tickets is maddening. I’ve wanted to scream at the folks at City Hall for their slow take-up of this issue. But it doesn’t matter how loud you are; it matters how effective you are.

We’ll be dancing BECAUSE it’s fun. Because it’s unusual. Because people will take notice. It’s not another protest with people marching and holding signs and chanting slogans; it’s tapping into Angelenos’ creative energies and having fun because you can only get so mad at the way things are. At some point you just have to channel that frustration and that anger into something beautiful, that makes people smile, and that gives people hope about what could be.

How can people get involved?
Go sign up on the Facebook event page and also on Eventbrite. Invite your friends, and show up on June 20 at 2 p.m.  Read more…


Who Do We Blame for the Next Death on the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge?

Current Glendale-Hyperion Bridge deficiencies foster unsafe pedestrian crossings, including High School students who walk to Marshall High School via the bridge. The L.A. City Council approved a design today that will remove a sidewalk from the bridge. Photo: Sean Meredith

Current Glendale-Hyperion Bridge deficiencies make for unsafe pedestrian crossings, including students who walk to Marshall High School via the bridge. The L.A. City Council approved a design today that will remove a sidewalk from the bridge. Photo: Sean Meredith

In a unanimous 11-0 vote, the Los Angeles City Council approved the city Bureau of Engineering’s (BOE) single-sidewalk pedestrian-killer design for the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. Though the item was not approved at the Public Works Committee last week, the City Council approved the item today with no public comment, after brief misleading characterizations by Councilmembers Tom LaBonge and Mitch O’Farrell.

Non-profits, including Los Angeles Walks, Neighborhood Council representatives, cyclists, and others in attendance who had intended to speak against the project were not allowed to address the Council. Some Atwater Village neighborhood representatives who had come to speak in favor of the sidewalk-deficient design were also denied the opportunity to offer public testimony. Some of the walkability-livability proponents testified during general public comment but, by then, the City Council had already approved the item.

Bridge safety advocates now have 30 days to challenge the city’s adoption of the environmental studies, called an IS/MND – Initial Study / Mitigated Negative Declaration. Advocates are discussing the possibility of a legal challenge. If the project isn’t stopped in court, the city will spend about two years on final designs, then will bid and construct the retrograde facility.

The crosswalk omission anticipates that people will walk up to half a mile out of their way to get to destinations. As occurs all over the world, it is predictable that pedestrians will ignore poor design, and will attempt to walk shorter routes. In this case, the city’s design will push pedestrians into the way of multiple lanes of oncoming traffic.

When the next pedestrian is killed on the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge, whom should we blame?

It is tempting to just blame a system that favors driving over walking but, in this case, I am going to name the names of people who had a chance to make this bridge safer, and failed to do so.

Let’s start with the deceptive and unprofessional Bureau of Engineering Bridge Program engineers, Shirley Lau and James Treadaway. These engineers have succumbed to fiscal pressures to build costly, unneeded, and unsafe bridge projects. These engineers hide behind the language of not complying with “current design standards” to push projects that endanger all Angelenos. These wrongheaded bridge projects destroy the city’s cultural and engineering heritage in order to move car traffic at unsafe speeds. Bridge Program staff misrepresent the funding situation using suggestive language to create a false urgency over losing funds. Whenever the city contacts Caltrans to reschedule funding, Caltrans complies. The Bridge Program has never lost a penny by delaying an active project, yet BOE documents assert “further delays may result in loss of funds.”

Read more…


City Unveils First Serious Draft Plan to Address Sidewalk Repair. Public Is Split.

Following a legal settlement in the summer of 2014, Angelenos have been waiting on the city to finally announce its plan to bring the city’s sidewalks into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Over three quarters of a year later, the city has released its draft plan, and the City Council is planning a series of public meetings to bring this plan to the public. The plan is available on the City Clerk’s website and here at Scribd.

Even if the city fixed the cracks, this sidewalk on Alameda is not ADA compliant. No wheelchair could fit past this obstacle course. Photo: Roger Rudick

Even if the city fixed the cracks, this sidewalk on Alameda is not ADA compliant. No wheelchair could fit past this obstacle course. Photo: Roger Rudick

The first of these meetings is a traditional City Council Committee hearing, albeit with two committees in attendance. However, the chairs of the Budget and Finance Committee (Paul Krekorian) and Gangs and Public Works Committee (Joe Buscaino) are already planning a series of public workshops on the plan to be held throughout the city.

“This is a critically important issue for all Angelenos,” said Krekorian in a press statement. “We have an opportunity and obligation to move beyond piecemeal legislation and create a complete program to fix our broken sidewalks. This new report won’t be the final program, but it’s a good way to begin what will be a long, very public discussion. We want to hear from all residents and stakeholders so that we can come up with the best and fairest policy possible.”

As part of its legal settlement last year, the City pledged to spend $1.4 billion over the next three decades to retrofit the city’s sidewalks to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Estimates vary over how many miles of city sidewalks need reconstruction, but there is little doubt that the decrepit and crumbling sidewalk infrastructure, along with a noticeable lack of curb cuts in many parts of the city, are the largest barriers to creating walkable communities.

The plan itself is proving somewhat controversial for what some see as a double standard between how businesses and homeowners are treated.*** Read more…

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Healthy Kids Zone: Schools at the Center of Healthy Communities

Bike Month is here and rides and panels are in abundance. Though the anchor of the month is Bike to Work Day, let’s make some room for the youth and talk a bit about why so many kids don’t ride their bikes to school anymore.

A myriad of environmental factors can affect a student’s experience in the classroom even before the school day begins. For example, many Los Angeles neighborhoods are unsafe for walking and biking and saturated with unhealthy food choices contributing to elevated rates of preventable diet and exercise related diseases like obesity and diabetes. A lack of amenities, such as parks and open space, and a disconnect from the health care system further reinforce these problems.

To address these issues, Community Health Councils (CHC) has been developing a Healthy Kids Zone (HKZ) pilot project to position schools as centers of healthy communities. The HKZ project is a pioneer effort in Los Angeles and nationwide with an unprecedented scope that bolsters grassroots efforts to improve school community health and safety with citywide policy.

Healthy Kids Zone graphic

Healthy Kids Zone graphic

K-12 schools have always been considered centers of learning and socialization in our neighborhoods. Our children experience many “firsts” at school, like friendships, fist fights, and fractions. Schools host sports events and musical and theatrical performances, polling places and community meetings. They are natural neighborhood hubs, where the community’s youth come together. An HKZ builds on the natural role of schools in communities by applying higher standards of development and enforcement guidelines to designated areas in the communities surrounding high-need schools.

HKZs are designed to improve well-being for young people and the surrounding community as a whole through the improvement of five key health improvement categories:

  • nutrition,
  • physical activity,
  • environmental health,
  • safety, and
  • health services.

CHC has identified these categories as having direct impact on the health of students and school communities before and after school hours. The project has been developed in conjunction with a multi-sectoral advisory committee team representing organizations with expertise in the health improvement categories. This past spring the HKZ concept and pilot implementation project were included in the City’s first ever general plan health element, Plan for a Healthy LA, providing high-level citywide policy support for the project.  Read more…


Eyes on the Bridge: What Glendale-Hyperion’s Missing Sidewalk Means

Glendale-Hyperion Bridge walk routes map by Don Ward

Glendale-Hyperion Bridge walk routes map by Don Ward

Above is a graphic created by Don Ward to show just how crappy the Bureau of Engineering’s Glendale-Hyperion Bridge plan is. The unsafe design was recently approved by L.A.’s Board of Public Works, and will soon come before City Council. Streetsblog USA profiled the board’s approval as a sign that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s commitment to great streets may be illusory.

According to Ward:

I made this chart to explain the route of an actual petition signer in Atwater who walked from her house (approximate location A) to her church at B. She was interested in safer access to the south sidewalk and did not want to have to walk an additional half mile or so to get to her destination. The shortest possible route under Option 1 would include walking up a steeper incline to the top of Waverly to get across Hyperion on the Silver Lake side.

This also illustrates how disingenuous it is for the city to claim that the new bike-ped bridge creates better mobility by connecting to Silver Lake. The bike-ped bridge is great to get to the L.A. River bike path, but the south Glendale bridge serves the same purpose.

The key decision-maker at this point could be incoming Los Angeles City Councilmember  David Ryu, who won yesterday’s run-off election. Ryu will replace Tom LaBonge on the City Council. Read more…

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Coalition Calls For 10 Percent of Future L.A. Sales Tax To Go To Walk-Bike

Other California county transportation sales tax measures set aside funding for walking and bicycling - why not Los Angeles? Image via white paper [PDF]

Other California county transportation sales tax measures set aside funding for walking and bicycling – why not Los Angeles? Image via white paper [PDF]

There is a new twist in the path to a 2016 Los Angeles County transportation sales tax measure, tentatively being called “Measure R2.”

Investing in Place, a new policy-based organization that has examined transportation sales taxes throughout the state, just held its own conference with a coalition of more than thirty community based partner organizations. The purpose of the gathering was to push a policy that  “at least ten percent of the next Los Angeles County transportation sales tax measure be dedicated for walking, bicycling, and safe routes to school investments.”

In addition, the coalition is asking that twenty percent of the “local return” be set aside for active transportation. The sales tax “local return” goes to individual cities on a per capita basis to pay for transportation expenditures. Though a number of cities, notably the City of Los Angeles, have used some local return monies for walk and bike projects and programs, most cities throughout L.A. County have not.

Readers may be familiar with the proposed Measure R2, but if not, see these recent SBLA articles about what it tentatively looks like and what decisions are being made now. Though a very small amount of 2008’s successful transportation sales tax Measure R funding has gone to bike and pedestrian projects, there was no dedicated active transportation funding in either Measure R in 2008 nor the defeated transportation sales tax Measure J in 2012.

The coalition (a listing of groups is shown after the jump) was shepherded under the auspices of the Los Angeles County Active Transportation Collaborative, the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, and Investing in Place.

They researched other transportation ballot measures in California, finding many examples of successful set-asides for active transportation, prominently last year’s Measure BB in Alameda County, with twelve percent of overall funding dedicated to walking and bicycling. Read the coalition research in this January 2015 white paper: Best Practices for Funding Active Transportation with County Transportation Sales Taxes [PDF].

More about the coalition and its demands here.

While we won’t know the final ballot language for a 2016 measure until next year, Metro was promising tht it would have a draft proposal this summer. However, Investing in Place is also reporting that the Measure R2 schedule is being delayed about two months: the final expenditure plan was due in July, now it looks like September.  Read more…