As Pedestrian Crashes and Fatalities Mount, What is L.A.’s Plan?

4_1_09_ap.jpgMother of hit and run victim grieves at USC. Photo via Associated Press

Two weeks ago, the Daily News reported that the number of pedestrians killed in the valley had increased by 230% as compared to the same time last year.  This somewhat horrifiying stat passed through the public consciousness with barely a ripple.

In the last couple of days, you can barely turn on the television without hearing about more pedestrians being mowed down by careless drivers.  Sometimes the drivers stay to talk with the police and paramedics, sometimes they run, and sometimes they even drag the battered victim into their car and drive off.

However, despite the dramatic rise in crashes and deaths, the city is still treating each incident as an isolated one and not the symptom of a broken transportation system that places a low priority on protecting the system’s most vulnerable users.

Lest you think I’m exaggerating, let’s look at some highlights from the past year.  Last summer 200 angelenos signed a letter begging the Metro Board to set aside some of the revenue from what is now called Measure R for bicycle and pedestrian projects.  Despite just about every other constituency getting their piece of the pie, our pleas fell on deaf ears.

When the LADOT discovered that a disproportionate amount of crashes occur in crosswalks that aren’t associated with traffic lights or signs, they immediately began a campaign to remove unsignalized crosswalks from the street.

And of course, when Gwendolyn Coleman was sent flying while crossing the street, the reaction was shock and awe at the violence of the crash there haven’t been any changes implemented or proposed for the deadly intersection of Fifth and Flower.

While the LAPD is treating these "isolated incidents" with respect for the most part, we aren’t seeing a corresponding rise in enforcement of laws that lead to safer street such as enforcement of vehicles running red lights, encroaching into crosswalks during red light signals or other forms of reckless driving.  However, we are seeing a crackdown on group bike rides which have killed a grand total of zero pedestrians in the past year.

If the LAPD won’t step up, and given the amount of man hours its taking to decide what to do about bike licenses that seems more than unlikely, then it’s up to our elected leaders to take the ball and demand both a city-wide pedestrian safety plan and better enforcement of traffic laws that protect pedestrians. 

Given the state of enforcement of these laws, and the track record of prosecuting those drivers crashing into pedestrians, this seems a ripe issue for the City Attorney’s race.  If anyone wants to take a crack at writing a question for the candidates should leave a note in the comments section.  If not, I’ll have a draft list of questions for City Attorney and City Council 5th District for your review on Friday.

  • David

    Yet another failure of the current mayor and city council…

  • Stats Dude

    According to SCAG’s safety chapter of their long range transportation plan,
    in 2005, in Los Angeles County (doesn’t break down by city), 204 pedestrians were killed, and 5,225 were injured.

    The pedestrian fatality rate represents 27% of all traffic fatalities in the county for that year.

  • You want questions:

    How many pedestrians are killed or injured by cars in Los Angeles every year?
    Why is there no cumulative, annual, report on these sorts of incidents that is delivered to the full council and mayor, with highlighted intersections that have been the site of killed or maimed Angelenos?
    Now that the MTA has revised their Call For Projects funding guidelines to allow bicycles and pedestrian projects to replace automobile capacity on roads – why is the city’s list of projects so short on sidewalk improvements and maintenance and so heavy on bridge and road widenings? Is there no quarterly survey of economic activity tied to a modal survey on our streets?
    When one bridge widening could fund an upgrade to the entire city’s backlog of broken and sub-standard sidewalks and intersection crossings – why has no political leader taken this issue up? Is it that hard to prepare an application for a project that will reduce fatalities, improve air quality, help local business, and beautify our city? Are your elected positions that safe?

    p.s. Sorry for any typos or grammar errors.

  • Because you can’t use CFP to do deferred maintenance. It has to be a significant upgrade to an existing facility, or a brand new facility. The other thing is that bridge widening money comes from gas tax, and traditionally gas tax has always been returned to the drivers that use it. Note that this is not a hard and fast rule… some agencies are using gas tax for bikeways, against the protests of the engineers that work there, who complain, and rightly so, that money is taken away from routine repaving jobs for this.

  • Nope nope and nope CalWatch!

    No need to propose it as deferred maintenance! A significant build-out of the sidewalks in LA would have some very beneficial impact on the City. It would be up to the MTA staff (Ahem! Mayor V. wassup?!) to determine that this is “deferred maintenance”. This would be a massive system expansion of an under-served mode. I think that the only thing standing in the way of a total sidewalk upgrade in L.A. is the imagination of the staff writing the proposal and the will of the electeds to get it done (over doing b.s. like multi-$100 million freeway resurfacing).

    I’m trying to be contrarian, but I do think that a little open-minded project planning could reap big rewards for L.A. in the CFP.

  • Alek F

    We need pedestrian underpasses and overpasses, not street-level crosswalks!!
    Look how greatly the pedestrian environment is organized in Las Vegas! – they have pedestrian overpasses in numerous places!! It’s much safer for people, and more efficient for traffic flow.
    But… LA for some reasons doesn’t want to invest in such improvements, because… the City is too busy with providing conditions only to its precious cars and roads… LA has neglected pedestrian and cycling (and mass transit) conditions, while only concentrating on roads & cars. This is pathetic… We need new management, new city planners, new approach; new everything!
    As long as LA continues its “car-only” mentality, nothing will change as far as improving life for pedestrians, alas.

  • Yikes

    Geez…I am considering moving from Philly to take a job offer in LA, but hearing this kind of thing makes me think twice. Its not so much the number of fatalities, but the fact that its getting worse and and that so little is being done about it.

    You guys have great weather…I’ll give you that. But I don’t think good weather is worth the risks of living there.

  • Stats Dude

    Alek, LA experimented with underpasses many many years ago, and it was a failure. Overpasses (ADA compliant) can be done, but is expensive and takes up significant sidewalk space (some areas have no sidewalk space to give up).

    In addition, the city hadn’t funded their sidewalk maintenance program in decades. Now (IIRC) it is up to the building owner to take care of it, or fund it when they sell the house/business.


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