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.

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