Is LADOT Finally Embracing Zebra Crosswalks?

12_21_09_zebra.jpgA new Zebra Crosswalk at Manchester and Sepulveda in West Los Angeles.  Photo: Kent Strumpell

One of the first conversations I had about transportation reform after moving to Los Angeles was about how the City of Los Angeles absolutely will not install "Zebra Crosswalks" because they weren’t certified in city design guides.  I found this confusing, because studies have shown that the series of vertical lines that create a Zebra Crosswalk are more safe for pedestrians and drivers than the "box" crosswalks used at most crossings throughout Los Angeles.  In short, cars are more likely to respect a Zebra Crosswalk than a traditional one.

However, the aversion to these types of crosswalks seems to be eroding.  Just a couple of blocks from where I live and work a Zebra Crosswalk appeared at the corner of Beverly Boulevard and Fuller Ave in front of the Baiis Yakov School for Girls and another is proposed for the Central Region MacArthur Park Elementary School.  Earlier this month, Kent Strumpell, better known on this blog for his bike advocacy, reports that another one has been painted at the corner of Manchester and Sepulveda in West Los Angeles.  Strumpell reports that the crossing is part of a pilot project and that the early returns are good.

I observed the new crosswalks for about 15 minutes last week during
evening rush hour and it seems as though they make a big difference in
driver behavior: most cars stop clear of them, giving pedestrians
plenty of room (a major advantage of zebra crosswalks is that, unlike
conventional crosswalks, their distinctive "floating" stripes are
easily differentiated from the separate "stop bar" that shows motorists
where to stop).  This is especially welcome at this intersection, the
busiest transit stop in our community, with lots of folks hurrying to
catch connecting buses.

If you see a Zebra Crosswalk appear in your neighborhood, drop me a line so we can chart the pilot project on our own.  In the meantime, these better, safer, facilities for pedestrians are a welcome sight on L.A.’s streets.
  • Ive actually always thought that zebra crosswalks are traditional and the box type are money saving designs.

    I live in Boston, and I do like that every time an intersection gets redone, zebra crosswalks are put in place of where a box one may have been before (although over here, the zebra lines are actually contained within a box). There are much safer because the paint lasts longer and it makes the stopping location more clear.

  • I don’t understand, maybe someone can explain this: “Pilot Project” and “Paint” in the same sentence about a DOT project, but no mention of the slipping hazards?

    Time for a full EIR on this one!

  • Only somewhat in jest:

    (shhhhhh! my theory is that this could be the work of a contractor who doesn’t know that L.A. doesn’t really do this type of crosswalks. if we let the cat out of the bag on this, then the contractor is gonna havta re-do these using actual city specifications.)

    (has anyone been able to [very quietly] confirm that LADOT was actually responsible for these being zebras? or could they be in error?)

  • Kent had been working with Ken Hustings on this.

  • An interesting note on zebra crossings,

    After Walk 21, I spent the evening walking around Manhattan with Elaena (forgot/couldn’t find her last name) from Bike Sydney. She kept on hesitating at crosswalks at unsignalized intersections that used a box design. She explained to me that in Australia only at zebra crosswalks do pedestrians have the right-of-way at all times. She was confused because box design crosswalks are only used at signalized intersections where a pedestrian does not always have the ROW.

    Thinking back to my travels in Europe, I too remember that zebra crosswalks were only used at unsignalized crosswalks (including mid-block crosswalks) where peds always have the ROW. Only at signalized intersections would one find a box crosswalk.

    While I concur that zebra crosswalks greatly increase crosswalk visibility, I’m concerned that using them at signalized intersections seems to violate an international design standard. The example pictured above along with countless other examples from all over the US appears to do so as well.

    Does anyone else have any insights on this issue?

  • The City of LA uses zebra crossing infrequently, usually at uncontrolled intersections and at mid-block crossings. Their logic is that they are of benefit when there are no traffic control devices to direct motorists but unnecessary when the intersection is controlled.

    This particular intersection treatment was part of the larger capital improvement funded by a recent “call for projects” and the Zebra Crosswalk was a concession to the community and came with the caveat that the LADOT would not be responsible for the maintenance of the thermoplastic.

    The LADOT estimates that they cost three times as much to install, take three times as long to install, and last 7-8 years before they need maintenance. Ideally, they would be installed so that the bars line up with the lane lines and lane centers.

    These Zebra crossing were installed by a contractor at the direction of the LADOT.

    As great as it is that a simple roadway improvement can stir a discussion of crosswalks, signals, transit hubs, streetscape, bikeways improvements etc, I find it sad that a significant Capital Improvement such as the Sepulveda/Manchester can take place without simply going the distance and looking at the larger picture.

    This is a transit hub, why not put in a ped scramble so that transit passengers don’t have to wait two cycles to transfer buses. The peds here will always be competing with motorists for the cross-walk. Look at the limit line for the WB Manchester motorist turning N on Sepulveda.

    Sepulveda, south of Manchester, has lots of shops and restaurants but this is a decommissioned State Highway any ped treatments and streetscape improvements are simply accommodations to distract from the fact that his is a automobile thoroughfare.

    The community as a whole is designed so that the commercial and residential neighborhoods have their back to Sepulveda. The Trader Joe’s has a sign on the front that directs customers to the entrance in the back. Their are no bike racks in the commercial area because humans are meant to approach from the frontage roads in the back.

    Nice new asphalt and thermoplastic but these streets are not for walking.

    The test is to time the ped phase of the signal cycle. Is this intersection, and the surrounding community, really designed for humans?

    The interesting thing about streets like Sepulveda that have no driveways or breaks in the block is that they are conflict-free curb lanes. Excellent for cyclists.

    Unfortunately, the two “win-win” concessions for the community in this projects were curbside parking and median improvements, neither of which supports cyclists on Sepulveda in the commercial area south of Manchester.

    If this is part of a true multi-modal capital improvement project, we should see great shade trees (not palm trees) we should see bus shelters and we should see bike racks.

  • In this state, pedestrians have right of way in ALL crosswalks, per CVC 21950. This includes all unmarked crosswalks formed when roads meet at approximately a right angle. Granted, it is not prudent, nor guaranteed, to cross at an unmarked intersection. In addition, sometimes folks will be standing at a corner looking for a bus or their ride to pick them up while not taking the lane, and at least standing in the parking lane. Still, as a driver, I always applaud when they do those driver stings for violating CVC 21950, and I think that the fine should be increased similar to that of running a red light. This would enhance pedestrian safety by hitting people in the wallet.

  • In conclusion, per Damien, Zebra Crosswalks are great unless, per SoapBoxLA, they are used as door prizes for an auto-only road design scheme.

    Glad I could clear that one up.

  • For the ultimate in safety when I walk the streets of Los Angeles, I bring along an actual zebra. Brings the cars to a screeching halt every time.

  • Andy B, one thing the US has over europe when it comes to pedestrians rights is that for us, every crosswalk gives the ROW to pedestrians. I was shocked in Longon, when staying at the posh chelsea neighborhood, that most intersections had no crosswalks, the stop line for vehicles was at the furthest point. Meaning, as a pedestrian, if you saw a car coming…you had to wait, and then cross behind the car. On the other hand, drivers always stopped at midblock zebra crossings….on both sides of the road, as soon as you got near the thing.

    Having zebra crosswalks everywhere in the US doesn’t invalidate them, it just enforces the fact that pedestrians here always have the ROW (unless a traffic signal says otherwise)

  • John E. Fisher

    LADOT has been installing ladder crosswalks since 2000. They are installed at all unsignalized major crossings and at all mid-block signalized crosswalks in the City. There are hundreds of such locations in the City. In addition, at unsignalized crossings, we also install advance pavement messages, advance signing and dual signing at the intersection to make sure motorists are aware of the crossing and to be prepared to stop. Finally, we install extended red curb on the approach to ensure that a motorist can see a pedestrian and come to a stop as he/she steps off the curb. These efforts represent our commitment to pedestrian safety.

    However, at signalized intersections ladder crosswalks are generally not used. We want motorists to observe and obey the traffic signals, which provide the ultimate in protection for pedestrians., not observe the style of the signalized crosswalk. If decoration of a crosswalk is desired, duratherem designs are available and attractive.

    Finally, we are the first major city to commit to installing countdowns in all pedestrian signals. Currently, 2/3 of the City is converted and the remainder will be converted during the next two years.
    John E. Fisher, Assistant General Manager, LADOT

  • John Fisher,

    Wow, that sounds really “pedestrian friendly” that you can pull from the MUTCD and the design guideline manual like that.

    Pedestrian friendly, to me, isn’t just the signs and road striping on a road. When the prima facie speeds on a commercial corridor, or in front of a school, are over 20 mph – I call that pretty damn pedestrian UN-friendly.

    So, aside from painting lines on the ground, what policies do you implement to ensure that cars aren’t going 50 mph, for example, on Mission in front of my house by Lincoln Park? There are four painted crosswalks to the park, with median traffic speeds in the low 40 mph range, in front of the largest park in the area (and located right across the street from dense residential housing. 2 of those 4 crosswalks into Lincoln Park flood when it rains and do not have curb cuts. The sidewalks are destroyed.

    The roadbed in this area was recently completely re-paved.

    Explain to me how this is “pedestrian friendly”?


  • limit

    Be nice and do not militantly scare off posters.

  • limit

    calwatch with respect to driver stings for violating CVC 21950, I put forth that they are not worth the collateral damage of rear end accidents, LEOs being hit, and PR problems (many see it as entrapment).

  • limit: Somehow the “collateral damage of rear end accidents, LEOs being hit, and many PR problems” hardly seems to outweigh the fact that our streets are unsafe and we need to slow them down.

    Each month 400 pedestrians are fatally cut down by motorists across the US.


    Ped stings are a sad “afterthought” but a necessary tool for returning some sanity to our streets. If LEOs are dying on the streets (and they are!) then it’s confirmation that we should be increasing our efforts, not retreating.

    I spent the day watching Valley Traffic conduct a ped sting and it was a thing of beauty.

    I asked if they would consider doing cycling stings, putting an officer on a bike and having him/her ride the boulevards and they looked at me as if I was crazy. They didn’t see the value.


  • Better to have rear-enders to people protected by metal than someone going too fast and running over a pedestrian or bicyclist. (In any event, those who rear-end should also be cited on CVC 21703, tailgating.) Even FHWA has noted that red light cameras, while increasing rear end collisions, reduce angle collisions (“T-boning”), and thus cause a net benefit when deployed appropriately: I’ll take rear end collisions over a car running down a pedestrian at 40 mph any day.


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