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City Officially Unveils “Continental Crosswalk,” Promises 50 More in Next Three Months

Birds eye view of the Continental Crosswalk at 5th and Spring in Downtown Los Angeles

No pedestrian left behind?

At a just concluded press conference at the newly installed continental crosswalk, commonly known as a zebra crosswalk, at 5th and Spring in Downtown Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced a new program to replace traditional pedestrian crossings with the more visible crosswalk pictured above.

The world's most famous continental crosswalk.

Continental crosswalks feature two-foot wide yellow or white painted stripes paired with a limit (stop) line setback from the crosswalk to reduce vehicular encroachment into the crosswalk. The crosswalks alert motorists that they are approaching a pedestrian zone and are widely considered more safe than pedestrian crossings marked by two thin lines connecting two corners of an intersection.

“Los Angeles is in the midst of a transportation renaissance,” said Villaraigosa. “We are doubling the size of our rail network, making improvements to traffic flow and adding new bikeways. But we need to ensure that no one gets left behind. This focus on pedestrian safety is part of our efforts to create a 21st century transportation network that works for everyone.”

The new design is not just for new crosswalks or high-traffic intersections. Villaraigosa wants to see every crosswalk in the city replaced, but for now announced a plan to replace 53 crosswalks by the end of March. The replacement areas were selected based on traffic safety, with the fifty most dangerous intersections getting priority. The other three high-danger crossings are in Council Districts that are fortunate enough to have no crossings on the "top fifty" list.

You can see a list of the crosswalks scheduled for improvement, at this document provided by LADOT.

"We're excited by today's announcement," says Deborah Murphy, the founder of Los Angeles Walks and Chair of the city's official Pedestrian Advisory Committee. "This is the first of what we hope are many steps forward to make our streets safer for pedestrians."

As discussed last week, the embracing of zebra crosswalks is the symptom of a larger change at LADOT in recent years. While a recent study shows that pedestrian crashes in intersections with zebra crosswalks is over 25% lower than traditional ones, LADOT citied cost as a reason to not embrace the improved design.

The average cost of installing a zebra crosswalk is $10,000 per intersection. The cost of a regular crosswalk is about $1,000 or $4,000 per intersection. To replace 53 crosswalks will cost over half a million dollars. Too embark on a city-wide effort will cost quite a bit more. There are 19,770 marked crosswalks in the city. The city estimates that to re-paint every crosswalk will cost over $50 million. Villaraigosa promised that a portion of the Measure R local return funds set-aside for bicycle and pedestrian projects will pay for much of the conversion.

Bluntly, LADOT is putting safety over cost for pedestrians by embracing the continental design. Regardless of past actions, advocates are thrilled with the change. Representatives of Los Angeles Walks point out that 84% of the 53 new crosswalks will be within 1/4 mile of a school, transit stop, or both.

Not only should you watch the road, but LADOT makes the case for bikes being legally allowed to use the crosswalk.

Installing the new crosswalks is just part of the new campaign. In early 2013, the "Watch the Road" campaign will release a new stream of advertisements highlighting the zebra crossings and alerting motorists to watch for pedestrians.

"These new pedestrian features will go a long way toward making our streets even safer, and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to bring Continental Crosswalks to some intersections in the 11th District," said Council Member Bill Rosendahl, who chairs the City Council Transportation Committee. "The crosswalks are just another example of how the City is working to improve mobility for all Angelenos, whether you travel by car, bike, or on foot."

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