DTLA Pedestrians Get Expanded Head Start Signals

Red light plus walk signal means a leading pedestrian interval. Photos by Joe LInton/Streetsblog L.A.
Red light plus walk signal means a Leading Pedestrian Interval. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Downtown L.A. is getting a little safer for walking with some new traffic signals that give pedestrians a head start. Officially, these are called “Leading Pedestrian Intervals.” The concept is that when pedestrians get the walk signal a few seconds before drivers get a green light, they can walk into the intersection and be more visible, and therefore safer.

The new signals are part of an initiative by Los Angeles City Councilmember and livability champion José Huizar. Huizar and LADOT incorporated them as a feature in street improvements that are accompanying Metro’s Regional Connector construction. Huizar, via a press release, touted the new signals: “Complete Streets improvements, like Pedestrian Headstart Signals, make our streets safer for pedestrians while encouraging foot traffic in Downtown Los Angeles’s increasingly dynamic urban environment.”

In 2014, the L.A. Transportation Department (LADOT) installed Leading Pedestrian Intervals on Broadway at 3rd and 4th Streets.

Over the last two weekends, LADOT added over a dozen new head start signals, bringing the total to 16 downtown L.A. intersections, all in the Historic Core and Civic Center areas. Leading Pedestrian Intervals are currently installed at these intersections: 

  • 1st Street and Main Street
  • 2nd Street and Hill Street
  • 2nd Street and Spring Street
  • 2nd Street and Main Street
  • 3rd Street and Hill Street
  • 3rd Street and Broadway (one direction installed in 2014, one added 2016)
  • 3rd Street and Spring Street
  • 3rd Street and Main Street
  • 4th Street and Hill Street
  • 4th Street and Broadway (2014)
  • 4th Street and Spring Street
  • 4th Street and Main Street
  • 5th Street and Hill Street
  • 5th Street and Broadway
  • 5th Street and Spring Street
  • 5th Steet and Main Street

When I first spotted one last week – adjacent to City Hall, LAPD headquarters and Caltrans District 7 Headquarters, which houses LADOT – I thought for a moment that it was a malfunction. They present as a white-lit walk signal simultaneously with a red traffic light. Then I realized I had been given the go-ahead by a Leading Pedestrian Interval.

Unfortunately, impatient right-turning drivers are still getting used to these too. While I bicycled around taking the above photos, I spotted a driver angling right and looking to her left, waiting for a gap in traffic. When the cross traffic stopped for its red, she right-hooked in front of three pedestrians (and me) already in the crosswalk during our leading interval. We stopped. I shouted at the driver, who sped away. Nobody was hurt, but, even with a head start, it is still important for pedestrians to keep an eye out for right-turning drivers.

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