L.A. Times, LAPD Misleading on Awful Car Crash Killing Venice Pedestrian

The pedestrian "walked into traffic" - screenshot of L.A. Times
The pedestrian "walked into traffic" - screenshot of L.A. Times

On Wednesday this week, Damon Shear was killed walking across Pacific Avenue in Venice. He was in a marked crosswalk where he was hit by a car, and according to an account at Yo Venice, “The driver was going fast enough that the pedestrian flew 30 feet.”

According to friend of the blog Sean Meredith:

The man [Damon Shear] was crossing at a crosswalk on busy Pacific Ave. One witness who gave her account to police was a woman driving southbound who was stopped to allow him to cross, a northbound car was also stopped to allow him to cross. Then as he crossed a northbound car swerved around the stopped car into another lane and hit the man.

A Facebook posting by L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin confirms:

By all accounts, Mr. Shear was crossing the street legally, with a reasonable expectation of safety. A motorist stopped his or her vehicle at the crosswalk, as is required by law. A second motorist, apparently impatient with the driver obeying the law, sped around and passed the stopped vehicle, hitting the victim at a high rate of speed. Despite initial reports, the Mr. Shear did not “walk into traffic.” Apparently, a motorist broke the law and hit the victim. The case is being referred to the office of the Los Angeles County District Attorney. Our prayers are with the family of Mr. Shear.

The first report SBLA saw came from the Los Angeles Times, which states:

The man was killed after he “walked into traffic” along Pacific Avenue near Paloma Court at about 10 a.m., said Officer Mike Lopez, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department.

Is this really what Angelenos can expect from the paper of record and the city’s law enforcement agency? A pedestrian legally in a crosswalk – hit by a driver, who at a minimum, violated CVC 21951 which prohibits drivers from overtaking cars stopped at crosswalks… And the LAPD says, and the Times prints, he “walked into traffic.”

Sad.

Bonin further elaborated on plans to make that crosswalk safer:

The intersection has been the scene of serious collisions previously, and in recent years the City of Los Angeles has increased LAPD presence there to target unsafe driving behaviors around this intersection, and LADOT has installed “paddles” in the crosswalk to alert drivers to the presence of pedestrians crossing, and has updated markings approaching the crosswalk so they are more visible.

Additionally, to help pedestrians cross more safely, the City applied for and Caltrans awarded federal money to add flashing beacons and ADA-compliant access ramps at the intersection — but Caltrans has yet to actually give the money to LADOT. (The money is part of a master grant for several dozen intersections citywide, many with extensive federal requirements, including environmental clearances and additional levels of review, and Caltrans will not award the money until it has reviewed, approved and cleared all 36 projects.)

The red tape of federal and state grants is one of the many reasons I have fought so aggressively to fully fund the Los Angeles “Vision Zero” program — which seeks to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries due to traffic collisions by providing local, easily accessible funds that can be quickly spent on safety improvements such as crosswalks with flashing beacons, scramble crosswalks, pedestrian-activated signals, curb bulb-outs, median island safe harbors, Safe Routes to School, and much more. More than 250 people die of traffic collisions in Los Angeles every year — one of the highest fatality rates for a major urban area in the United States. We secured $27 million for Vision Zero in this year’s budget, and I am pushing LADOT to use the funds to expedite approved projects and front-fund projects that have been awarded but not yet received outside funding. We must end the scourge of fatalities on our streets, and we cannot rest until we do.

It is urgent to get the flashing beacon installed.

But what would be better here is the these-days much-maligned road diet. The street is four lanes wide, with two lanes in each direction. The set-up creates a blind spot, where drivers and pedestrians cannot see behind stopped cars. In addition, the road diet would allow for responsible law-abiding drivers to set the tone for the street – to slow down speeding scofflaws.

With so much westside venom directed at Councilmember Bonin, Vision Zero, and road diets, it is unlikely that, even with a tragic killing, the city will do the right thing and reduce lanes on Pacific Avenue.

  • D Man

    Any road diet first requires an evaluation as to the effect of that road diet on that particular street. This is what the USDOT and LADOT both recommend. Not sure why that is so hard for the road diet activists to understand. Considering that the LADOT in 2014 said that this crosswalk was not sufficient for this street, it seems a road diet is a drastic measure and that a less drastic measure should first be implemented to determine if that sufficiently solves the safety issue for this particular street.

  • Derek Hofmann

    The speed limit in this area is 30 mph. If the driver hit the pedestrian “at a high rate of speed” then the driver was probably speeding.

    Does this road get enough traffic to justify two lanes in each direction? If not, let’s turn it into a nice boulevard with a landscaped median (with trees to give drivers the illusion of speed and give them something better to hit than pedestrians), wider sidewalks, and bike lanes.

  • Jason

    Not sure what you find so hard to understand about the fact that streets are not just for facilitating the movement of cars. USDOT standards are for freeways. Other DOTs copied freeway standards and tried to apply them to local streets. The result is carnage.

  • Oren

    Your comment is as callous as Republicans saying “let’s not politicize this mass murder by talking about gun control”. A person was KILLED by a car. That’s why it’s so “hard for the road diet activists to understand” your casual dismissal of the rights of people not to die because you desire “an evaluation as to the effect of that road diet”. How about the effect of the current design of the road? Do you need a study to determine if people are dying?

  • D Man

    No, but you need a study to determine why people are dying and the various ways to prevent it from happening. If, as the LADOT said in 2014, the cross walk can be implemented in a way that prevents traffic injuries/fatalities, without the need for a road diet, which adversely affects other people, then that is what they should have to do. You are making a conclusory argument without first determining if it is the correct conclusion.

  • D Man

    The USDOT and LADOT standards for road diets both state that each proposed road diet should be analyzed based on that specific road and that road diets are not right for all roads.

  • D Man

    Yes, it is main road (only road) through this area. In 2014 LADOT said this crosswalk wasn’t suitable for this street and recommended adding lights. Bonin didn’t act quickly and another life was lost…just like on Vista Del Mar. The first step is to heed the recommendations of the engineers at LADOT and install crosswalks that are engineered for the street they are on.

  • Derek Hofmann

    Only road? Main Street is a block east of Pacific.

  • Jeff

    //…with a reasonable expectation of safety.//

    There’s your problem, right there. There’s no such thing. Whether you’re walking, cycling, motorcycling, driving, flying, or unicycling, you should never have an expectation of safety. Never put responsibility for your safety in someone else’s hands.

    It’s the same thing that Mike Rowe was talking about in his “Safety Third” video.

  • K Clarke

    Bonin acted. Unfortunately the funding and process to get it actually in place moved slowly, as with most processes.

  • Witness

    I was there, witnessed the accident, and had the same reaction when I read the LAT account–absurd. I gave a statement to the police where I clearly said he was in the crosswalk–and there was also physical evidence–his sandals were still there after the crash. In no universe was this the pedestrian’s fault.

    This was an absolutely horrific and gruesome accident. I was one of the first to get to the victim, who had severe head trauma and no pulse, and all I can say to comfort his family is that there was no sign that he was feeling pain at that point (but I am not a medical professional). This was somebody’s son, maybe father and husband too, who had every right to walk safety in this city, and to misrepresent him and imply that it was his fault as his family grieves is reprehensible. The LAT should print a retraction/correction.

    Drivers treat Pacific like a freeway, but with the amount and proximity of traffic, pedestrians, and narrow cross streets, it’s functionally a downtown. There are a number of strategies that could be used to minimize this sort of thing; not just by DOT and LAPD, but by automakers as well. But most importantly, drivers need to change their attitudes and understand that they are operating a lethal weapon, and whatever appointment or text message that is keeping them from driving safely and lawfully is not worth a life. Going the 2 miles between downtown SM to the Venice Boardwalk at 50 mph gets you there a minute and a half earlier than 30 mph. Factor in signals and the difference is even less. Worth it?

    I know It’s hard to keep that perspective top of mind until you’ve seen the consequences in real time, right before your eyes.

    Mr. Shear will be in my thoughts for a long time. I send my deepest condolences to his family and I would be happy to talk with them if I can be of any comfort.

  • Kristina Nelson

    Damon left three children and a host of family and friends behind. We are so very sorry you had to witness this horrible tragedy. There is such immense grief that comes with losing someone so suddenly and so very senselessly. I am guilty of being in a hurry as many of us are.. But this has definitely put things in perspective for all of us and are very much talking with each other and anyone else who will listen about just how much power you wield when getting behind that steering wheel.
    There should be a reasonable expectation for safety. There should be lights at intersections. Motorists should obey traffic laws and for Christ’s sake slow down. Three kids will never hear their dad’s voice again not because he wasn’t doing the right thing but because this city has left this, and to my understanding, multiple intersections unsafe without lights, and the choice of the driver to be in too much of a hurry to be paying attention.
    To this witness, we are so sorry that you have to have those images in your head, but know we are very appreciative of the statements given and wish you peace as you work through the trauma of what you saw. If you want to send your info,i will get it to the kids. I was his sister in law. We thank you for the information and for trying to help in what had to be a terrifying situation.

  • D Man

    Bonin had more than enough money to repaint the lanes in PdR two times. There was money. Bonin just chose to use it for other things. The City will have to pay out yet again because Bonin can’t follow simple recommendations from the LADOT engineers.

  • D Man

    Main Street ends before Venice Blvd. Pacific is the only street that goes all the way down to Washington Blvd west of the canals.

  • Derek Hofmann

    So turn right on Brooks, Clubhouse, Market, or Windward and take Pacific the rest of the way to Washington. Or take Abbott Kinney if you’re going farther east. Pacific isn’t the only road through the area.

  • fuzdis

    The challenge in the situation described is anticipating such an extraordinary action by another person. The only prevention for someone going rogue like this is to never cross the street.

  • fuzdis

    Don’t understand your comment. Are you saying the crosswalk and street could not have been modified at any point between now and 2014? Nothing could have been done in that time to prevent this?

  • Jeff

    I’ve been a motorcyclist for 35 years, licensed in 6 different states, and have crossed the continent on two wheels. I commute daily via motorcycle in this craziest of cities.

    The only reason I’m still alive is that I -expect- every single other person I encounter to go rogue at any time. I expect every car coming to an intersection to turn left in front of me, I expect them to change lanes without signaling and without warning. I expect pedestrians to jaywalk in front of me. When I’m riding, I’m not talking on the phone, texting, eating, drinking, smoking or reading the morning paper. I ride as if I’m invisible and everyone around me is drunk.

    When I’m walking and crossing the street, I do the same thing.

    You’ll never be able to say you’re absolutely safe; the world is a dangerous place. If you wanted to be safe, you’d swaddle yourself in bubble wrap and never leave the house. The key to survival is to learn to recognize and manage risk, whether you’re skydiving or walking down the sidewalk. That was the point of my post above.

  • Mikaeru Sama

    Most likely it was either one of their own and one of those same city regulators that hit the person (or relative of someone higher up). When there is this much evidence indicating that the person killed was innocent but the reports are trying to make that person come across as being the guilty party they are protecting someone. After all accountability only applies to those who cannot afford the high price tag to ensure Justice is served.

  • Checks N. Balances

    Vision Zero is as big a waste of time and taxpayer money as a “high-speed” train to Wasco.

  • fuzdis

    And I would imagine you’re not 100% perfect in your safety implementation, sometimes people slip up but luckily others don’t at the same time.
    In the case of a driver going rogue and (possibly but unclear) an unattentive pedestrian there can be real tragedy.

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