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.

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