"Grandma Beverly" Shelton, co-founder of SoCal Families for Safe Streets, submitted the following letter to LA Weekly in response to a recent article on Vision Zero in Los Angeles.
To the Editor of LA Weekly,
When my grandson Zachary Cruz was five years old, a man driving a welding truck struck Zach as he crossed the street with a school employee and three other children in Berkeley, CA. Zachary died there on the street. As a resident of Ventura, I represent one of the thousands of people traumatically impacted by severe traffic collisions every year in and around Los Angeles, and am a co-founder of the recently formed Southern California Families for Safe Streets. Members of the group are all mourning the abrupt and senseless loss of a family member killed in a traffic collision or are adapting to life with our own serious traffic-related injury.
Hillel Aron’s recent piece, Is L.A.’s Ambitious Plan to End Traffic Fatalities Already Dead? (November 2, 2017), completely omitted our voices. This is common. Despite the fact that we and our loved ones bear the greatest burden, recent media coverage of traffic safety efforts in Los Angeles focus almost entirely on projects’ impacts on car commuters, effects on local businesses, and the pressure elected officials face. Too often, this is how people gauge whether a safety project “works” or “doesn’t work” as Mayor Garcetti implies in Aron’s piece.
SoCal Families for Safe Streets exists to remind people why the City initiates safety projects in the first place: to prevent deaths -- deaths that destroy families, lead people into deep depression, stress marriages, strain resources, and shatter communities.
It is time for Mayor Garcetti, Los Angeles City Council members, and all regional leaders to stand firm, like former NYC Mayor Bloomberg did in the example provided in Aron’s piece. We call on policymakers to unapologetically support evidence-based strategies that reduce severe collisions and save lives.
Vision Zero is not dead. My grandson is dead. Aidan Tam, 7 years old, is dead. Jonathan Hernandez, 14 years old, is dead. Valentina d’Alessandro, 16 years old, is dead. And so are more than 500 people in Los Angeles since the City launched Vision Zero in August 2015. With courage and conviction, our elected officials can take meaningful steps to stop this. We urge them to do so.
Southern California Families for Safe Streets welcomes you join us in the fight for safe streets that prevent death and protect families. For more information, visit: http://www.losangeleswalks.org/socal_families_for_safe_streets.
Beverly “Grandma Beverly” Shelton
Co-founder, A to Z Families for Safe Streets
Co-founder, Southern California Families for Safe Streets
Written by Maryann Gray
On a beautiful spring day in 1977, when I was a 22 year-old student living in rural Ohio, I hit and killed an 8 year old boy named Brian who ran into the street in front of my car. Back then, his family’s mailbox was across the street from their house, which made for more efficient mail delivery. The “street,” however was a heavily trafficked rural highway, U.S. Route 27. Brian had forgotten to watch for traffic after picking up the family’s mail.
Although this collision was not my fault in any legal sense, the fact is that I am the one who killed him. For decades, I felt undeserving of happiness, compassion, or love. Not a single day has gone by when I have not thought about Brian. He was with me on the day I defended my doctoral dissertation, on my wedding day, and on the day my father died. He is with me as I write this.
Maryann Gray is the founder of http://accidentalimpacts.org/.
Twenty-five years after the crash, I finally decided to deal with my guilt, shame, fear, and grief, along with lingering symptoms of PTSD. I started therapy and began a deep exploration of the collision and its aftermath. Among many other steps, I read the accident report and newspaper articles for the first time, and I flew out to Ohio from my home in Los Angeles to quietly visit the crash scene.
In preparation for my visit to Ohio, I googled Brian’s address, intending to look at the site via Google maps. What popped up in the search results, however, was an article that listed U.S. Route 27 in Butler County, Ohio as one of the most dangerous highways in America. This 14-mile stretch of road even had a nickname – the Highway to Heaven.
I was startled. I had spent countless hours ruminating about my own responsibility for Brian’s death, but I had never questioned the external conditions that contributed to this collision. It turned out that Brian was one of many victims on Route 27. Between 1960 and 1986, 87 people were killed on that 14 mile stretch – 3 or 4 people killed per year, every year, for more than a quarter of a century.
In the late 1980s, the residents of Butler County and their elected officials organized and advocated for improvements to the road. Only then did the State come through with funding. In the years that followed, workers widened narrow stretches of the road, smoothed out steep curves, added shoulders, and improved the signage. The speed limit was reduced. I don’t know exactly when, but sometime after Brian’s death the mailboxes were moved so that they sat in front of the houses rather than across the street. Today, the collision rate on Route 27 has dropped considerably, although it remains a dangerous road.
Pedestrian deaths are not only the result of bad drivers and bad luck, although both play a part. They also result from the choices we make as a society about how much to invest in road safety. Individual responsibility is essential to stopping the carnage on the roads. So is advocacy, policy, urban planning and design, engineering, and education.
I am pleased to honor Brian’s memory by supporting Los Angeles Walks, the LA Vision Zero Alliance, and Southern California Families for Safe Streets this World Day of Remembrance.
At the upcoming Tuesday, October 10th Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee meeting, LA City Council members will consider a spending plan for integrated road reconstruction and Vision Zero safety projects that span three City departments. A collaboration between the LA Department of Transportation (LADOT), Bureau of Engineering (BOE), and Bureau of Street Services (BSS), the spending plan is an effort to increase the departments’ efficiency and impact, and encourages a more holistic approach to public works projects that are developed with a health equity lens.
We love it! But, we want more.
We want to see departments work together on complete streets projects that don’t just go curb-to-curb, but wall-to-wall. We want to see smooth, safe streets AND sidewalk repair, curb ramps, street trees, and bus shelters.
Have you ever stood at a bus stop with people gathered in the shade of one skinny utility pole because there is no bus shelter or trees to provide relief? Los Angeles can avoid that by leveraging our transportation dollars to improve the entire public realm from wall-to-wall in the creation of true complete streets. When we do that, we are making investments that prioritize safety and, importantly, show an immediate return on the quality of life for our communities.
During the 2018 budget negotiations in the City of Los Angeles this past May, policymakers settled on an important compromise - one that most of us would consider common sense, but that a City staffer might call magical.
Before the compromise, Council members were in disagreement: with limited funds available, some elected officials wanted to prioritize spending on critical roadway repairs, fixing potholes and reconstructing “failing” streets. Others wanted to direct funds to Vision Zero projects - those that redesign the highest need streets for safety in order to address the public health emergency of traffic fatalities in LA.
After dramatic deliberations, Councilmembers decided that the City can accomplish both goals by having departments work together, and that funding should go towards projects that incorporate both roadway reconstruction and redesigns for safety.
To be fair, Los Angeles Walks initially balked at the notion of diverting funds to roadway repairs at a time when fatal and severe pedestrian collisions continue to rise. But, we have come to see the value in this compromise and the importance of cross-departmental collaboration, one of the pillars of the Vision Zero framework. We also see that as an opportunity for the City to execute an efficient use of public funds.
We would like to have the City Council include wall-to-wall complete streets alongside all other potential plans for the City’s integrated road repair/Vison Zero project list, including access and sidewalk repair, street trees, and bus shelters.
MORE ABOUT THE PLAN
Since the City Council passed the FY18 budget this past spring, LADOT, BOE, and BSS have worked together to develop a Vision Zero 2017-18 workplan that includes both street reconstruction and Vision Zero components. At the September 20th Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee meeting, leaders of each department together presented the names of 11 corridors that light up on all of their individual lists: those “D” and “F” streets in need of reconstruction that are also on the City’s Vision Zero High Injury Network.
As outlined in a report by the City Attorney’s Office, the initial source of funding proposed for these projects is the Measure M Local Return Fund, which includes $12.84 million for street reconstruction and $6.62 million for Vision Zero (total: $19.46 million). The use of funds from the remaining Measure M Local Return Fund ($650,00) and SB1 Special Gas Tax Improvement Fund ($24.06 million), which includes $11.95 million for street reconstruction and $12.76million for Vision Zero, will be proposed in subsequent reports, and will cover salaries and other resources necessary for 2017-18 work during the construction phase of these projects.
In a city where everybody walks, bikes, rides the bus or drives a vehicle, our transportation investments don't have to be separated into silos like "bus," "walk," or "vehicle speed." By expanding departmental coordination and improving all aspects of the street from wall-to-wall, we can increase safety directly, through Vision Zero safety projects, and indirectly, through higher quality and more dignified infrastructure for people walking, biking, and taking transit. By encouraging more people to walk, bike, and take transit - and making it convenient and pleasant, we will increase safety for all.
Join us at the Tripping Point advocacy training summit!
>> Boost your advocacy skills for sidewalks, crosswalks, street trees, and bus shelters at The Tripping Point: Valley Edition, a FREE one-day advocacy training summit on October 21st at Panorama City High School. Food, childcare, and Spanish-English translation available!
It’s been almost four months since Los Angeles Walks joined Investing in Place and other partners to host the Tripping Point, which, as far as we know, was LA’s first advocacy training summit focused on complete street issues, like sidewalks, bus stops, crosswalks, and street trees.
Since the first Tripping Point, safe and complete street issues have gained significant attention as Los Angeles embraces the challenge to create safer neighborhoods by reorganizing streets and public spaces.
Based on the turnout at the first Tripping Point, we know that the demand for healthy, active communities is out there. And based on our experiences over the past four months, we know how critical it is to voice and make visible the demand for updated streets and sidewalks that serve everyone’s needs.
So, led by Investing in Place, LA Walks is co-hosting the Tripping Point 2: The Valley edition along with AARP, the American Heart Association, the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, Koreatown Youth & Community Center, LURN, Outfront/JCDecaux, and Southern California Resources Services for Independent Living.
To set the stage, we’re providing a recap here of the first Tripping Point, held on June 10th, when over 150 people from all across the city came together at El Puente Learning Center in Boyle Heights for workshops and skill-building sessions.
Our goals for the first Tripping Point were the same as they are for the upcoming Tripping Point 2:
- Participants will better understand City initiatives, programs, and plans.
- Attendees will boost their skills in advocating for safer streets and healthier communities.
For the Tripping Point 2, on October 21st, we’re also adding that participants will connect with one another to leave with a local network of fellow activists and allies.
Speakers on June 10th included two extraordinary community members, Cleo Ray (above) and Vanessa May, as well as Deputy Mayor Barbara Romero (top image), City Councilmember Nury Martinez, and Los Angeles Department of Transportation General Manager Seleta Reynolds. It was an all-star line-up of women working to make our communities better!
Throughout the day, experts from community-based organizations and advocacy groups offered a slew of sessions, all offered in Spanish and English. Topics ranged from how to request a bus stop shelter to how to communicate effectively with elected officials. Attendees learned about stormwater capture, the urban tree canopy, and more.
Los Angeles Walks offered two sessions, both centered on connecting individuals with one another in order to build community power. First, during “Hands-On Walk Audit,” we taught participants how to conduct a walk audit and we shared a basic tool for coordinating a walk audit in their own neighborhoods. A walk audit can be a very detailed exercise that focuses on intense data collection. But, it can also be an opportunity to build relationships, share an experience, and establish common interests among community members -- all steps toward building community power to create local change.
For the second session, America Aceves of Proyecto Pastoral led a training in community organizing called “Organizing for Change: The Power of Relationships.” America dove straight into what power is and who has it, how to create change through individual and institutional transformation, and what exactly organizing entails: community listening, research, action, and evaluation. We explored leadership and how to identify and develop leaders; learned how to conduct a “one-on-one,” the foundation of relationship-building in community organizing; and we each practiced telling our personal story, a useful skill for connecting with neighbors and decision-makers.
WHY BUILD PEOPLE POWER?
As an advocacy organization working to make Los Angeles a safe, equitable place to walk, Los Angeles Walks is, of course, focused on public policy, like the City’s sidewalk repair program, Safe Sidewalks LA, as well as Vision Zero and Mobility Plan 2035. But, increasingly, LA Walks is focusing on developing relationships and building people power. Recent events in Westside neighborhoods confirm that this is the way to go: only one week after the Tripping Point was held, vocal opposition erupted in response to the Mar Vista Great Streets Initiative project on Venice Blvd., the Safe Streets Playa del Rey road redesigns, and the Vista del Mar reconfiguration. The situation required intense mobilization and organizing of safe street supporters in the area.
In the months after, LA Walks joined the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition in making visible the constituency for safe streets in Council District 11: we identified supportive stakeholders and community members, trained residents in how to provide public comment at a community meeting, encouraged constituents to email their elected officials in support of Vision Zero and roadway redesigns that control speed, and organized 60 people to attend and speak at the Mar Vista Community Council meeting.
The immediate outcome was positive: the Mar Vista Community Council voted to keep the Venice Blvd. project in place in order to allow the City time to conduct a thorough evaluation. But, opposition to street changes remain, which has led to the reversal of safety projects already in place and the threat to block projects currently in the works.
Now is the time to build our skills and our power as community members who know that another world is possible:
- one in which traffic collisions are not the leading cause of death of children in Los Angeles County;
- a city in which seniors in our neighborhoods feel comfortable traveling to the corner store, connecting with their friends along the way and strengthening their social support networks;
- a city in which the preservation of human life takes priority over the swift movement of cars.
RSVP today for the Tripping Point 2: The Valley edition on Saturday, October 21 from 9:30am to 2pm. Boost your advocacy skills, meet like-minded people, and leave inspired to create a safer, healthier city. See you there!
Find info on the Tripping Point 1 below:
Funding for LA Walks' breakout sessions at the June 10, 2017 Tripping Point was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The State of Walking in Los Angeles and Exciting Announcements from Founder Deborah Murphy
Like no other time in my life, we are all under pressure to fight for what matters to us, whether that’s rights and respect for indigenous people and immigrants, the dismantling of racism and dominant white culture, or equal pay for people with disabilities and for all women. Maybe it’s the environment, education, restorative justice, and simply the right to be who we are and love who we love. These are by no means new fights, but today there is an elevated sense of urgency, and there is so much to fight for. At Los Angeles Walks, we remain dedicated to the fight for safe and equitable walking, which we see as intimately linked to so many social justice concerns and basic rights, like the right to health and safe movement, access to opportunities, affordable housing, harassment-free public space, and basic dignity for all.
Where we have come from
Since starting Los Angeles Walks, my personal and professional fight has been for a safer, more accessible, more pleasant city that supports walking - the most fundamental form of mobility. In 1998, I was dodging drivers who wanted to run me over on Pico Boulevard in West Los Angeles on my way to the Commuter Express Bus to work in Downtown LA. Nearly 20 years ago, I knew that all of us walking deserved better, and I decided to take my fight to city hall. I gathered up a bunch of committed makers and doers, urban designers and planners, architects, elected officials, advocates, transportation geeks, and transit nerds. We were fed up with disrespectful drivers, bad street design, and unsafe and unattractive walking conditions. Together we started the first pedestrian advocacy organization in Los Angeles.
Walking CicLAvia with many of the original Los Angeles Walks board members in 2013
At the time, people thought of us as a curious special interest group with a narrow focus and little relevance to the majority of people in car-centric Los Angeles. City officials (who once literally pat me on the head and said, “we love pedestrians too”) widened roadways, narrowed sidewalks, eliminated crosswalks, removed street trees, lit up streets but not sidewalks, removed bus stops, increased speed limits, and ticketed pedestrians for crossing the street too slowly. What little walking infrastructure that did exist, the City destroyed in order to make room for more and more vehicles, at the expense of people and neighborhoods across LA.
We have come a long way since those days. Largely thanks to the actions and advocacy of Los Angeles Walks’ founding board members, the City of Los Angeles hired its first Pedestrian Coordinator in 2011. Soon after, the City launched the People Street program and Great Streets Initiative, adopted Mobility Plan 2035, and passed a Vision Zero policy. Los Angeles hired a bold, bright new General Manager, Seleta Reynolds, to head up the Department of Transportation. In March 2017, more than 70% of Los Angeles County voters supported Measure M, the sales tax increase that will fund a massive transit expansion.
We must continue the fight
Despite, or maybe because of, this progress, this is a challenging time for walking advocacy in Los Angeles. Within the past few years, City leaders have committed to improve mobility options and transportation safety; to support disadvantaged communities, aging in place, healthy communities, and environmental justice; and to increase funding for active transportation, open streets events, and transit. With this support, though, comes a stronger backlash than I have ever seen, and stronger reinforcement of the status quo.
Walkable communities and pedestrian safety, including Vision Zero, are now discussed in mainstream media, not just among us walking advocates and within professional publications. We have more data than ever to document where people are walking, where they are being hit and injured or killed, where people want to walk, and what kinds of techniques and treatments will make walking safer. But we also have more people expressing skepticism about that data and even questioning the prioritization of safe streets over smooth traffic flow. Drivers in some communities claim that there is a “war on cars” and that making space for people to walk and bike more safely goes against Los Angeles’s car culture and auto dependency.
Like so many moments before it, this is a time of transition in LA. For too long, people and neighborhoods have paid the price for bad, out of balance design. We have made too much progress in recent years to turn back now. As an organization, Los Angeles Walks needs to be up to the current challenge, fully committed to not only fight the status quo, but build up new support for a shared vision of healthier, safer communities that support human life.
Where we are going
We are proud to announce that we are appointing our current Policy and Program Manager Emilia Crotty as full-time Executive Director, and will soon hire a new Advocacy and Engagement Manager. This new staff person will assume leadership of the LA Vision Zero Alliance, a citywide coalition convened by Los Angeles Walks. As founder, I will take on the role of Chief Strategist for the organization.
Emilia Crotty (right) is appointed as Executive Director of Los Angeles Walks
Emilia has been a relentless champion for Vision Zero in Los Angeles, establishing and sustaining the LA Vision Zero Alliance for the past two years. Since joining Los Angeles Walks, Emilia has taken on a wide range of additional projects and priorities, which she will continue to champion as ED. These include:
Initiating a Safe Routes for Seniors program in partnership with staff and residents at Union Tower, a senior residence in the Westlake/MacArthur Park neighborhood;
Organizing families of victims of traffic collisions to develop a Families for Safe Streets group modeled after successful programs in New York and San Francisco;
Partnering on the development and leadership of The Tripping Point, a one-day advocacy training summit that offers civic literacy and capacity building sessions to help develop a skilled, organized constituency for safe streets, sidewalks, and pedestrian rights-of-way throughout the City of Los Angeles;
Managing Temple Street Slow Jams, Los Angeles Walks’ Vision Zero Outreach & Engagement Program implemented in collaboration with Public Matters, the Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California, and Gabba Gallery in Historic Filipinotown and Echo Park;
Representing Los Angeles Walks on many committees and task forces across the city.
Please join me in congratulating Emilia on her promotion from Policy and Program Manager to Executive Director of Los Angeles Walks.
Please also join Los Angeles Walks in our work to create safe streets for all by providing a recurring donation or a one-time donation. It will take more effort than ever before to address the public health crisis on our city streets, where there has been a 36% increase in pedestrian deaths and serious injuries since Vision Zero launched in Los Angeles. As of early August 2017, 77 pedestrians have been killed on LA streets this year. Through your support, you will help to:
Assure that Measure M implements first and last mile and complete streets projects that improve safety and access for people walking and biking;
Address the public health disparities in our underserved communities of color, particularly in South Los Angeles;
Put LA Walks on the frontlines of community engagement for safe streets projects across the city, in particular in communities where there is support for Vision Zero and safe streets.
Or, consider joining our team! Applications for the Advocacy and Engagement Manager position are due Friday, September 15th.
Thank you for reading and for your continued support.
We are all pedestrians,
Los Angeles Walks Founder and Chief Strategist
Please call and email Senator Ricardo Lara today! (Thursday, August 31, 2017)
Already good to go? Call: (916) 651-4033
AB 390 - the bill that would make it legal to cross the street during the countdown phase of the pedestrian signal - was put on suspense on Monday, August 28th due to a misunderstanding by the State Department of Finance.
>> Please contact Senate Appropriations Chair Ricardo Lara to ask that AB 390 come off suspense.
PHONE: (916) 651-4033
EMAIL: Mark.McKenzie@sen.ca.gov (find sample email text below)
Summary: AB 390 has come a long way, and Los Angeles Walks has been a strong supporter from the start. Let's not allow a referral error to be the death of this important update to our law and to enforcement procedures.
Click here to read the LA Vision Zero Alliance policy platform and guiding values, a roadmap for the City to eliminate traffic deaths through an approach that is equitable, community-centered, and transparent.
Written by Scott Frazier
Today marks two years since Mayor Eric Garcetti signed Executive Directive 10, formally launching the Vision Zero initiative in Los Angeles. In instituting its own Vision Zero program, Los Angeles joined a growing international movement based on the belief that traffic fatalities are always preventable and that saving lives is a compelling public interest that should govern how we design our road network.
As Mayor Garcetti put it on signing Executive Directive 10: “Fatalities are not a tolerable byproduct of transportation. Loss of life and severe injuries resulting from traffic crashes are unacceptable outcomes that we can address.” Vision Zero is about prioritizing the safety of Los Angeles’s community members regardless of how they move around the city. But Vision Zero is more than just a statement of intent. It is about the complete elimination of fatal crashes in the City. Mayor Garcetti’s Directive laid out a benchmark goal of reducing fatalities by 20% in 2017, and reducing them to 0 by 2025. This is an ambitious goal that requires funding and action.
Los Angeles Vision Zero has a mixed record of achievement in its first two years. City leaders, led by Councilmembers Mike Bonin, José Huizar, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Paul Krekorian, and Nury Martinez, recently renewed their commitment to Vision Zero in increasing funding to the program from $3.5 million to $27 million in the current budget year. This money will help give L.A.’s most dangerous streets the life-saving makeovers that they need. The increase is all-the-more important as previous funding levels have been decidedly insufficient for meeting the City’s stated goals. Far from meeting the preliminary goal of a 20% reduction of traffic deaths by 2017, the number of fatalities on Los Angeles’ streets has continued to grow. The number of people killed by vehicles while walking this year has increased by nearly a quarter since last year, and by more than two-thirds from 2015.
The new infusion of financial support could make a major difference, though, as it complements the work that has been undertaken by Vision Zero and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to date. In the first two years, LADOT has conducted data analysis and safety studies for Vision Zero, culminating in the development of a Vision Zero Action Plan, which prioritizes project implementation for projects citywide based on what is called the “High-Injury Network” of streets. City staff has determined that 65% of fatal collisions occur on just 6% of L.A.’s streets, which make optimum targets for Vision Zero investment due to their unsafe design and high levels of pedestrian activity.
Based on the Action Plan, LADOT has identified 40 corridors for upcoming improvements. As Phase 1 of implementation, Vision Zero has resulted in the installation of 404 new crosswalks, 109 new speed feedback signs, and 117 new intersection tightenings (below).
During the past two years, Vision Zero has also been the subject of a brand awareness marketing campaign and a community-based education and outreach campaign on specific corridors. LADOT has also developed an online tool to map the impact of traffic deaths, while showing its commitment to the program by growing its dedicated staff to more than 10 people.
Vision Zero should carry with it a sense of urgency, because the status quo is deadly. Two hundred and seventy three people have been killed or seriously injured this year alone after being struck by a car while walking. Over the course of the past two years, the Los Angeles Vision Zero Alliance, coordinated by Los Angeles Walks, has sought to keep that urgency squarely in focus for city officials. The Alliance has pushed the City to improve in three main areas of emphasis:
- Increasing and equitably distributing funding for Vision Zero project implementation,
- improving the community engagement process, and
- strengthening transparency and accountability mechanisms for Vision Zero projects.
This week, as the City marks the anniversary of its Vision Zero program, the Vision Zero Alliance releases its policy platform and guiding values, which will shape advocacy efforts for the 20+ member coalition going forward. The Alliance will use the platform to monitor, track, and evaluate Vision Zero initiatives by relevant City departments and among elected officials.
The Alliance presses the City to distribute Vision Zero investments equitably, prioritizing “low-income communities of color - residents who are most at risk of being hit by a car because of current street conditions and a history of disinvestment,” said Monique López, Deputy Executive Director of Advocacy at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. “We also need to make sure that strong policies are in place and resources available for anti-displacement measures, so residents are not priced out of their neighborhood once street improvements are made.”
The policy platform is being released at particularly important time for Vision Zero. LADOT is quickly updating the speed surveys that will allow the Los Angeles Police Department to resume enforcing speed infractions in the city. LAPD has created a deployment plan for speed enforcement, but has thus far not made that plan public. The Vision Zero Alliance is concerned that traffic enforcement efforts under the Vision Zero banner could result in the continued over-policing of Black and Brown residents, as seen in Sacramento and Chicago Vision Zero enforcement strategies. “It is problematic for the City’s Vision Zero initiative to subject residents to increased police presence without acknowledging the legacy of racist land use policies evidenced by inadequate and unsafe street infrastructure,” said Megan McClaire, Director of Health Equity at the Advancement Project California, and Anisha Hingorani, Program and Policy Manager at Multicultural Communities for Mobility, both Vision Zero Alliance member organizations. “We urge the City to prioritize investments in design over enforcement, and require that LAPD commit to a ‘no racial profiling pledge’ to explicitly address the historic practice of over-policing and disproportionate enforcement of communities of color.”
The Vision Zero Alliance also believes that it is critical to engage community members in the development, implementation, and evaluation of roadway redesigns. The Alliance believes that the City must develop guidelines for deep, culturally and linguistically competent engagement in order to ensure that Vision Zero projects can be effectively integrated into the community where they will be located.
The stakes are high, but the Alliance believes the City can achieve Vision Zero, despite the recent pushback that has been seen on the Westside. The Vision Zero Alliance is committed to helping the City to achieve Vision Zero, and offers its policy recommendations as a means of eliminating traffic fatalities in an equitable, community-centered, and transparent way.
To learn more about joining the LA Vision Zero Alliance, contact Emilia Crotty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Mehmet Berker and Scott Frazier. Image via Streetsblog LA.
At the end of July, Councilmember Mike Bonin of Los Angeles’ 11th district announced that his office had arranged to remove 400 parking spots from Vista del Mar in Playa del Rey (above), replacing them with spaces in the County’s adjacent Dockweiler State Beach lot. The decision, which allowed for the restoration of a traffic lane in each direction, effectively signals the end of the safety project on Vista del Mar just two months after it was first introduced.
This is a disappointing setback for people who walk in Los Angeles. Despite having made tentative progress in recent years, people walking are still too-frequently expected to take risks with their personal safety in order to maintain the privilege of drivers to speed through residential neighborhoods and commercial corridors. Though the outcome is sad, hopefully Vista del Mar can serve as a teachable moment whose lessons will help protect safe streets projects for people walking, bicycling, and driving in other parts of the city.
Unlike other projects in the area, including the separate Safe Streets for Playa del Rey Initiative that introduced road diets on Culver Boulevard, Jefferson Boulevard, and Pershing Drive, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) undertook the reconfiguration of Vista del Mar as a result of the legal liability posed by the roadway’s deadly status quo. In April, the Los Angeles City Council settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the parents of Naomi Larsen, a teenager who was killed in a 2015 collision on Vista del Mar as she left the beach. The suit contended that fatal collisions were a “foreseeable” consequence of a road design that left pedestrians to fend for themselves on a miles-long stretch of road that had no crosswalks. With a similar lawsuit pending in the case of the 2016 death of Michael Lockridge and the summer beach season approaching, the City felt pressure to take immediate action and improve the safety of Vista del Mar.
The project, which was announced in May, sought to address conditions near Dockweiler State Beach by targeting the most dangerous elements of the existing design. Parking spaces were moved to the west side of the street to reduce the number of pedestrians crossing Vista del Mar. Illegal U-turns were mitigated by providing space for cars to turn around safely. Vehicle speeds were slowed by reducing the number of traffic lanes on Vista del Mar.
This last point about speed is especially key, as a new study by the National Transportation Safety Board has confirmed Vision Zero’s contention that controlling car speeds is essential to eliminating traffic fatalities. Speeding is a contributing factor to nearly one third of vehicle collisions and, as speed increases, people walking become much less likely to survive a car’s impact. Whereas 90% of pedestrians survive vehicle impacts at 20 mph, at 40 mph that number drops to just 10%. The study by the NTSB, the authority on safe transportation practices, found that insufficient attention and resources have been directed to the development and enforcement of safe speed limits.
The reconfiguration of Vista del Mar was not part of the City’s Vision Zero Action Plan, but it was carried out simultaneously with nearby projects in the 11th District: the Great Streets makeover of Venice Boulevard in the Mar Vista neighborhood, which was a priority listed in the Vision Zero Action Plan, and the aforementioned Safe Streets for Playa del Rey project, which was implemented in response to community concerns. While these projects had each been in development for several years, the Vista del Mar project did not receive the benefit of public outreach because of the imminent legal threat. Perhaps most importantly, this meant that the City lost an important opportunity to set a clear agenda for the goals of the project that included reducing dangerous car speeds on Vista del Mar.
Since their implementation, the three safe streets projects in the 11th District have each been the recipient of a furious and frequently vicious backlash. Public meetings regarding the roadway reconfigurations have not been civil or constructive, and have at times devolved into the open mocking of concerns for the safety of people walking and riding bicycles. Some of the loudest opponents of the Playa del Rey projects, from South Bay cities like Manhattan Beach, have been impervious to the argument that they have prioritized safety near their own homes, but regard their commuting time as more important than safety in other people’s neighborhoods.
In response, Bonin’s office has attempted to meet critics halfway. The Los Angeles Times said the agreement between Bonin’s office and Supervisor Janice Hahn had been called a “win-win” that would satisfy commuters and beachgoers, but the fact remains that a safe road redesign is being abandoned to cater to the loudest and angriest voices in the room.
The “win-win” solution on Vista del Mar is reminiscent of what Los Angeles has tried for decades -- a solution in which the very presence of pedestrians is seen as a problem that needs solving. Instead of making walking safer, we try to address safety by removing the walkers. History has shown that not only is this approach disruptive to the community, it also will never be fully effective. People will still walk across Vista del Mar, whether they are going to Vista del Mar Park, or walking from their home to enjoy a day at the beach, or for whatever other possible reason. The lack of lighting, lack of crosswalks, and low-visibility conditions from fog will still make it dangerous to cross, or walk along, a de facto speedway, but reverting Vista del Mar to its previous configuration simply ignores the existence of these people so South Bay commuters can resume speeding through the neighborhood.
In his video, Councilmember Bonin acknowledged the public safety crisis that traffic collisions pose in Los Angeles, and we commend his correct assertion that controlling speed is the most effective means of eliminating fatal car crashes, as we commend his championing of the Vision Zero initiative across Los Angeles. Councilmember Bonin has been a leader among the City’s elected officials in giving discussions of street safety for all Angelenos the weight that they deserve. But it is flatly disappointing that speed was not a primary consideration in terminating the road diet, just as it’s disappointing to hear the Councilmember call this project a “mistake.” Despite the vitriol that characterized the backlash to this project, this was a smart redesign that gave due consideration to protecting the lives of human beings.
In the long term, we will be pushing the City to create a permanent pedestrian facility on the west side of Vista del Mar, and to make sure that extra roadway space will not merely be left to encourage unsafe driving speeds. We are also hopeful that the task force Councilmember Bonin has announced to examine the community-supported Safe Streets for Playa del Rey Initiative will provide an opportunity for more productive conversations to take place. We believe that it is of paramount importance that design elements intended to protect pedestrians be protected throughout this process.
TAKE ACTION: Attend the Tuesday, August 15 6:30pm Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa meeting to express your support for complete streets and pedestrian-friendly roadways. Find details here.
Safe street projects on the Westside are under attack from vocal opponents who prefer the status quo over safety.
No matter where you live, we need you to take action to protect Vision Zero projects in Mar Vista and Playa del Rey. See below for details.
Opponents want to squash evidence-based road safety interventions in favor of their own convenient commutes, potentially setting a troubling precedent for Vision Zero projects across LA. (Read more from LACBC here.)
Our decision-makers need to know that Los Angeles does NOT want to be the most dangerous city in America for traffic crashes anymore - a place where traffic collisions are currently the leading cause of death for kids.
You can help to end this public health crisis by supporting roadway redesigns that improve walking and biking - whether those Vision Zero projects are in your backyard or way across town.
Top Three Ways to Take Action
1. Attend the Wednesday, July 5 Venice Neighborhood Council meeting at 7pm to provide public comment supporting the Venice Blvd. Great Streets projects. More details
2. Attend the Tuesday, July 11 Mar Vista Community Council meeting at 7pm to share your support for streets safe for walking, biking, and driving. RSVP here
3. Email the Venice Neighborhood Council and Mar Vista Community Council before July 5 to express your support for complete, safe streets. More details (scroll down)
- Volunteer to phone bank on Wednesday, July 5 anytime 4pm-8pm with our partners at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC). RSVP
- Join the LACBC Sunday Funday Ride this Sunday, July 2 at 9:30am to tour safety improvements in Mar Vista and Playa del Rey. Details & RSVP
The LA Department of Transportation used internationally proven and evidence-based methods to design new street safety improvements in Mar Vista and Playa del Rey after collecting community input. Don't let opponents stifle these projects just as they are poised to yield results.
Take action today and in the coming week. Show up strong for safe, healthy, vibrant streets across Los Angeles.
Don't forget to RSVP for the July 11 Mar Vista Community Council meeting, where turnout is key!
The Tripping Point advocacy training summit for smooth sidewalks and safe, healhty streets is this Saturday! REGISTER NOW before we reach capacity and close sign-ups. FREE!
Ask an Angeleno basic questions about our city streets, like how to request a curb ramp, what the heck an “unmarked crosswalk” is, or how to improve a bus stop, and you’re likely to get a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Los Angeles Walks is out to change that through The Tripping Point, a FREE half-day advocacy training summit we’re co-hosting this Saturday, June 10th in Boyle Heights.
What you'll get at The Tripping Point:
- The skills, tools, strategies, and insights you need to more effectively shape your world.
- A fundamental understanding of the who, what, where, when, why of transportation, streets, and sidewalks in LA.
- A chance to meet decision-makers and practitioners who build our urban environment.
- Food! Light breakfast and lunch are included.
- Need Spanish translation or childcare? We've got that too.
Here’s why you should register today:
Because now is the time for Angelenos to understand how our built environment takes shape, who determines its form, and how to influence the process.
The City of Los Angeles is in the midst of a Mobility Moment. In the last year alone:
- LA City Council adopted the sweeping and ambitious Mobility Plan 2035.
- LA County voters passed Measure M, expressing overwhelming support for public transit expansion.
- LA Bureau of Engineering launched Safe Sidewalks LA, finally committing to repair our sidewalk network.
- LA Dept. of Transportation released a Vision Zero Action Plan outlining safety solutions for 40 priority roadway corridors in 2017.
- LA City Council increased the City’s Vision Zero budget from $3 million in 2017 to $27.2 million in 2018.
So, join us this Saturday, June 10th at Puente Learning Center in Boyle Heights from 9am to 2pm for keynotes, interactive trainings, workshops, and networking with colleagues, friends, advocacy leaders, public agency staff, and elected officials' staff.
Anyone interested in safe sidewalks and crosswalks, complete streets, bus shelters, and/or healthy trees for shade is welcome!
About the Day
We’ll hear from keynote speakers Deputy Mayor Barbara Romero and City of Los Angeles Councilmember Nury Martinez, followed by community voices. Next up will be a 45-minute introductory session called Pathways to Change 101, before we split into breakout sessions.
Los Angeles Walks will host two breakout sessions that focus on advocacy through hyper-local organizing. Join us at:
10:50am-12pm: Hands-On Walk Audit: A Practical Tool to Assess Your Walking Environment & Engage Allies
12:40pm-1:50pm: Organizing for Change: The Power of Relationships (led by Proyecto Pastoral)
Voters, lawmakers, and City staff have turned their attention to how we get around, and - importantly - how we can get around while preserving human life, saving street trees, and improving environmental health. After a lot of hard work by advocates and staffers, long-overdue decisions about mobility in Los Angeles are finally being made, and long-overdue investments are finally being dedicated to our urban infrastructure.
Now is the time to understand how we can make our voices heard during this process!
The Tripping Point is a collaboration between Investing in Place, Los Angeles Walks, AARP, the Los Angeles Aging Advocacy Coalition, Pacoima Beautiful, and Tree People.
Funding for LA Walks' breakout sessions was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.