Ever wonder how your neighborhood was designed? How you can shape it?
Whether it's building a new grocery store, installing more crosswalks, or getting a bus shelter, community voice is critical for community design that will last for generations. But what happens when community input is, well, just a courtesy?
Welcome to Eagle Rock.Read more
by Mehmet Berker, Board Member of Los Angeles Walks
A community block party, pre COVID-19, co-organized with resident partners to help neighbors reimagine a more walkable neighborhood.
As cities across the world respond to the public health emergency caused by COVID-19, some are making temporary changes to the public realm to ensure that people have adequate space to move around. Philadelphia, New York City, and more dramatically Bogotá, Colombia, are closing off some streets or parts of streets for people on bike and foot only. Should Los Angeles do the same?
We at Los Angeles Walks would answer yes, enthusiastically so.Read more
Hi, I'm Irais, a member of Los Angeles Walks, and I had the opportunity to work with LA Walks and Best Start Wilmington in different projects to improve my community. Now that I start a new chapter in San Angelo, Texas, I take my learning experience and the love of many people with me.
For me, community is teamwork, lifting each other up. It is belonging. I am inspired to make my community a better place because everyone, be that people, animals, vegetation (every living being) deserves to have a space that offers us quality of life.
During my time as a community leader in Wilmington and San Pedro, I learned that it is very enriching to value and understand different types of personalities and contributions that each person can give us, in addition to the fact that there are no limits or borders when we have the conviction for the common good.
Together with my colleagues, we succeeded in learning, to not give up. We transcended and enriched ourselves with people, experiences, and goals met. For example, in our case, we were able to secure a decorative crosswalk for our community.
During my time with LA Walks, I learned not to give up. I learned to trust and start over if necessary. I learned that we all own the streets, and to see [streets] in a more personal way because they are ours. They belong to everyone.
Now that I am in a different community, I am always looking for the best way, from my perspective, that the streets are planned, that they are inclusive for everyone, that they are safe. I begin to explain to people that the streets must also be designed for pedestrians, cyclists, and people with different abilities.
To conclude this blog, I would like to share a song with you: La Bicicleta - Carlos Vives and Shakira. La Bicicleta is a song that carries freshness and good vibes to me when I go out to the street and make these streets ours. It reminds me of the sea breeze, the sun, that sense of belonging, of going out and seeing my neighbors, of telling stories. I hope this song motivates you, conveys the feelings that I feel, and that inspires you to get involved in creating more vibrant streets.Read more
On Monday, April 8, Los Angeles Walks will welcome our new Executive Director, John Yi.
While I am sad to leave Los Angeles Walks, I am thrilled that we secured such a highly qualified, experienced, and passionate candidate for this unique position. (Meet him in person on April 17! More info.)
As Los Angeles Walks' first staff person and first full-time executive director, I am proud of how steadily the organization has grown since I started in October 2015. LA Walks’ team has expanded to three full-time staff people; one part-time employee; regular fellows and interns; and a larger, more diverse advisory board.
I am most proud of having led a strategic planning process that helped shift LA Walks' focus from grasstops advocacy to community-based training and mobilizing.
Along with LA Walks’ advisory board and staff, we clarified LA Walks' primary goal: to build power that will push safe streets policies, projects, and programs in neighborhoods across Los Angeles and citywide. I am excited that LA Walks staff now train and mobilize residents from Panorama City, West Adams, MacArthur Park, Koreatown, Watts, Willowbrook, and Wilmington.
We also established LA Walks' values and articulated the organization’s efforts to shift culture by developing SoCal Families for Safe Streets, amplifying the voices of those who have lost a loved one in a traffic collision or survived a severe crash.
Families for Safe Streets has been an increasingly powerful project of LA Walks -- one that demonstrates the urgent need for strong leadership and real solutions. This was evident very recently: immediately after our March 24th vigil for Christian Vega LADOT announced safety changes the department will now make to the deadly intersection.
Los Angeles Walks has tremendous momentum right now, and John Yi is perfectly suited to lead the organization into its next phase.
With an extensive background in organizing for social equity, campaign strategy, organizational growth, and team management, John has the skills and experience necessary to continue to build the movement for safe streets in Los Angeles. With his political savvy, John also comes in ready to mobilize that base to effect real change at the neighborhood and city level -- understanding how to identify and capitalize on opportunities to demonstrate power, demand change, and transform LA city streets.
Los Angeles Walks and the movement for safe streets in Los Angeles is just getting started, and under John’s leadership I am confident it will absolutely thrive.
It has been a privilege and pleasure to lead Los Angeles Walks during its earliest stages as an organization. I can't wait to see what happens next.
Emilia Crotty, Outgoing Executive Director
After five months of planning, on February 23, 2019, fourteen Best Start Metro LA members and Los Angeles Walks co-hosted a neighborhood block party to bring community members together, reclaim public space for people, and gain support for safer streets.
Community members took over Gramercy Place between Adams Blvd. and W. 25th St. for four hours, creating a comfortable, safe space for all ages and abilities to enjoy a beautiful Saturday afternoon.
Over 150 neighbors, children, and seniors from Independent Square attended, including local community organizations. Children enjoyed a variety of activities, from creating their own street safety sign to playing soccer. Laughter spread across the block as children hopscotched and created their own chalk art thanks to Libertas College Preparatory.
Adults gathered resources from community-based organizations, like T.R.U.S.T South LA, Anthem Blue Cross, LIFT, Women’s Center, Para los Niños, and Best Start. Seniors enjoyed playing Pedestrian Bingo led by LA Walks and danced to El Diablito’s DJ mix.
WHY GRAMERCY PLACE?
“I proposed to have the block party in my area to call the City’s attention [to the need for] a ramp so people in wheelchairs/walkers and with disabilities can have access to the bus stop,” said Karina Noriega, a resident of Independent Square and a Best Start Metro LA member. Without hesitation, Karina’s fellow Best Start Metro LA members agreed to the idea.
At the block party Best Start Metro LA members led participants on a short walk to assess sidewalks and curb ramps for accessibility in the surrounding neighborhood. Here’s what one participant had to say:
“ It was a complicated walk. There was no curve ramps and drivers were speeding. Sidewalks were not stable and need to be fixed”.
-Annie Mejia-Torres, Block Party Participant, shown in the far left in the image above
WHY A BLOCK PARTY IF WE WANT SYSTEMS + POLICY CHANGE?
The collaboration between Los Angeles Walks and Best Start Metro LA members has resulted in increased awareness of built environment concerns and sense of collective power among BSC members.
Through the planning process, BSC Metro LA members learned to research and assess the built environment in an unfamiliar neighborhood, supporting one of their colleagues’ efforts to improve the accessibility for people of all physical abilities on St. Andrews Place and Adams Blvd. By organizing and executing a block party, members learned about the City's special event permitting system barriers and Council District's limitations. More importantly, members increased their sense of leadership, shared their expertise and skills with one another, and were reminded that they could accomplish goals by working together.
“When there is unity we demonstrate our community power”.
-Jose Camacho, Best Start Metro LA member and Block Party Organizer, shown in the center
A collective sense of hope and increased sense of leadership are the building blocks that lead to systems change. With an understanding of City processes and how to demonstrate and apply their collective power, community members are poised to create tangible change.
Community members submitted a Service Request through the Sidewalk Repair Program regarding the uneven/raised sidewalk along the north side of Adams Blvd. between St. Andrews Place and Western Ave. They also submitted a request regarding the need for a ramp at the street crosswalk on the south side of Adams Blvd. and St. Andrews Place.
Importantly, BSC Metro LA members are building relationships with Council President Wesson's Office and ADA Compliance Officer in order to follow the progress of each of their requests. Members are asking who else they should communicate with to make the ramp construction a priority, and how to fund this important work.
Videography produced by: Genie Deez
Photo Credits: Red Heart Media, Cristina Valadez, and Emilia Crotty
We're looking for a new Executive Director!
After three and a half years in Los Angeles and with Los Angeles Walks, I have decided to return to the east coast to be closer to family, including my twin sister and her new baby, Inés (below).
This week LA Walks began accepting applications for our Executive Director position.
Could you live 3,000 miles away from this cuteness?
To be sure, I would be thrilled to continue to grow LA Walks. I want to increase our impact in neighborhoods across LA and help to build a movement for safe streets in a city where the need and demand for a new status quo is so great.
But it was SoCal Families for Safe Streets (FSS), a project of LA Walks, that provided me with the clarity to decide to step away from this terrific work.
FSS members remind us that life can change in an instant. I intend to take advantage of the time I have with people I love -- and they happen to live in the frigid northeast.
As the first staff person at Los Angeles Walks, I am so proud of how steadily the organization has grown. We now have three full-time and one part-time employees; a developed and more diverse advisory board; and a more focused, community-centered plan to make walking safe, accessible, and equitable throughout Los Angeles.
Part of the LA Walks team
We have exciting activities in store this year, including more community training and mobilizing efforts that develop and demonstrate support for safe streets across the city.
The organization needs a bold but grounded leader who understands the everyday concerns of people who walk and roll. We need someone who can inspire residents to reject business-as-usual and demand safer, healthier neighborhoods for our most vulnerable populations -- neighborhoods where people are secure to stay for years to come.
I'm not leaving yet, so hope to see you at a walk or event soon! (More info coming via social media.)
This is a follow-up to an earlier post regarding the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition's consideration of a dangerous, misguided motion intended to halt the installation of traffic calming measures across Los Angeles.
On December 1, 2018, the LA Neighborhood Council Coalition (LANCC) tabled the motion to its January 5, 2019 meeting. By January 5, LANCC had removed the anti-traffic calming motion from its agenda and replaced it with a new motion that attempted to take a more neutral stance on "road diets" (roadway reconfigurations). Still, the motion included loaded language that was not necessarily based in fact.
LA Walks and the LA County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) mobilized safe streets activists to turn out in support of evidence-based engineering that saves lives -- projects that Los Angeles needs to embrace, not shun -- at the January 5 meeting.
Our friend and colleague Jesi Harris, Director of Organizing at LACBC, provided the following recap of the meeting:
"Vocal members of our community fought hard and spoke inspiringly for an amendment that struck negative, unfounded statements from the legislative history that would be preserved in this document (through the motion). The clause 'some (road diets) are beneficial and some are not. The Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition (LANCC) (XXXXXX Neighborhood Council) recognizes the beneficial effects of a road diet along certain corridors, but road diets create confusing, negative effects along other corridors' didn’t make the final cut.
That was a win I wasn’t even expecting but am proud to have witnessed.
The re-written motion was unanimously approved by the Neighborhood Council representatives at this morning’s LA Neighborhood Council Coalition meeting.
The meting discussion included a host of amendments to the motion that changed the final language to read:
“The Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition (LANCC) (XXXXXX Neighborhood Council) takes the position that there shall be no blanket prohibition of road diets or other road calming measures. Communities that will be impacted with a potential road diet or other road calming measure, including neighborhood councils, shall be consulted extensively about public safety and other important issues both before the road diet is proposed and after it is implemented.”
We also saw the results of a woefully under-engaged group of Neighborhood Councils - people struggling to define the term “road diet,” conflating traffic calming with traffic-causing, and disconnected from the personal narratives and motivations that drive the kind of powerful advocacy we displayed. Terrence Gomes, President of the LANCC was right when he pointed out a lack of engagement and eduction about road safety techniques.
I want to thank everyone who came and to those who spoke. Your words were brave and important. As we move into 2019, this type of unity and action will help us to engage and educate our Neighborhood Council representatives to make decisions for the best of our livable communities."
Thank you to Jesi for this write-up!
Streetsblog LA also covered the January 5, 2019 meeting, which you can find here.
On December 1, 2018, Los Angeles Walks, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC), and street safety activists from across the city attended a meeting of the LA Neighborhood Council Coalition (LANCC).
At the meeting, LANCC representatives viewed a presentation and considered a motion drafted by a group opposed to roadway reconfigurations; the motion calls for the removal of traffic calming measures in Los Angeles.
Activists turned out in droves and made a clear case for evidence-based street safety interventions that save lives. LANCC tabled the motion until their next meeting, on January 5, 2019, and invited LA Walks and LACBC to present at that meeting.
This week, LA Walks and LACBC submitted the following letter to LANCC:
December 20, 2018
To: Members of Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition,
As many of you will remember, at the December 1, 2018 meeting of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition (LANCC), the agenda included a presentation and motion that proposed the removal of traffic calming measures in the City of Los Angeles.
On behalf of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) and Los Angeles Walks (LA Walks), we write to make clear our complete objection to both the content of this dangerous and misguided motion, as well as the way the LANCC has handled the matter.
LACBC and LA Walks advocate for safe streets for all road users in Los Angeles. We work tirelessly to educate residents and decision-makers on evidence-based tools proven to reduce and eliminate preventable traffic fatalities and severe injuries in LA. As such, we were shocked to see such a misinformed presentation and motion at the December 1 meeting. We were even more outraged to see these items presented with absolutely no fact-checking or consideration of community context.
We respectfully request that the anti-traffic calming motion (agenda item 2.2, December 1, 2018), be postponed indefinitely rather than be brought back before LANCC on January 5, 2019.
We are eager to correct many of the misstatements from the December 1 presentation and had agreed to present fact-based information on traffic calming measures and street safety interventions at LANCC’s January 5, 2019 meeting. However, because no LANCC representative has responded to our many requests for details (as of December 20, 2018), we are left with no choice but to decline the offer until LANCC provides more information and adequate time to prepare.
We especially want to ensure that a discussion on public safety and street design interventions includes the appropriate experts. The discussion on December 1 did not feature any representatives from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Fire Department, Police Department, Emergency Management Department, the City Attorney, LA Sustainability, or LA Resiliency -- all agencies that address the public safety, emergency preparedness, and legal issues at the root of the anti-traffic calming motion. We would like to work with LANCC to invite these representatives to a future conversation so that professionals are available to address specific concerns.
LACBC and LA Walks also hope that LANCC will review its own parliamentary procedures prior to the January 5 meeting. We are concerned that at the December 1 meeting LANCC representatives did not approve the meeting agenda before going ahead with proceedings. Without approval, the motion should not have been considered per LANCC’s own parliamentary procedures.
Finally, we hope to work in good faith with LANCC on this issue. On December 1, LANCC representatives voted to table the anti-traffic calming motion until its January 5, 2019 meeting. However, as soon as three days later Rampart Village Neighborhood Council featured the motion on its own meeting agenda. This shows that LANCC has power to set the agenda for any and all neighborhood councils. It is imperative that more due diligence be done to make sure motions are factual. We trust that LANCC intends to explore the issue of traffic deaths and road safety in Los Angeles objectively and fairly.
For all of these reasons, we respectfully decline the offer to present on January 5, 2019 and request that the anti-traffic calming motion from the December 1 meeting be postponed indefinitely.
Emilia Crotty, Executive Director, Los Angeles Walks
Cesar Hernandez, Deputy Executive Director, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition
In April 2018, Los Angeles Walks entered into a strategic partnership with First 5 LA to create a stronger movement for safe streets in Los Angeles.
We work with Best Start Communities (BSC) to challenge Angelenos' acceptance of street design, build capacity, train and mobilize BSC members to advocate for safe streets that meet their needs.
About First 5 LA and Best Start Communities
First 5 LA is an independent public agency with a goal to develop the health and safety of young children, so that by 2028 all children in Los Angeles County are ready to succeed in school and life. First 5 LA recognizes that to enact systems and policy change, neighborhood residents must lead the way -- a value shared by LA Walks.
That's why First 5 LA supports Best Start Communities, an organized effort to support leadership and capacity building for 14 community groups throughout the county.
Since April 2018, Los Angeles Walks has been building relationships with the various organizations that support Best Start Communities, specifically Para Los Ninos, El Nido Family Centers, Providence Little Company of Mary, and Social Action Partners. These organizations are rooted in and focused on fostering the best environment for BSC members to thrive as local leaders.
With the help of these community partners, Los Angeles Walks has piloted a advocacy and engagement model to catalyze safe streets advocacy at a local level in Los Angeles City neighborhoods.
Through collective actions, community residents reclaim their public space, build relationships with community members, and start dialogue around their experiences in their neighborhood streets. This encourages a grounded approach to safe streets advocacy, one that is rooted in each community's history of urban development and knowledge of social and physical infrastructure.
Los Angeles Walks builds capacity through training sessions focused on challenging street design, questioning accepted notions of pedestrians’ rights to street space, navigating City processes for safe streets improvements, and more.
While working with BSC members, we begin to identify the factors that make it difficult and dangerous to walk in their day-to-day life. We also learn which elements or experiences they know will make walking more accessible, enjoyable, and safe.
Ultimately, BSC members collaborate on a collective action intended to enhance street safety, access, and comfort. These diverse efforts will culminate in a forum for all BSCs to share their process and experience, where Los Angeles Walks will release a guide to safe streets advocacy efforts co-developed by BSC members.
In early December 2018, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) announced that officers will distribute reflective vests and LED clip-on lights to pedestrians who are stopped for violating traffic laws.
Image courtesy of LAist.
The initiative is an effort to reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities in Los Angeles, where at least 107 people died while walking so far in 2018 -- more than half of the 200 people killed in traffic collisions this year.
Through a partnership with Farmers Insurance, LAPD will distribute 1,200 reflective safety vests and 700 LED lights. Rather than issue a citation to people walking, officers will issue a warning, hand out a pamphlet on traffic safety, and offer the pedestrian a reflective vest or an LED light to clip onto their clothing.
In response to the initiative, Los Angeles Walks shares the following comments:
Los Angeles Walks appreciates LAPD’s interest in pedestrian safety - which is a real, growing, and preventable public health issue in Los Angeles. This “solution” is woefully simplistic, though, and doesn’t get at the root of the problem.
Pedestrian safety vests are absolutely not the right direction for a Vision Zero city.
LAPD’s misguided initiative has offered an opportunity to address pedestrian safety and the many ways the safety of people walking is completely within our control as a city - without the impractical and absurd use of reflective vests.
At the root of this issue is a street system in which all the odds are stacked against people walking. This is especially true in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, which are far less likely to have pedestrian infrastructure (such as protected crossings) than affluent areas.
Panorama City (Cristina Valadez)
Low-income people have the highest rates of walking and bicycling to work, but are often walking in neighborhoods from which the City has divested for generations, where street safety infrastructure is hard to come by.
Streets with marked crosswalks are almost twice as common in high-income areas (13%) than in low-income communities (7%). Traffic calming features, such as traffic islands, curb bulb outs that shorten crossing distances, and traffic circles, are found almost three times as often in high-income areas compared with low-income communities.
Los Angeles Walks believes it is unfair to hold individuals responsible for a City’s failure to provide the most basic transportation infrastructure.
We take issue with the use of the term “jaywalking” to describe someone who may simply be crossing the street where there SHOULD be a crosswalk, but is not. Los Angeles has had a long love affair with the automobile; people walking have paid the price by having to put themselves in harm’s way just to get across the street.
Manhattan's Hester Street, on the Lower East Side, in 1914. (Maurice Branger/Roger Viollet/Getty Images)
Streets used to be places where life thrived - where there was commerce, play, and human interaction in shared public space.
In 1925 Los Angeles enacted some of the country’s strictest controls on people walking, pushing them to the margins and prioritizing the swift movement of vehicles over everything else. This has had devastating effects on our individual health, community health, and climate, of course.
The auto lobby developed and disseminated the term “jaywalking” to claim control over a vast majority of our public space.
Government safety posters ridicule jaywalking in the 1920s and '30s. (National Safety Council/Library of Congress)
If someone is “jaywalking” or “outside crosswalks” according to the LAPD, chances are good there should be a protected crosswalk there.
Rather than issuing reflective vests to people “jaywalking,” LAPD should alert its sister agencies and elected officials of the need for safe crossings, slower vehicle speeds, improved lighting, and increased driver awareness where people clearly need a safe place to cross.
LAPD is a lead partner agency in the City’s Vision Zero initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2025. A key principle of Vision Zero is using data to understand and address the issue of preventable traffic deaths.
Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAPD announce updated speed surveys across Los Angeles.
LAPD needs to focus its enforcement efforts on the behaviors that do the most harm: the moving violations that kill people. This includes red light running, improper turning, failure to yield to a person in a crosswalk (marked or unmarked), and not stopping at a stop sign.
Drivers have the power to do the most harm, and drivers have the greatest responsibility to protect the human life around them. The City, including LAPD, needs to remind people of this every opportunity it gets.
What is especially troubling is the Department’s emphasis on “defensive walking.”
In Los Angeles, people walking are 16 times more likely to die in a crash than someone in a vehicle. True, drivers in Los Angeles regularly operate two-ton vehicles encased in steel at speeds that kill. Those vehicles are often taller than an elementary school child who is walking to school.
If we are to rely on “defensive walking” as a solution, as LAPD suggests, how do we protect our most vulnerable populations who either have to walk or who want to walk, like children without the cognitive awareness to act defensively, older adults with limited visibility and slower reaction times, people with a wide range of physical disabilities, etc.?
What we need to do is develop a safe system -- streets where vehicle speeds are not deadly, where drivers cannot take dangerous left turns, where turning right on red is no longer a sacred right. This is what will protect everyone, not vests.
This is another core principle of Vision Zero -- taking a “safe system” approach rather than an individual behavior change approach to traffic safety.
This initiative makes clear that LAPD has a long way to go to fully embrace the core principles of Vision Zero.