Footnotes Feature: Hollywood & Highland

For the past two years, Los Angeles Walks has published Footnotes, our annual report on the state of walking in LA. Over the next few months we will be posting pieces from our April 2015 edition here, particularly as the articles become most relevant. Today, one day after celebrating the new pedestrian crossing at Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Ave., we present an essay about that place written by LA Walks steering committee member Alissa Walker.   

Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Ave. crosswalk on June 16, 2015. Photo via LA Times.

Hollywood and Highland 
Alissa Walker

For three years I watched pedestrians cross the intersection of Hollywood and Highland every morning while I brushed my teeth. I lived on a hill two blocks away, just far enough away to feel like I was gazing down upon a distant, miniature city, but close enough to see people waiting for the 780 bus as it sighed to a halt.

What I remember most about living so close to Hollywood and Highland were the horns. Honking at drivers trying their darndest to turn left on a very yellow arrow. Or hapless selfie-taking tourists jogging across five lanes of traffic. Or one of several costumed Spidermen taking too much time in the crosswalk. And then, every once in awhile, the horn would be punctuated by a smash.

Hollywood and Highland is one of the busiest intersections in the city for walkers, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. Both Los Angeles Walks and a recent report by the Los Angeles Times have highlighted the high number of pedestrian collisions here. But what’s interesting to note is that this intersection is already pedestrian-only some of the time—it’s often closed to cars to accommodate premieres at one of the many theaters on this block. Hollywood needs to go ahead and close this intersection to cars permanently—close it all the way to La Brea. Before it’s too late.

There’s no better place to do it. Hollywood is home to one of LA’s most notable landmarks which just happens to be all about walking. The terrazzo stars draw millions of pedestrians to Hollywood every year to examine these blocks on foot; you can’t see the sidewalks from a car or a tour bus. Imagine if the Walk of Fame not only celebrated famous Angelenos but also honored LA’s pedestrians, too.

Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Ave. as of November 15, 2015, after installation of new pedestrian scramble crosswalk.

Take to the streets for our Walking Day of Action October 1


Hey pedestrians! It’s almost Walktober—a national, month-long celebration of walking and walkability—and we are lining up some great events! Join us to kick off four weeks of events with a citywide Walking Day of Action on October 1.

Join Los Angeles Walks for our Walking Day of Action on Tuesday, October 1, taking place in various intersections across central Los Angeles. Taking a page from Peatonito, the masked defender of pedestrians in Mexico City, we’ll be serving as superheroes for walkers for the day: helping walkers get across the street, providing an exceptional pedestrian experience, and calling out motorists for being inconsiderate — Hey! We’re Walking Here!

Walktober Kickoff and Day of Action
Tuesday, October 1

If you’d like to join us, meet us at the following intersections, which we’ve targeted to make safer as part of our Safe Routes to Transit campaign. These intersections are all within a block or two of Red Line stations.

8:00 a.m.: Hollywood and Vine, Hollywood
11:00 a.m.: 7th and Alvarado, MacArthur Park
3:00 p.m.: 7th and Flower, Downtown

Superhero costumes encouraged, although certainly not required! Follow along on our Twitter account for the day!

See who’s coming and invite friends on Facebook!

Download our media alert!

Top image: Peatónito, the defender of the rights of the pedestrian in Mexico City. Image via the Atlantic Cities

Our response to SoCal Connected’s segment on pedestrian safety

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 8.22.27 AM

As the Executive Director of Los Angeles Walks, I should have been thrilled when KCET’s SoCal Connected aired a segment on pedestrian safety a few weeks ago. The potential for the segment was huge: It could address a critical issue facing pedestrians in Los Angeles on a mainstream television program where it could be explored in depth for all of us to discuss and debate. (You can watch the full episode here.)

In fact, back in December of 2012, I had received a call from the producer of the program asking me for advice on the segment.

I was excited by the variety of issues the show could address. We could talk about the way pedestrians are not prioritized in the city’s infrastructure, looking at intersections, mid-block crosswalks, driveways, parking lots, and hillside streets lacking sidewalks. We could talk about pedestrian safety technology devices, including design and engineering ideas being introduced in LA that function as traffic calming. Or we could talk about how more teenagers and young adults are choosing to walk, bike and take transit instead of running out at age 16 to get their drivers’ license and buy a car.

But instead, KCET chose to focus on a very small part of the pedestrian safety world and puzzlingly devoted almost the entire segment to their criticism of the installation of high-visibility crosswalks in the City of Los Angeles.

High-visibility crosswalks—which many of us have called “zebra-striped” crosswalks forever, now known as “continental” crosswalks—are the new City of Los Angeles standard crosswalk design and their installation is being prioritized by LADOT (the City’s transportation department) by locations with the highest number of pedestrian-vehicle collisions. (We covered the installation of the city’s first high-visibility crosswalks on our blog in December.) For those of us who have encouraged LADOT to install the continental crosswalks for over 15 years, we are thrilled that this is the new standard and that the prioritization was based on need, not politics.

But KCET had an issue with the LADOT prioritization methodology. They decided that LADOT should have prioritized the locations which saw the most serious injuries as results of collisions—not just the total number of any collisions or injuries.

They also minimized the diversity of the victims of pedestrian-vehicle crashes in the city. When I was contacted by the show’s producer, they asked for a connection to a person they could interview who had been a victim of a pedestrian-vehicle collision. I am lucky that I didn’t know anyone directly, but I did know an African-American friend and colleague of my mother’s who had been in a horrible collision on Florence Avenue in Inglewood near her church in August of 2011. I reluctantly called my mother to ask if she would contact her friend, a long time principal of various schools in the Inglewood Unified School District. My mother’s friend agreed to be interviewed and gave many, many hours of her time to the segment, dredging up the horrible memories of the crash—like being thrown like a rag doll across the street—and reliving all the various surgeries required by her injuries. After giving her time and images of her scars to the KCET cameras, the show’s editors cut her completely out of the segment other than a two-second image of her in the introduction. Instead, the segment mainly focused on one young white woman victim from the Westside—ignoring the fact that the majority of victims of pedestrian-vehicle collisions are Latino and other minorities, and that these collisions are more likely to occur in lower-income neighborhoods.

Another error was an important one when it comes to educating the public about pedestrian safety: KCET used the term “accident” instead of “collision” or “crash,” even after I advised them on why the term is incorrect. The word “accident” implies there was no fault or no possible way to avoid the crash, which most of the time is not the case.

We all waited for months for this segment to be aired on KCET, only to be greatly disappointed by the results. If we truly care about saving lives and preventing injuries, we must present a comprehensive and thoughtful review of the pedestrian safety challenges on our streets. We can’t nit-pick on one issue, like how LADOT prioritized the installation of continental crosswalks, a victory that we have fought long and hard to achieve, at the expense of dealing with the complexity of the pedestrian safety situation. We must hold drivers responsible for the safety of all road users, especially those that are the most vulnerable, like pedestrians and cyclists, and in particular children and seniors.

We must remember that we are all pedestrians in Los Angeles. When we get out of our cars, we are pedestrians. When we get off our bike, we are pedestrians. When we get off the bus, we are pedestrians. We are all pedestrians. Let’s take care of each other out there.

KCET should get out of their news van and get out on the streets.

Los Angeles Walks hopes to take on the challenge of alerting drivers to the safety needs of pedestrians with our “Hey, I’m Walking Here” campaign for LA 2050 and other grant opportunities. We look forward to having all of you join us in our campaign.

—Deborah Murphy

Volunteer with LADOT to evaluate the city’s new crosswalks

Continental crosswalks press conference

Remember those new continental crosswalks that are being installed all over Los Angeles? LADOT is looking for volunteers who can help evaluate the improved crosswalks and pass along feedback on how to prevent pedestrian-vehicle collisions. The LADOT’s announcement is below, you can check out all the details and register here. It sounds like a great way to serve your city and meet some fellow walkers. Hope to see you on the streets!

New and improved crosswalks are being installed all over the city! Volunteers needed!

The City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) has developed a new design standard for a higher-visibility crosswalk. The “Continental Crosswalk” more effectively defines pedestrian space in the roadway, advising motorists that pedestrians may be present. LADOT seeks volunteers to conduct fieldwork before and after the new designs are installed in order to evaluate the effect of Continental crosswalks in reducing vehicle-pedestrian collisions.

Volunteers will work in teams to collect data on driver compliance with limit lines and crosswalk striping as well as yielding and collision avoidance at some of the city’s busiest intersections with the highest incidence of pedestrian collisions.

Please use the link below to sign up for one or more of the pre-installation fieldwork shifts and an orientation/training session:


· Thursday, January 31: 7 AM – 10 AM | 11 AM – 2 PM | 4 PM – 7 PM

· Friday, February 1: 7 AM – 10 AM | 11 AM – 2 PM | 4 PM – 7 PM


· Wednesday, January 30: 9 AM – 10 AM | 12 PM – 1 PM | 4 PM – 5 PM

Sign up here!

If you have questions or would like more information, please email us at AT gmail DOT com

The 12 best things to happen to L.A. pedestrians in 2012

stopped at adams and figueroa where the city's 1st traffic signal was installed

From pedestrian coordinators to polka-dotted plazas, this was definitely a banner year for L.A.’s walkers. Across the city, we’re seeing physical improvements to our streets and sidewalks as well as a changing perspective from citizens who are actively proving a certain ’80s song wrong. Of course, we still have a long way to go—we still have far too many pedestrian collisions, including a recent “epidemic” of hit-and-runs—but we definitely think 2012 was a big step in the right direction for making the city more safe, accessible and fun for walkers. So, in no particular order, here are our picks for the 12 best things to happen to L.A. pedestrians this year.

1. The city appoints two pedestrian coordinators: Walkers won two official advocates in City Hall this year as the LADOT named two pedestrian coordinators: Margot Ocañas and Valerie Watson. The duo is working hard to update L.A. pedestrian infrastructure—like signaling, striping, and signage—and improve safe routes to schools and transit. And speaking of safety…

2. L.A.’s first continental crosswalk: Just this week, L.A. saw one of its greatest pedestrian victories as a “zebra stripe” crosswalk debuted at the intersection of 5th and Spring. Our own Deborah Murphy spoke at the press conference with Mayor Villaraigosa on how the new design will help make walkers more visible. 53 more crosswalks are planned for 2013, at intersections prioritized due to their high rate of pedestrian collisions.

3. Jeff Speck’s Walkable City book: Part urban planning primer, part love letter to walking, the former design director for the NEA’s fantastic book makes an excellent case for why focusing on the pedestrian experience will improve our cities. Not since Jane Jacobs have we seen a writer who describes a vibrant American sidewalk with such eloquent, blissfully jargon-free writing. The book only has a few examples from L.A., but maybe that’s a good thing—learning from the stories of other cities in this book will certainly help to inspire some change right here at home.

Sunset Triangle

4. Sunset Triangle Plaza: Who would have guessed that a half-block of chartreuse polka-dots would get so much attention? An unprecedented collaboration between Streets for People, the L.A. City Planning Commission and the L.A. County Department of Public Health resulted in the city’s first street-to-plaza conversion in Silver Lake for only $25,000. The plaza itself needs some tweaks—the color’s still controversial, neighbors complained about the loss of parking, ugly plastic barricades showed up after a car took out a few planters—but the good news is that the process is documented, and any community can adapt (and improve on) the model for their neighborhood.

5. Parklet pilot program approved: In August of this year, the City Council approved a new pilot program pioneered by the UCLA Complete Streets Initiative to build parking space-sized parklets across the city. Four locations were announced right away, and if the six-month program goes well, more will pop up around L.A. in 2013. We’re all for the parklets, but we prefer the more L.A.-specific name: Let’s call them “plazitas!”

6. Christopher Hawthorne’s Boulevards project: As part of a series that launched this year, the Los Angeles Times architecture critic has been documenting L.A.’s famous boulevards, from Sunset Boulevard’s changing personality to Harbor Boulevard’s history of political unrest. The fact that the architecture critic at our paper of record is focusing on L.A.’s streets shows a true shift in the city’s attention to urban design. Bonus: Maybe because of Hawthorne’s project, the L.A. Times launched a campaign to let readers report damaged or missing sidewalks.

7. Police return to Pedestrian Advisory Committee: After Los Angeles Walks, Midnight Ridazz and LACBC presented at City Council, police representatives re-joined the LADOT’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee, signifying a unified commitment to safer streets. Especially in light of the recent rash of pedestrian deaths on L.A. streets, this partnership is extremely important. (If you’d like to attend an upcoming meeting, the committee is still looking for representatives from many council districts, details here.)

At the station

8. Opening of the Expo Line and Orange Line extension: These two projects illustrated the dedication of the city to providing transit options for its residents as it continues building (rebuilding?) a world-class transportation system. The Orange Line now connects the extremely popular bus rapid transit line to rail in Chatsworth, and the new Expo Line brought much-needed service to South L.A. and Culver City. And, despite political battles, the second phase of the Expo Line is on schedule, which means we might be riding that light-rail-to-the-sea as soon as 2015.

9. The L.A. Weekly’s hit-and-run investigation: A devastating feature in the L.A. Weekly just a few weeks ago explored the tragic “epidemic” of hit-and-runs on our streets: 48 percent of traffic accidents in Los Angeles are hit-and-run offenses (much higher than the national average of 11 percent), and approximately 100 pedestrians are killed each year in Los Angeles by hit-and-run drivers. Yet the city and LAPD are not doing enough to prosecute and prevent these crimes (read our response to the article). Investigative journalism like this is important to amplify the conversation about safer streets, and we applaud the Weekly for taking on this issue. Update: They even did an excellent follow-up article on how hit-and-run victim Don Ward tracked down the driver who hit him.

10. Big objects moving through L.A.’s streets: First it was a boulder for LACMA, then it was a space shuttle for the California Science Center. (What’s next? One of the pyramids creeping up the PCH en route to the Getty Villa?) But instead of eliciting groans from drivers, closing our roads to move Levitated Mass and Endeavour to their destinations transformed L.A. into massive street parties where people discovered new ways to navigate the city without their cars.


11. It started to feel like everyone walks in L.A.: From the Big Parade to the Great L.A. Walk, from Trekking L.A.’s neighborhood walking tours to the L.A. Conservancy’s exploration of historic districts, we saw a groundswell of pedestrian tours, itineraries, and events throughout the city. Our only regret is that we can’t possibly keep up with all of the pedestrian urban exploration happening around us!

12. Rebirth of Los Angeles Walks: Of course we couldn’t help but include a revitalized Los Angeles Walks in our round up. You might know that L.A. Walks has been around in some form since the ’90s, but 2012 saw our official relaunch with a new steering committee and vision for the city. After our awesome karaoke fundraiser in April, we set to work on our campaigns, hosting three community meetings across the city, and we organized “WalkLAvia” parade down Figueroa during the autumn CicLAvia. And we got plenty of press which helped connect local walkers to our cause. We’re excited for 2013 and hope that you’ll join us as we work to make L.A. a great place for walkers. Thanks to everyone for your support!

Did we miss your favorite pedestrian moment for L.A.? Let us know in the comments!

—Alissa Walker

Continental crosswalks make their debut in downtown

Continental crosswalks press conference

Just in time for the holidays, the intersection of 5th and Spring in Downtown LA received a pretty special gift: Shiny new continental crosswalks that are wider, clearer and safer for pedestrians. And this isn’t a one-off: 53 crosswalks across the city—prioritized due to their high rates of pedestrian collisions—will get the same makeover in 2013. This is a huge victory for LA walkers, who will finally get the same safe street crossings which are already found in many cities around the world.

Continental crosswalks press conference

Mayor Villaraigosa announced the new crosswalks at a press conference yesterday along with LADOT representatives and the city’s two new pedestrian coordinators, Margot Ocañas and Valerie Watson. And we were thrilled that Los Angeles Walks founder and chair of the LADOT Pedestrian Advisory Committee Deborah Murphy was asked to speak after the Mayor, citing the importance of these crosswalks in showing Angelenos that “we are all pedestrians.”

Continental crosswalks press conference

The new crosswalks feature two-foot-wide “zebra stripes” that make the pedestrian crossing area more visible, as well as a “stop line” five feet from the crosswalk that discourage cars from entering the zone. You can download a PDF that explains more about the thinking behind the crosswalks, and contains a list of the intersections that will see the new crosswalk design. We’re happy to say that the press conference was attended by many members of the media, and stories were reported on local news stations like ABC and blogs like Blogdowntown.

Continental crosswalks press conference

Afterwards, everyone had a little fun with the new crosswalks. The LADOT pedestrian program team posed for an Abbey Road-inspired photo.

Continental crosswalks press conference

The Mayor, Deborah, other members of LADOT and the Mayor’s office took a walk across the new crosswalk (that’s photographer Gary Leonard capturing them on the left). They were joined by a few curious walkers as well.

Continental crosswalks press conference

But perhaps our favorite part was when Deborah presented the Mayor with a Los Angeles Walks poster! We’re so thrilled to be a part of this positive change for pedestrians in LA. Let us know if you spot the new crosswalks in your neighborhood, and keep us posted about how else we can make walking safer, more accessible and more fun for Angelenos.

Check out all of our photos from yesterday’s event!

Hollywood locals ask, “Where’s My Crosswalk?”

There’s a new signalized crosswalk coming to a dangerous intersection on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

The 1/3 mile stretch of Sunset between Gardner and Poinsettia is a hub of activity—and traffic. For years, residents and visitors in this vibrant commercial area have been forced to walk a number of blocks down Sunset to a stoplight or take their chances crossing the busy road without the protection of a crosswalk. As shown in the video “Where’s My Crosswalk?” made by local filmmaker Adam Choit in March, people often choose to cross at their own risk. The sight of pedestrians standing in the middle of four lanes of speeding traffic struggling to get across the street has been all too common.

This spring, thanks in part to the efforts of Choit and Los Angeles Walks founder Deborah Murphy, LADOT announced that the intersection of Sunset and Vista Street will receive a crosswalk in the coming year, as recently reported on Streetsblog and Curbed.

“You can make a difference in your neighborhood if you get involved and stay committed like Adam Choit,” says Murphy. “I encourage dedicated pedestrian advocates and community leaders to get involved in the city’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee. We need representatives from Council Districts 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12 and 15. Contact your council member immediately. You too can make a difference.”

Los Angeles Walks thanks everyone who helped to raise awareness of the issues facing pedestrians at this dangerous intersection. If you would like to get involved with a similar “Where’s My Crosswalk?” campaign in your neighborhood, let us know at hello[at]losangeleswalks[dot]org

—Rachel Bennett