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

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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

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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:

Fieldwork:

· 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

Orientation/Training:

· 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 LADOT.crosswalk.study AT gmail DOT com

How to stop LA’s hit-and-run “epidemic”

Continental crosswalks press conference

Los Angeles Walks joins many in expressing concern over statistics uncovered by a recent LA Weekly article on the high prevalence of hit-and-run accidents in the City of Los Angeles and the frequent lack of effective response by law enforcement and city leaders. According to the Weekly, 48 percent of traffic accidents in Los Angeles are hit and run offenses, much higher than the national average of 11 percent. Approximately 100 pedestrians are killed each year in Los Angeles by hit and run drivers.

Motor vehicle crashes are a significant threat to public safety, especially for pedestrians and children. We blogged earlier this year about how pedestrians in Los Angeles were disproportionately likely to be victims of fatal car crashes compared to national statistics. Motor vehicle crashes are the third leading cause of preventable death in Los Angeles County, behind only coronary heart disease and homicide. Motor vehicle crashes are even more dangerous to children and to young adults. These crashes are the single highest cause of death [PDF] (not just preventable death) for children ages 1-4 and the second highest cause of death for children and young adults between the ages of 5-24.

As such, law enforcement agencies and policy makers should be taking car and truck crashes very seriously, with a focus on prevention, enforcement and prosecution. It is shocking and disappointing to read so many accounts of tragic deaths and injuries that suggest a lax attitude towards hit and run offenses from some police, prosecutors, and elected officials. The city and LAPD do not keep track of how many injuries and deaths result from hit-and-run crashes. There are not enough traffic enforcement officers to respond to all fatal hit-and-run crashes, let alone hit-and-run incidents that cause severe injuries. Few fleeing drivers are ever tracked down by police. Those that are, or who turn themselves in, often get light criminal sentences, like a drunk driver in a case profiled by the LA Weekly who maimed a cyclist but received just six months of community service.

The City of Los Angeles needs to get serious about reducing fatalities and injuries from all motor vehicle crashes, especially hit and run incidents. Here are some steps we think they should take:

  • Publicize the crisis of deaths from motorized vehicle crashes and set targets and strategies to address the problem. If Los Angeles fails to even collect data about hit and run injuries and fatalities, how can it reduce the carnage? LAPD and city leaders are proud of progress made in lowering homicides and should bring the same focus to reduce vehicular killings by increasing staffing, enforcement and punishments to deter unsafe driving and catch hit and run offenders.
  • Design roads for safety rather than for speed. The best way to reduce speeding, unsafe driving, and resulting crashes and deaths is to design and transform streets so that drivers are constrained and influenced by the physical layout of the road to move at a safe speed. Narrower lanes and traffic calming measures cause drivers slow down more effectively than posted speed limits on a wide, straight street engineered to remove all obstacles for fast motor traffic.
  • Invest in pedestrian infrastructure and programs proportionate to the need. Nearly 20 percent of trips in Los Angeles are on foot and 32 percent of traffic fatalities are pedestrians but only 1 percent of transportation dollars go to pedestrian infrastructure or safety improvements. Money spent on more visible and better lit crosswalks; on improved lighting for sidewalks and intersections; on education on sharing the road with walkers; and on calming and redesigning streets with the highest rates of pedestrian deaths can reduce accidents and make walking safer for all.
  • Lower speed limits to protect pedestrians, especially children. Pedestrians hit by a car travelling 20 m.p.h. have just a 5 percent chance of being killed. The fatality rate skyrockets to 85 percent when a car is travelling 40 m.p.h. Many cities around the world are setting speed limits near schools and in residential and other highly walked areas at 20 m.p.h./30 k.p.h.

Let us know how you’d like to help make walking in the city of Los Angeles, and your neighborhood in particular, safer, by signing up for our newsletter and attending one of our upcoming meetings.

—Mark Vallianatos

Walking in South L.A.: A report from our Leimert Park community meeting

Last week we held our second community meeting in Leimert Park at the awesome Kaos Network. About 50 folks gathered at this beautiful space right on the Leimert Park square, admiring the colorful art from the community and enjoying some pretty delicious snacks.

This meeting was co-hosted by Los Angeles Walks and L.A. Commons, with help from our great partners Community Health CouncilsPrevention InstituteLos Angeles County Bicycle CoalitionMulticultural Communities for Mobility. We also had a visit from Valerie Watson, one of the city’s two new pedestrian coordinators, and Albert Lord, a deputy from city councilman Herb Wesson’s office, was also in attendance, giving out his personal cell phone number to attendees.

As people were arriving, they helped us to identify focus areas in the community by adding their thoughts on Post-its to three categories: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, and the “Magic Wand”: if you could wave a magic wand and make anything appear, what would you want to make walking safe, accessible and fun for all.

Some of our best and brightest ideas for getting people out of their cars came from our six- and seven-year-old attendees.

Next, LA Walks founder Deborah Murphy walked the group through a brief primer on the concept of Living Streets—how everything from wider sidewalks to parklets to more street trees can improve the walking experience.

Afterwards, attendees divided in to groups geographically, organizing themselves around giant maps of the community according to where they lived and worked. Using stickers and markers, they identified troublesome areas for pedestrians and proposed changes for those areas.

Then each group presented their findings to the room, highlighting the five top issues. From all the groups, several themes emerged, including: the need to slow down cars, streets that are too wide, lack of greenspace and parks, more attention needs to be paid to the Crenshaw Corridor, too few street trees, and closed walk streets that should be reopened. Surprisingly, a big issue in the area are intimidating packs of stray dogs.

At the close of the meeting, several volunteers agreed to stay in touch with LA Walks to continue working on key issues in the neighborhood. We’ll be updating you on their progress. You can also read an excellent recap of the evening on Streetsblog by Sahra Sulaiman. If you couldn’t make it and want to know more about what we discussed, you can view the agenda below. Thanks to everyone who came out!

Leimert Park Community Meeting

6:30 pm Individual Exercise – Identify Priority Pedestrian Safety Problems and Issues
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and The Magic Wand

6:40 pm Welcome and introductions

  • Karen Mack, L.A. Commons
  • Deborah Murphy, Los Angeles Walks
  • Mark Glassock, Community Health Councils
  • Manal Aboelata, Prevention Institute

6:45 pm City of Los Angeles Pedestrian Program

  • Valerie Watson, City of Los Angeles Assistant Pedestrian Coordinator

6:50 pm Living Streets Presentation of best practices for making more pedestrian-friendly, complete streets. SAFE campaign: Safe, Accessible, Fun, and Equitable

  • Deborah Murphy, Los Angeles Walks

7:30 pm Breakout Group Session by Geographic Area: —identify problem areas and issues

8:00 pm Report Back from Breakout Groups

8:20 pm Summarize Findings and Define Next Steps

8:25 pm City of Los Angeles Pedestrian Advisory Committee Members needed for CD#8 and CD#10

8:30pm Adjourn to Post & Beam Restaurant
3767 Santa Rosalia Drive 90008
North on Crenshaw Blvd/West on Stocker St/West on Santa Rosalia Drive

Child Care provided by Para Los Niños
Spanish Translation provided by Mojito

Join Los Angeles Walks on Thursday November 15th from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Leimert Park

Leimert Park Fountain. Photo Credit: LA Commons Flickr

Join us Thursday November 15th from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Kaos Network at 4343 Leimert Park Blvd for our second Los Angeles Walks open community meeting.  All are welcome and invited to join us as we discuss our current campaigns and talk about ways to making walking in Los Angeles, specifically Leimert Park, more safe and enjoyable.

We encourage people to to bus, walk, expo line, bike and more.  We are setting up feeder group transit and bike rides and walks starting from Echo Park, LACMA area, and downtown LA.  RSVP on our form here to find out more.

We will have childcare services so bring your kids! And spanish speakers welcome, we will have a translator (thanks Mojito!).  As well as light snacks at KAOS and a coordinated after meeting at nearby Post and Beam for those interesting in continuing the conversation over drinks and food (no host at P&B).  Kindly RSVP so we know you’re coming!

We are excited to be partnering with LA Commons, Community Health Councils, Prevention Institute, Los Angeles County Bicycle CoalitionMulticultural Communities for Mobility and others on this event.  Please help spread the word and join us.

Join a feeder ride or walk with our steering committee members!

1. Take transit and walk from LACMA
Location: 5905 Wilshire Blvd., meet at Urban Light
Meet at 5:15, leave at 5:30
Route: 780 south to Washington/Fairfax Hub, then 705 east to Crenshaw/Leimert Blvd.
Walk leader: Alissa

2. Ride bikes from Union Station
Location: 800 N. Alameda St., go all the way through the station to the East Portal below the bus corral, meet at the fish tanks
Meet at 5:10, leave at 5:20
Ride leader: Mark

Los Angeles Walks supports Measure J

Crossing the street to the Metro Red Line in No Ho

Los Angeles Walks supports Measure J as an important step towards accelerating expansion of transit in Los Angeles County. More transit will make transportation in LA County more healthy, equitable and sustainable, and, in particular, will make the County a more walkable and accessible place.

Los Angeles Walks also supports Measure J because transit is a “walk extender.” Expanding Metro’s rail system and ensuring that bus and rail services are user-friendly, affordable and will allow more people to move around Los Angeles County on foot, through a mix of walking and transit trips. Transit can also help catalyze land use changes that make neighborhoods more walkable. According to Metro surveys from Spring 2012, 84% of bus riders walked to catch their bus and 66% of train riders walked to their station.  Only 25% of bus riders and 45% of train riders had a car available.

WalkLAvia October 2012

These statistics are evidence that expanding transit will also benefit walking—and that Metro’s transit system depends upon pedestrian access. Walking is a healthy and sustainable form of mobility that promotes social interactions and builds economically and culturally vibrant communities. It is also the foundation of Los Angeles County’s transportation system since all modes of trips start or end with a walk.

For all these reasons Los Angeles Walks believes that County-wide transportation funding measures like Measures R and J should include dedicated funding for active transportation. While walking and cycling represent more than 19% of trips in Los Angeles County, just 1%  of county transportation spending goes to pedestrian or bicycling infrastructure like sidewalk improvements, bike lanes, or safer crosswalks.

70% of Los Angeles County transportation funding is from local sales tax measures, Prop A, C and Measure R/J—yet none of these sales tax dedicate funds for walk/bike investments at the County level. We look forward to working closely with Move LA and our many local partners to allocate 10% of our county transportation funding through Metro’s 2013 Short Range Transportation Plan to walking and bicycling investments.

Still life at a bus stop

Los Angeles Walks encourages everyone who walks in Los Angeles County to support Measure J and to expect and demand more funding for pedestrian improvements from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro). And we need your voices to help us ensure our transportation network is complete.

Los Angeles Walks is a volunteer-supported organization dedicated to promoting walking and pedestrian infrastructure in Los Angeles, educating Angelenos and local policymakers concerning the rights and needs of pedestrians of all abilities, and fostering the development of safe and vibrant environments for all pedestrians.

LA drivers have high rate of fatal pedestrian crashes – A Response

Image credit: Jeremy Brooks via Flickr

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times depicts a bleak picture for walking in Los Angeles. “Los Angeles isn’t known as a city for walking. Maybe there is a good reason — it’s too dangerous.” The article cites a new study from the University of Michigan showing that pedestrians are much more likely to be victims of car crashes in Los Angeles than in the nation. The study found that 32.4% of fatal crashes in LA were pedestrians struck by cars compared to the national average of 11.4%.

At first glance, these two numbers seem vastly different. So should we all be scared away from walking in Los Angeles because it’s too dangerous? No. We think that a better question to ask is, are these numbers an appropriate comparison? What about population size, mode split, or other factors that need to be taken into account?

New York was deemed even more dangerous — 49.6% of traffic fatalities were pedestrians. In actuality, New York is one of the safest large cities for pedestrians and had one of the lowest pedestrian fatality rates in 2008 (1.8 per 100,000 according to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System). As a city that is known for walking, New York’s pedestrian program has taken an aggressive stance on cutting pedestrian fatalities and continues to grow safer over time. Los Angeles is ripe to follow suit. With a pedestrian fatality rate of 2.4 per 100,000 in 2008, there is definitely room for improvement in our city. As our friends in the cycling community pointed out, however, “because fewer people are getting killed in motor vehicles in New York and LA, [the study] incorrectly suggests that more people who bike or walk are getting killed.”

The article does highlight an important issue for the future of transportation in Los Angeles: the need for safer streets and increased investments in pedestrian infrastructure in the LA region. Although Los Angeles isn’t a city known for walking, it should be. Nearly 1 in 5 trips in Los Angeles County is done on foot. People are walking in Los Angeles, and funding must be dedicated to improving safety for the most vulnerable road users.

Walking is a healthy, environmentally friendly form of mobility that promotes social interactions and a sense of community. Heavily walked roads tend to be safer due to a higher number of eyes on the streets, and are frequently more economically vibrant as pedestrians shop on foot. Many people choose to walk but some low income residents who cannot afford cars walk as a matter of necessity. The City of Los Angeles and transportation agencies at all levels need to prioritize pedestrian safety to encourage walking and help create a more healthy, sustainable, and equitable city.

To make walking safer and more appealing, the City of LA, Metro, Caltrans, and other responsible agencies should:

  • Invest in pedestrian infrastructure and programs proportionate to the need. Nearly 20% of trips in Los Angeles are on foot and 32% of traffic fatalities are pedestrians but only 1% of transportation dollars go to pedestrian infrastructure or safety improvements. Money spent on more visible and better lit crosswalks; on improved lighting for sidewalks and intersections; on education on sharing the road with walkers; and on calming and redesigning streets with the highest rates of pedestrian deaths can reduce accidents and make walking safer for all.

Let us know how you’d like to help make walking in the city of Los Angeles, and your neighborhood in particular, safer!

—Mark Vallianatos and My La

Helping to make safer, kinder Silver Lake streets

Our August 25th Safer, Kinder Silver Lake community event was a success! In partnership with the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council (SLNC), LA Walks hosted a design charrette and meet-the-candidates event in anticipation of the upcoming SLNC election. Residents of Silver Lake, Echo Park, and Los Feliz participated in the event, highlighting the many connections between our city’s neighborhoods. Community members split into four groups based on geographic area and identified specific pedestrian safety challenges and opportunities in their neighborhoods.

Pedestrian Safety Challenges Identified

  • Lack of crosswalks
  • Unsignallized crosswalks
  • Lack of sidewalks
  • Blind turns for motor vehicles around corners, down hills, and coming out of driveways
  • Motor vehicles making high-speed right turns
  • Lack of disabled ramps
  • Sidewalks in disrepair
  • Not enough time given to cross major streets
  • High motor vehicle speeds
  • Vendors take up sidewalk space
  • Utility poles and signs are placed in the middle of the sidewalk

Pedestrian Safety Opportunities Identified

  • Plant shade trees along streets
  • Add street furniture such as benches
  • Create a park-like atmosphere along the reservoir perimeter
  • Add pedestrian wayfinding signage
  • Create an Adpot-A-Stairway program
  • Add high-visibility and signallized crosswalks
  • Reduce motor vehicle speeds
  • Add curb cuts to ensure accessibility for all users
  • Add bicycle lanes to reduce pedestrian/cyclist conflicts on the sidewalk

Next Steps

  • Support Walk A Child to School Day on October 3, 2012, potentially by adopting one or more local schools and hosting specific programs
  • Target Glendale Blvd, Hyperion Ave, Rowena Ave, and Silver Lake Blvd as key neighborhood streets for pedestrian safety improvements

LA Walks thanks all of the community members who participated in the design charrette. We also thank the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council and our host, the Silver Lake Library, for helping to make the event such a great success.

If you are interested in getting involved with these efforts in Silver Lake—or in other neighborhoods within the city of Los Angeles—please let us know! Sign up for our mailing list here, and “like” us on Facebook for regular updates

—Rachel Bennett