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.

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

Getting LA to Walk the Walk

“The song says ‘nobody walks in LA,’ but that maxim could not be further from the truth,” says Michelle Craven, recent UCLA Master of Urban and Regional Planning graduate and former Los Angeles Walks Steering Committee member. “In fact, every trip begins and ends with a walk – drivers walk to and from their cars, cyclists walk to and from their bicycles, transit riders walk to and from bus stops and train stations, and pedestrians walk all the way.” Yet there is no centralized oversight of local pedestrian issues because until recently the City of Los Angeles lacked a pedestrian coordinator and, more importantly, it still lacks a pedestrian master plan.

Why is it critical for the city of LA to adopt a pedestrian master plan?

  • Nearly one in four household trips in LA is made on foot.
  • The pedestrian fatality rate in LA is among the highest in the nation.
  • Despite the prominence of walking, local transportation agencies devote little funding, staff, and other resources to pedestrian issues, yet have developed comprehensive and detailed plans for driving, public transit, and bicycling.
  • Failing infrastructure – such as missing and broken sidewalks – makes the roads less safe for pedestrians and discourages Angelenos from walking. This, in turn, reduces opportunities for people to be physically active, which has devastating effects on public health.

Michelle spent the last year volunteering with Los Angeles Walks and working on a comprehensive research project to answer the question, “How can pedestrian advocates convince the City of Los Angeles to adopt a citywide pedestrian master plan?” Michelle conducted an extensive literature review and case studies on cities that have adopted pedestrian master plans. Based on her findings, Michelle issued six key recommendations to help pedestrian advocates convince the city of Los Angeles to adopt a citywide pedestrian master plan:

  1. Identify a local government champion who will support your goals and help you accomplish them.
  2. Identify and secure funding for the project.
  3. Build a diverse coalition of advocates.
  4. As an advocacy group, lead the citywide campaign.
  5. Generate media attention around pedestrian issues to educate the public.
  6. Conduct community outreach to educate residents on pedestrian issues and the benefits of proposed solutions.

Read Michelle’s full report here to learn more! Since completing her master’s degree at UCLA, Michelle has returned to her native East Coast and is working for the New York City Department of Transportation under Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

Los Angeles Walks is actively working to encourage the city to adopt a comprehensive pedestrian master plan, commit staff and funding resources to pedestrian issues, and consider pedestrian infrastructure whenever it makes planning decisions. If you are interested in helping us with these efforts, join our mailing list and come to our upcoming community meeting on November 15 in Leimert Park!

—Rachel Bennett; all content courtesy of Michelle Craven