Vote NO on Prop 6!
Vote NO on Prop. 6 on November 6!
Election day is only one week away and much has already been written about Proposition 6, a ballot initiative that would take away current roadway improvement projects by repealing a gas tax increase enacted through Senate Bill 1 (SB 1: The California Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017). That gas tax increase helps fund a long backlog of road and bridge repair projects in the state of California. Repealing it would be a bad and short-sighted decision, as the LA Times Editorial Board made clear in this article.
If voters pass Prop. 6, it won't just halt the maintenance and repair of our roads and bridges, it will also slow down the progress being made to improve public transit, walking, and biking. SB 1 funding dedicates $100 million to pedestrian and bike projects, and over $750 million to transit agencies to help increase access and service1.
Supporters of Prop. 6
Supporters who want to pass Prop. 6 - ending the gas tax increase created through SB1 - include the California Republican Party, Republican Speaker of the U.S. House, Paul Ryan2, Republican U.S. House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, Republican U.S. House Majority Whip, Steve Scalise, and a number of other Republican representatives, senators, and taxpayer associations3.
Supporters argue that the funds from the gas tax increase will just be diverted for other uses, but SB1 funds are “protected under a constitutional amendment, which safeguards new dollars for transportation use only.”4
Who else is saying NO to Prop. 6
Those opposed to Prop. 6 come from a broader base of community and labor organizations, public safety and social justice advocates, environmental nonprofits, senior citizen coalitions, businesses, cities, and government officials including: Bike San Gabriel Valley, Move LA, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, East Los Angeles Community Corporation, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Parents for Safe Routes, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, and Sierra Club California, just to name a few. You can access the long list of coalition members who are urging California voters to vote no on Prop. 6 here.
The “No on Prop 6” Coalition mentioned above has also created a fact sheet that informs us on what’s at stake here. If Prop. 6 passes, more than 6,500 local bridge/road safety and transportation improvement projects would abruptly stop with no plan B in the works5.
So if you’re in support of safer roads, and trying to relieve traffic congestion by making other modes of transportation more reliable, convenient, and safe (like walking, biking, and taking public transit), then please vote NO on Prop. 6.
Check out this interactive map that displays the local LA County projects that SB 1 is funding. Some of those projects include: Active Aging, Safe Routes for Seniors in Santa Monica, West Santa Ana Branch Bikeway Phase 2, and San Gabriel River East Bank Greenway & Neighborhood Connections in Baldwin Park/Walnut Creek
Keep Rowena Safe
Councilmember Ryu recently submitted a motion to LA City Council requesting that the LA Department of Transportation review the CD4-commissioned "Rowena Avenue, Waverly Drive, and Angus Street: Cut-through Traffic Study."
The motion may go before the LA City Council Transportation Committee as early as Wednesday, October 24, 2018, the committee's next meeting. We need everyone to take action to #KeepRowenaSafe!
1 TAKE ACTION: Tell the Transportation Committee that you support the current configuration on Rowena, and want additional traffic calming measures in the area. (Do it before October 24th!)
2 TAKE ACTION: Canvass trick-or-treaters with LA Walks on Halloween night in Silver Lake!
Read below for more details.
Courtesy of Keep Rowena Safe
Terence Heuston, a Silver Lake resident and founding member of Keep Rowena Safe, submitted the following comments to City Councilmembers on September 25, 2018.
As a Silver Lake resident, I can attest that prior to the "Rowena road diet," locals often referred to the dangerous arterial road running in front of Ivanhoe Elementary School as "Rowena Raceway." As far back as 2006 there are documented meeting minutes from the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council Urban Design Committee calling for an Environmental Impact Review for a Rowena "road diet." Following years of community discussion, outreach, and coverage in the press documented here, Councilmember Tom LaBonge formally requested via a council motion that LADOT study installing a road diet on Rowena. Yet, it was too late for 24 year-old Ashley Sandau - while the road diet was being studied she was killed crossing the street in front of two schools. The drivers in three lanes stopped their cars for her; the driver in the fourth lane did not. That driver killed Ms. Sandau.
The road diet that the City subsequently installed ensures that the tragically foreseeable death of Ms. Sandau cannot occur again, since the road diet alignment prevents it. Any other configuration listed within Kimley-Horn's "Rowena Avenue, Waverly Drive, and Angus Street: Cut-through Traffic Study" "options" re-introduces the danger of a car in the "fast" lane swerving into the "slow" lane around a car that has stopped for a pedestrian - the exact manner in which Ms. Sandau was killed.
As most of you know, when a car crash is reported to the LAPD, the record of that crash is forwarded to a central database (SWITRS) maintained by the California Highway Patrol. FIVE independent reviews of the SAME data: LADOT, LAPD, independent data scientists, an independent transportation planner report, and the recent Kimley-Horn study all show the same result: the formerly dangerous road, where a young woman died crossing in front of two schools, is "significantly safer than before."
Based on the unanimous findings of five different sources reviewing the same data there can be no justification for adding another travel lane in front of two schools. Furthermore, you can view the Rowena Town Hall video where two out of every three Silver Lake residents who speak on the matter support the road diet (50 in favor, 25 opposed). The community does not want another lane.
I am writing to ask you to amend the motion submitted by Councilmember David Ryu (11-2130-S4) to request that LADOT prioritize safety in their evaluation of the “Rowena Avenue, Waverly Drive, and Angust Street: Cut-Through Traffic Study” conducted by Kimley-Horn for CD4. There is no need to make a street with a proven safety record more dangerous in order to address the cut-through traffic on side streets. There is an array of options that can elevate the safety of Angus Street and Waverly Drive without putting elementary school students at risk.
TAKE ACTION: Email Transportation Committee members before October 24 to express support for the current configuration on Rowena, and for additional traffic calming measures in the area.
Vote YES on W for Safe and Clean Water
Sunny Southern California! Most days are a beautiful day to walk, bike, or spend some time outside waiting for the bus or train – this is part of what makes LA living so livable.
But summer – and the Santa Ana winds of the fall – can be brutal, especially in heavily paved and low-income urban areas with hardly a tree in sight. The sun’s rays and the heat radiating off the sidewalk can make an otherwise pleasant stroll feel like a punishment, and leave you thirsty for a tall drink of cold water. In the wet season, neighborhoods parched in the dry months flood from trash-blocked storm drains or lack of infrastructure, swamping intersections with pollution-laden puddles and waterlogging kids on their way to school. Cities and non-profits have dreams to plant more trees and address these issues, but seem stuck on their way to implementing solutions, citing a lack of funding to build or maintain infrastructure.
If only we could do something to address this web of worries!
We can! This November 6, voters will be asked to consider County Measure W for Safe, Clean Water.
This measure (W for Water), would fund an action plan to tackle these overlapping issues: extreme weather like drought and flooding, water contamination, and the funds to both build solutions and keep them running. Through a modest parcel tax that collectively makes a big difference, this measure would invest $300 million a year into our communities and water infrastructure, building and maintaining public projects like Echo Park Lake and the South LA Wetlands, the Avalon Green Alley network, planted medians and parkways, and retrofitting schoolyards, we can turn LA County into a sponge instead of a slick.
Milton Street bulbout, photo credit Joe Linton, StreetsblogLA
Right now, we’re wasting 100 billion gallons of water each year, sending it through our storm drains and river channel as fast as possible into the ocean. By “unpaving” the County, planting more street trees, converting blacktops into playgrounds, running raingutters to cisterns, and diverting storm drains to parks, we can use nature and science to capture and clean this water – enough for 3.5 million people. At the same time, we’ll be investing in our communities with shade and green space, bringing much needed resources especially to low-income communities, and creating thousands of good jobs building projects and keeping them humming over time. All for about $7 a month for the average homeowner (and $1-3 a month if you own a condo)!
Join environmental justice advocates, public health experts, firefighters, labor leaders, scientists, and regular humans from all walks of life in voting Yes on W for water this November 6! (Click here for a lengthy list of endorsing organizations and elected officials.)
Guest blog post by Lauren Ahkiam, Director of Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy's Water Project. LAANE is a member of the OurWaterLA Coalition, which advocates for clean, safe, affordable and reliable water for all.
Let's Talk About Scooters
We love shared bikes and scooters (also known as "personal mobility devices") -- we really do! Dockless scooters and bicycles could be a boon to Los Angeles, which suffers from car-clogged streets and polluted air. They're likely to reduce car trips and increase walking trips, which we're all about.
As the City of Los Angeles develops its rules and guidelines for a pilot dockless scooter and bike program, though, we want to make sure operators (and eventually users) seriously consider the rights and needs of vulnerable populations like older adults and people with disabilities. These groups often rely on walking and rolling for transportation and physical activity, and deserve a reliably clear, safe, accessible public realm.
On Wednesday, June 27, 2018, the Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee discussed, amended, and approved pilot program rules and guidelines developed by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.
Click here to read the letter we submitted to the Transportation Committee.
We appreciate Councilmember Bonin and Councilmember Martinez requiring that operators conduct outreach with disability rights groups or Independent Living Centers as part of the permit application process.
Human Connection and Happiness
On March 4th, 2018, as part of our annual March Forth! celebration, Los Angeles Walks closed a street to vehicles and opened it to people. What happened? Kids played, adults talked to one another, people of all ages learned to skateboard, took Jeepney tours, designed their dream streets, and SO MUCH MORE!
Thank you to all who participated, especially our generous and talented program partners, who provided opportunities for residents of Historic Filipinotown to learn, experience, relax, remember, and connect.
Thanks to Gregory Grano for the video!
Adding Our Voices
"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.
Maryann Gray lives in Santa Monica and is the founder of http://accidentalimpacts.org/. Read an in-depth New Yorker magazine article profiling Maryann here.
We Want Wall-to-Wall Complete Streets
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.
>> Join Los Angeles Walks and Investing in Place at the October 10 meeting.
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.
>> Join us at City Council on October 10.
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 Los Angeles Walks and Investing in Place at the October 10 Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee meeting.
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!
Back at the Tripping Point: Building a Visible Constituency for Complete, Safe Streets
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.
On Saturday, October 21st, we’re at it again! RSVP NOW for the free Tripping Point 2: The Valley!
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:
Tripping Point 1 presentations
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.
Which Way LA Walks
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