While Los Angeles is known predominantly for being a car city, there are a large number of people who use their own two feet rather than wheels to get around on a daily basis – and city officials want that number to grow. Urban planners have been urging them to make the streets more pedestrian-friendly, saying that it would not only lower pedestrian accident rates but also ease congestion in the car-clogged city. However, turning Los Angeles into a more walkable city is easier said than done, and there will have to be restructuring on a massive scale before it is able to shed its reputation as a “Pedestrian Death Capital.”
According to a study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, pedestrians accounted for about a third of all traffic fatalities in Los Angeles, or nearly triple the national average of 11.4 percent. In 2012, a total of 99 pedestrians were killed by vehicles, according to another study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This put the city’s per-100,000 pedestrian fatality rate for that year at 2.57percent, which beat out New York’s 1.52 percent.
A Los Angeles Times analysis shows nearly a quarter of pedestrian accidents are concentrated in less than 1 percent of the city’s intersections. Many of the most dangerous crossings are clustered in high-density areas between downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood, including:
- Fifth Street from Broadway to Main Street in downtown Los Angeles
- Vermont and Third, Western and Olympic, and Third Street and Normandie, in Koreatown
- Sunset and Hollywood, Hollywood and Highland, and Hollywood and Vine, in Hollywood
- Vermont from Prospect Avenue to Lockwood Avenue in East Hollywood
- Alvarado from Sixth Street to Olympic in Westlake
Special mention goes to Western and Slauson Avenues, which is the single worst intersection in Los Angeles.
Advocates of pedestrian safety have proposed a variety of measures to improve safety at intersections: re-time pedestrian countdown signals to give walkers a several-second head start; install high-visibility crosswalks with wide stripes and bright paint; overhaul streets to add broader curbs, ramps, or a median; even do something as simple as reducing speed limits, particularly near crosswalks.
While some of these measures would be relatively cheap to implement, others could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. How this work could be funded remains unclear. Also, some drivers may react negatively to the idea of losing lanes of traffic or having to drive more slowly. However, advocates say that it is absolutely worth sacrificing a few seconds of your time if it means saving lives.
At Wilshire Law Firm, our attorneys have seen the devastating effects of pedestrian-car collisions firsthand, which is why we fully support the city’s efforts at improving pedestrian safety in the streets. We hope that one day Los Angeles is able to strip itself of its dominant car culture and embrace an “everyone” culture – pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists included.