CityWatch, Jan 16, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 5
The intersection of 5th and Flower is just like any other downtown LA intersection in that it is designed to move large quantities of vehicles rapidly and efficiently.
It is especially successful in this endeavor with seven lanes of one-way traffic moving east on 5th and six lanes of one-traffic moving south on Flower.
This intersection is also home to the Central Library, to the Bonaventure Hotel and two huge office buildings, all generating heavy pedestrian activity which is at odds with the movement of the vehicles.
The problem is that this intersection is designed to simply move either vehicles or people, with the success of one group coming at the expense of the other.
Eastbound vehicles stack seven and eight deep in the left turn, waiting for the pedestrians to clear the intersection. Pedestrians enjoy a four-second "Walk" phase as they set out to cross six lanes of street, all with vehicles edging forward into the crosswalk.
The tragic death of Gwendolyn Coleman last week after she was hit in the crosswalk by a DASH bus only dramatizes the intense conflict at 5th and Flower.
As a community, our first responsibility is to work together to protect our most vulnerable. When pedestrians and motorists are left to compete for space, pedestrians will lose every time. Unfortunately, for most, the loss is their lives.
Last week the Urban Design Studio, led by Emily Gabel-Luddy, went before the Planning Commission with a bold and comprehensive proposal that would dramatically improve pedestrian life in downtown Los Angeles. Consisting of new Architectural Design Standards and new Street Standards, that work together to balance the needs of the different user groups, the plan was endorsed by the Planning Commission and now goes to the City Council.
We now have an opportunity to put people first and it starts with calling on our City Council and demanding a walkable city.
We now have an opportunity to honor Gwendolyn Coleman and it starts with calling on the LA Department of Transportation and demanding a pedestrian-oriented intersection at 5th and Flower.
We now have the opportunity to change our own lives and our communities and it starts by simply going for a walk.
"See you on the Streets!"
(Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist activist and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net )