Thursday, January 22, 2009

Memorializing Fallen Pedestrians

Damien Newton from StreetsblogLA writes of a group in Portugal who install pedestrian crosswalks made up of the names of those pedestrians who have died crossing the street. The artistically designed memorials include the tag, "1/4 of car accident victims are pedestrians."

Here is Los Angeles, we also have a mechanism for memorializing those who have died in an attempt to simply cross the street. While not quite so dramatic as the ZebraStripe crossings in Portugal, the Los Angeles memorials serve as a constant reminder that our streets are dangerous and that crossing them is risky business.

Los Angeles names buildings and freeways after civic leaders and local heroes but crosswalks are reserved for the children who die trying to cross the street. Hardly the mark of a Great City.

The "Demariya Grant Memorial Crosswalk," on Rodeo Road between Rodeo Lane and Farmdale Avenue near Dorsey High School, was dedicated in memory of nine year old Demariya Grant who was struck down and killed by a hit and run driver in December 2005. The "Jason Quarker Memorial Crosswalk" at 6th and Jefferson honors Jason Quarker, who was struck and killed while crossing Jefferson on his way to the 6th Avenue Elementary School.

Meanwhile, LAist draws attention to the machinations of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation as they contemplate the removal of the crosswalk at the corner of Magnolia and Blakeslee. The crosswalk falls halfway between Lankershim Blvd. and Vineland Ave.

The Intersection has significant housing on the north side of Magnolia and on the other side of the street are abundant amenities ranging from local theatres to restaurants to shops to a local church which meets in one of the theatres. It would seem that the intersection of Blakeslee would be an ideal location for a crosswalk but the LADOT has posted signs indicating that "the marked crosswalk at this location is proposed to be removed as part of a traffic safety improvement."

A call to the posted number at the LADOT yielded an explanation for the proposed crosswalk removal consisting of "The crosswalk is being reviewed in order to determine if it meets the state and federal guidelines."

Hmmm! "Traffic Safety Improvements" and "State & Federal guidelines" sound like worthy motivations until you factor in the proposed action: they're proposing to remove a crosswalk!

John Fisher, Assistant General Manager of the LADOT explained that they did a study a several years ago and they reviewed 7 years of data, determining that the removal of crosswalks resulted in a 61% reduction in pedestrian collisions. As a result, the department routinely looks at the crosswalks in Los Angeles and evaluates them for removal. Fisher adds, "Of course, if this location is an activity center, then this would be taken into consideration as we evaluate the crosswalk, the flow of traffic and the volume, the pedestrian activity and the community response."

(When Fisher was asked if the reduction of ped collisions might be due to a reduction in pedestrians, he acknowledged that it might be an explanation but was not part of the study)

This particular street was recently featured in the LATimes in an article that detailed the community's response to the increase in parking meter rates along with the extended hours of operation. Critics charge that the LADOT acted without public input or notification and that effect on the community was negative. Now this?

Nancy Bianconi of the NoHo Arts District was shocked to find out that the LADOT was considering the removal of the crosswalk, exclaiming "If anything we need a smart crosswalk, one complemented by lights and traffic calming that supports the vibrant streetlife that we are working to create in the NoHo Arts District."

Linda Fulton, owner of the Avery Schreiber Theatre, points out that the city has made a lot of money off that crosswalk, writing tickets to motorists who don't yield to the pedestrians. "There are 7 theatres between Lankershim and Magnolia, there is lots of mixed-use development on Magnolia, all drawing pedestrians to this community, and we need to support the pedestrians, not abandon them in favor of improving the flow of traffic."

On the south side of Magnolia there are shops, 7 theatres, restaurants and other attractive signs of streetlife. It seems like the least the LADOT could do is to support those who simply want to cross the street.

This is the sign the LADOT posted on both sides of Magnolia, soliciting comments on a process that isn't explained. A phone call to the number is answered by a woman who says "I can't answer questions, I only take down comments."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This sounds like Bush's plan to reduce forest fires - cut down the forests.