Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Walking in L.A.: Which roads are scariest to cross?




walksign eventsDo you live in a neighborhood where crossing the street seems a fear-fraught task? I ask because I almost got hit by a car while crossing Doheny this morning.

A couple months ago, I moved from a Santa Monica to West Hollywood. Both are very pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods — and in fact, according to Walkscore, West Hollywood’s the more pedestrian-friendly spot with a score of 97, compared to Santa Monica’s 83. And indeed, I have to say my walkable restaurant and cafe options have improved immensely!

That said, I found crossing the street easier in Santa Monica — a detail that Walkscore doesn’t seem to take into account in its calculations. The City of Santa Monica takes traffic calming seriously — something every driver who’s driven the length of Wilshire’s bound to have noticed. Once you hit the City of Santa Monica’s boundary, almost every block of Wilshire has a pedestrian crosswalk — which makes for slower car speeds, pleasanter sidewalk dining, and safer street crossing. Residential streets also have lots of stop signs, crosswalks, and road bumps, discouraging speeding.

In contrast, West Hollywood’s got a lot of streets that seriously seem dangerous for pedestrians, at least as I experience them during my walks about town. Doheny, for example, has no crosswalk at all between Santa Monica and Sunset — making the street difficult for pedestrians to cross without fear. Even worse is Fountain, which cars zoom through at pedestrian-frightening speeds despite the fact that residences line both sides of the street.

Of course, many drivers like driving down Fountain especially for this reason, following Bette Davis’ famous advice. Could a game make them change their mind though? Apparently, a simple lottery game got drivers in Stockholm, Sweden to slow down — a lot!

Called The Speed Camera Lottery, the idea behind the game was simple: Reward those who stay under the speed limit by automatically entering them into a lottery — funded by fines paid by those who went over (via Streetsblog LA). The game was the brainchild of one Kevin Richardson, who won Volkswagen’s 2,500-euro prize for coming up with a fun way to make people behave better.

Now, while Volkswagen’s video about the Stockholm experiment makes Kevin’s game look like a lot of fun, I’m not entirely convinced that drivers slowed down for the “fun” of this lottery game. Maybe they slowed down simply because they didn’t want to pay the fines! What’s clear, however, is that average speeds did go down by 22 percent — from 32 kmh to 25 kmh.

Could we, should we, do this on Fountain? Making this experiment happen in L.A. would obviously be a real challenge. Sarah Goodyear at Grist points out that things are different in Sweden: “Sweden is a nation so sensible about the impact of automobile traffic on people that they actually have their sights set on a goal of zero traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries. The strategy for getting there is called Vision Zero, and it was adopted by the Swedish Parliament in 1997.”

In contrast, L.A.’s still largely defined by its car culture. The L.A. County Museum of Art’s latest art find is Metropolis II by Chris Burden, described by the NY Times as a noisy art piece with “1,200 custom-designed cars and 18 lanes; 13 toy trains and tracks; and, dotting the landscape, buildings made of wood block, tiles, Legos and Lincoln Logs.” Michael Govan, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, reportedly said of Metropolis II: “It’s a portrait of L.A.”

The toy cars whizzing by on tiny roads are fun to watch, but real life cars on Fountain can be really scary. What are your thoughts on The Speed Camera Lottery or more traffic calming for Los Angeles? Is there a street you think is especially dangerous?

How dangerous is it to walk in Southern California? Tell KPCC how walkable your community is.

Photo: chego101/Flickr