Pedestrian Collisions Are a Growing Crisis in the City of L.A.
From 2012 to 2016 more than 14,230 pedestrians were injured in collisions on Los Angeles City streets and 439 pedestrians lost their lives. Data from the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System shows that the number of pedestrian fatalities in the City of Los Angeles has skyrocketed since 2015. As a result, Mayor Eric Garcetti signed an executive directive establishing Vision Zero LA, a program within the Los Angeles Department of Transportation with the goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2025.
Which Neighborhoods are Affected?
Vision Zero LA conducted an analysis of the City’s most dangerous streets and found that 65% of severe and fatal traffic collisions involving pedestrians occurred on 6% of Los Angeles’ streets. The analysis is known as the High Injury Network (HIN) and is used as a map guide of where Vision Zero plans to make investments.
Although a small fraction of streets account for the vast majority of collisions, nearly every neighborhood in the City of Los Angeles has reported a pedestrian collision involving an injury -- and many have reported fatalities. Let’s take three intersections in distinct neighborhoods across the City from 2012-2016: Wilmington, Pico-Robertson, and Echo Park. Each of the three intersections, Pacific Coast Highway and N. Wilmington Blvd., La Cienega Blvd. and Pico Blvd., and Sunset Blvd. and Alvarado has reported 3 fatalities near these major crossings.
Below is a map of reported pedestrian collisions within the City of Los Angeles from 2012 to 2016 by the severity of the collision.
Interestingly, Wilmington and Pico Robertson have much in common in terms of transportation; both neighborhoods average 2 vehicles per household and have low rates of public transit use, less than 6% of their residents utilize public transit to commute to work or school. Echo Park has an average of 1 vehicle per household and a high rate of public transit use, with nearly 15% of their residents using public transit to commute. Each neighborhood has vastly different demographic makeups and median household incomes but they have all reported the same number of fatalities in major intersections within their communities. The demographic and economic diversity of these neighborhoods, along with the varied use of public transit, suggest that pedestrian collisions cannot be singularly attributed to any one cause, but instead are likely due to a number of policy and planning elements.
What Makes an Intersection Dangerous?
A recent report found the most dangerous intersection in the state of California is in Northridge. More than 108 collisions have occurred at the intersection of Devonshire and Reseda between 2006-2016. Why are there so many collisions in a single intersection?
There are a variety of factors that influence the safety of an intersection including speed limits, number of lanes and the number of access points or driveways near the intersection. According to the Federal Highway Administration, the number of crashes increase as the number of driveways increase in a given area. It comes as no surprise that the intersection of Devonshire and Reseda is chock full of driveways and access points to fast-food restaurants, gas stations, and a large car wash. Each access point creates an opportunity for a crash as pedestrians on the sidewalk contend with vehicles turning in and out of multiple driveways.
The role of infrastructure and planning are key in addressing the safety of pedestrians across Los Angeles. Take a look at the most dangerous intersection in California below and take note of the number of driveways, lanes, vehicles and imagine being a pedestrian at the corner of Devonshire and Reseda.
Solutions and Ideas
A recent report by Vision Zero LA identified that the leading cause of death for children between ages 5 and 14 in L.A. County was traffic collisions. Further, a study by USC Sol Price Professors Tridib Banerjee and Deepak Bahl on the experience of children walking to school in City Heights found that children were acutely aware of the safety of their community’s streets, and cited fast-moving cars as the top risk. The study also found that children in inner-city Los Angeles often take longer routes to possibly avoid heavy traffic in unsafe areas. Reducing the speed of fast-moving cars through the infrastructure changes described below offers a promising intervention to the rising number of pedestrian fatalities and injuries.
Scramble crosswalks stop all vehicle crossings in all four directions for a set amount of time allowing pedestrians to cross the intersection freely. One of Vision Zero’s most successful projects has been the installation of a scramble crosswalk at the intersection of Hollywood and Highland. According to the L.A. Department of Transportation (LADOT), there were 19 collisions in 2015 before the installation of the scramble crosswalk and only one non-injury collision during the first 6 months after the scramble was installed.
Raised crosswalks are crosswalks that are raised to the height of the curb, creating a speed bump that slows drivers down. Forcing drivers to slow down before they reach pedestrians can potentially save lives, but it also conditions drivers to pay more attention as they approach these type of crosswalks.
Midblock crosswalks help prevent jaywalking and provides a safe opportunity to cross a street between intersections. When midblock crosswalks are raised, the visibility of pedestrians increases and drivers will also slow down because the crosswalk acts as a speed bump. According to LADOT, midblock crosswalks also improve accessibility for residents with mobile and visual impairments, because they offer a safe opportunity to cross the street between intersections and do not require transitioning up and down a curb ramp.
Let's Slow Down
As Angelenos, many of us love our cars and the freedom that comes with it. But, we cannot forget the immense responsibility that driving entails. Through smarter policies that benefit the pedestrians in our community -- including our children, the elderly and the disabled -- we can create safer streets for all Angelenos.
Banerjee, Tridib, et al. “Walking to School: The Experience of Children in Inner City Los Angeles and Implications for Policy.” Journal of Planning Education and Research, 2014, journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0739456X14522494.
Federal Highway Administration. “Access Management in the Vicinity of Intersections.” Safety Benefits of Walkways, Sidewalks, and Paved Shoulders - Safety | Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Feb. 2010, safety.fhwa.dot.gov/intersection/other_topics/fhwasa10002/#s22.
LADOT. “2018 Action Plan.” clkrep.lacity.org/onlinedocs/2015/15-0719-S20_misc_p_2-28-18.pdf.
“Northridge Has State's Most Dangerous Intersection.” CBS Los Angeles, CBS Los Angeles, 31 Jan. 2018, losangeles.cbslocal.com/2018/01/31/northridge-calif-most-dangerous-intersection/.
Southern California Public Radio. “New Pedestrian Crosswalk Makes an Infamously Dangerous Intersection Safer.” Southern California Public Radio, 2 Nov. 2016, www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk/2016/06/06/49441/new-pedestrian-crosswalk-makes-an-infamously-dange/.
Vision Zero LA. “COLLISION AND COUNTERMEASURE ANALYSIS: LITERATURE REVIEW.” visionzero.lacity.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/VisionZeroLosAngeles_LitReview.pdf.