More walk­ers die in traf­fic

Pedes­trian deaths surge 80% in two years de­spite L.A. mayor’s ini­tia­tive.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Laura J. Nel­son

Pedes­trian deaths in Los An­ge­les have surged more than 80% in the first two years of a high-pro­file ini­tia­tive launched by Mayor Eric Garcetti to elim­i­nate traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties, new data show.

In 2015, 74 peo­ple on foot were killed by driv­ers in Los An­ge­les. That fig­ure rose to 134 in 2017, the high­est num­ber in more than 15 years.

Over­all, the num­ber of bi­cy­clists, pedes­tri­ans, mo­tor­cy­clists and driv­ers killed in col­li­sions on city streets fell last year by 6%, to 244, ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary po­lice data re­leased by the city Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment.

In 2015, Garcetti signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der cre­at­ing the Vi­sion Zero ini­tia­tive, which set the am­bi­tious goal of elim­i­nat­ing traf­fic deaths on city streets by 2025. It called for re­duc­tions of 20% by 2017 and 50% by 2020.

The 6% de­cline in 2017 falls well short of that goal, and the city’s slow progress sug­gests re­duc­ing fa­tal­i­ties by half in the next three years will be dif­fi­cult.

“Every life is im­por­tant and we must keep push­ing to do bet­ter,” Garcetti said Tues­day in a state­ment to The Times, say­ing he was proud the city had re­duced deaths over­all in 2017. “Safety is our top pri­or­ity, and we will con­tinue to set bold


The 2017 sta­tis­tics were in­cluded in a re­port sched­uled to be dis­cussed Wed­nes­day at a City Coun­cil trans­porta­tion com­mit­tee hear­ing.

The L.A. data are on par with na­tional trends, which show that more pedes­tri­ans are dy­ing, and driv­ers are more dis­tracted, Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment spokesman Oliver Hou said in an email.

Fig­ures on traf­fic deaths across the coun­try are not yet avail­able for 2017, but in the pre­vi­ous year, pedes­trian deaths rose 9% na­tion­ally and 42% in Los An­ge­les.

Los An­ge­les of­fi­cials spent more than a year study­ing col­li­sion data to pin­point the city’s most dan­ger­ous streets for pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists, and worked in 2017 to make changes along 40 of those cor­ri­dors. Many are broad thor­ough­fares, in­clud­ing North Broad­way in Chi­na­town, 3rd Street in Kore­atown and Sepul­veda Boule­vard in the San Fer­nando Val­ley.

Of­fi­cials have fo­cused on those ar­eas be­cause pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists rep­re­sent an out­size num­ber of the city’s traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties. From 2012 to 2016, peo­ple on foot were in­volved in 8% of the traf­fic col­li­sions in L.A. but rep­re­sented 44% of the deaths, the Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment said.

Last year, the city made 1,120 changes to streets and in­ter­sec­tions, Hou said. Hun­dreds of cross­walks were mod­i­fied, in­clud­ing four that now al­low pedes­tri­ans to cross all direc­tions at once, and 144 dig­i­tal signs were in­stalled that tell driv­ers their speeds.

Speed is of­ten the de­ter­min­ing fac­tor in whether some­one sur­vives a car crash. When struck by a car mov­ing at 20 mph, a pedes­trian has a 90% chance of sur­vival, but when hit by a ve­hi­cle go­ing 40 mph, the chance of sur­vival falls to 20%, ac­cord­ing to a fed­eral study of crash data.

The city also changed the tim­ing on 67 traf­fic lights to give pedes­tri­ans the walk sig­nal sev­eral sec­onds be­fore driv­ers re­ceive a green light. That change — known as a “lead­ing pedes­trian in­ter­val” — is de­signed to cut down on driv­ers hit­ting pedes­tri­ans in cross­walks.

The in­crease in pedes­trian deaths isn’t sur­pris­ing for any­one who walks in Los An­ge­les and has had a near miss with a speed­ing driver, said Emilia Crotty, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Los An­ge­les Walks, a pedes­trian ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Projects that have been shown to re­duce pedes­trian in­juries, in­clud­ing so-called “scram­ble cross­walks” that al­low peo­ple to cross in all direc­tions, should not be de­layed by con­cerns about com­mute times from lo­cal of­fi­cials, Crotty said.

The most high-pro­file street safety project in 2017, along a hand­ful of streets on L.A.’s West­side, sparked a wave of protests from res­i­dents and com­muters, two law­suits and an ef­fort to re­call Coun­cil­man Mike Bonin, who rep­re­sents the area. Even­tu­ally, the city re­versed most of the im­prove­ments.

The ad­vo­cates who fought the Playa del Rey project said they were in­ter­ested in help­ing other lo­cal groups fight street changes that would af­fect com­mute times in other parts of the city. Street safety ad­vo­cates wor­ried that the back­lash could set the Vi­sion Zero ef­fort back by sev­eral years.

The city “learned some very hard lessons” last year, Crotty said. “We need our City Coun­cil mem­bers to cham­pion this is­sue like the life-and-death sit­u­a­tion that it is. What­ever neg­a­tive push­back there is — per­haps from some driv­ers — this is what we need to pro­tect the most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple in our neigh­bor­hoods.”

Genaro Molina Los An­ge­les Times

PEDES­TRIAN deaths in Los An­ge­les jumped to 134 last year from 74 in 2015. Above, a me­mo­rial for two boys killed by an SUV in Boyle Heights in Novem­ber.

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