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Watch the Frightening Plight of Pedestrians in 1938 LA

Today, Los Angeles's streets are making strides toward becoming safer places for pedestrians—dangerous Hollywood/Highland has gotten a scramble crosswalk, underused space in South LA is becoming a pedestrian path, and the city has a comprehensive Great Streets program to make over important boulevards. LA does still have a long way to go, but this footage from the LA City Clerk's YouTube (via @esotouric) shows that things were once so much worse. Taken on an afternoon in 1938—right about the time school let out, from the looks of it—the footage shows how students from a local junior high school are forced to share a terrifying section of San Pedro Street with cars (both parked and moving) because of a lack of sidewalks. If that doesn't sound so bad, just watch with horror as droves of goofy kids walk four-wide in the damn street.

The footage was compiled to underscore the efforts of a councilman hoping to drum up support to widen the street so that sidewalks could be installed and the "hazardous conditions" on the street could be eliminated. It's true that flat dirt sections off the road are sometimes visible, but they aren't continuous (and they also aren't sidewalks), which is probably why kids chose the simple madness of walking in traffic instead.

In some frames, cars slow down by the students; in others, they don't and end up pretty close to the kids. At one point, a title card comes onto the screen, saying what everyone's already thinking: "How terrible it would be if one of these care-free children were to be struck down by a passing motorist! That child might be yours!" In the end, it would appear that the point was made: a Google Street View tour of the same stretch of San Pedro Street, between Manchester Avenue and Imperial Highway, now shows sidewalks flanking the road.

· Right of Way 4407 San Pedro Street 1938 [Youtube]
· See the Less Scary, More Pedestrian-Friendly Hollywood and Highland Intersection in Action [Curbed LA]