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How Los Angeles's Ridiculous Lack of Crosswalks Can Throttle Potential Pedestrian Districts

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Image via Renee Rendler-Kaplan / Curbed LA flickr pool

Los Angeles has made some great strides toward shaking off its rep as a car-required city, but, at the most basic level there are still some obstacles in the path to becoming a pedestrian-friendly paradise. One of the biggest and most obvious problems, argues Streetsblog LA, is that there just aren't that many crosswalks, especially on some potentially prime pedestrian strips. To prove the point, SBLA contributor Max Podemski chose three main-drag stretches of LA that have the ingredients to be popular walking districts (streets with plenty of retail shops that travel through mixed-density neighborhoods), and broke them down according to pedestrian crossing options. He also compared them to similar stretches in San Francisco, and both on its own and in comparison, LA comes up severely short.

Podemski looked at the number of crosswalks and the placement of those crossings on Van Nuys Boulevard in Pacoima, Vermont Boulevard from Ktown south to USC, and Sunset Boulevard/Hollywood Boulevard through Silver Lake and Los Feliz. (He used a roughly 2.3-mile to 2.5-mile segment of each.)

Sunset Boulevard and Hollywood Boulevard have the highest percentage of intersections with crosswalks (57 percent have either a full or partial crosswalk setup); along Van Nuys Boulevard in Pacoima, just 40 percent of intersections are outfitted with crosswalks. Among all three LA sample sites, the longest gaps between crosswalks were a quarter mile or more; along the part of Sunset and Hollywood examined, the longest distance between two crosswalks was nearly a third of a mile.

The section of Sunset/Hollywood surveyed includes a strip of Hollywood Boulevard with popular eateries and shops and a super-tiny, high-concept boutique hotel. With so few safe ways to get between them, though, how are people supposed to be encouraged to check it all out on foot?

San Francisco has a far higher percentage of crosswalks at intersections, as well as smaller gaps between crosswalks, on a similar sampling of streets. The two SF streets don't have many more intersections than the LA streets, but they have many more crosswalks—and most of them are full crosswalks. The average distance between crosswalks is much shorter too.

LA is working on it: the city has zeroed in on several crosswalk-focused upgrades in recent months, including efforts to introduce scramble crossings in Hollywood and Downtown, and create pedestrian-prioritized crosswalks in DTLA.

· At the Crossroads: In Order to Create a More Walkable L.A., Start with the Basics [Streetsblog]
· Garcetti Wants Crisscross Crosswalks in Hollywood, DTLA [Curbed LA]
· Broadway Crossings First in LA to Let Walkers Go Before Cars [Curbed LA]