More than 50 people gathered at the pedestrian crosswalk on Santa Monica Boulevard at Hancock Avenue this evening to protest what they contend is the city’s failure to take adequate steps to improve crosswalk safety.
For nearly an hour, the protestors marched back and forth across the crosswalk, holding signs with slogans such as “Unsafe,” “No More Deaths” and “R.I.P. Clint.” The latter was a reference to Clinton Bounds, who died after being hit by a car on Santa Monica Boulevard near the crosswalk around 11 p.m. Saturday. Bounds’ death is what sparked the demonstration, which was organized by Ron Davis with the support of Cross Safe WeHo, a citizens group that was formed after a man was injured when a car hit him in the crosswalk on Santa Monica Boulevard near Westmount in June.
While Bounds originally was thought to have been in the crosswalk when he was hit by a car, photos of the scene and eyewitness accounts of the accident provided to WEHOville indicate that he likely was jaywalking by crossing Santa Monica Boulevard about one hundred feet east of the pedestrian crosswalk.
Crosswalk safety has emerged as a major issue although the accident at the Santa Monica Boulevard / Westmount crosswalk in June has been the only one thus far this year in West Hollywood. Nevertheless, local activists and commenters on WEHOville have complained about drivers who don’t pay attention when they enter pedestrian crosswalks and pedestrians who seem oblivious to traffic — often focused on their cell phones — when they enter crosswalks. The West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station on Aug. 3 conducted a crosswalk safety exercise that resulted in about 40 tickets being issued to drivers and 17 to pedestrians. About half of the tickets issued to motorists were for failure to yield to pedestrians and half were for distracted driving (i.e. driving while texting).
Last year there were four accidents involving pedestrians and one involving a bicyclist in the crosswalk at Hancock Avenue. At a recent City Council meeting, City Manager Paul Arevalo said there have been 71 accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists in the past three and a half years in West Hollywood. The peak year was 2012, when there were 21. Most accidents occurred in designated crosswalks, Arevalo said.
In addition to the demonstrators, many of whom were friends or acquaintances of Bounds, West Hollywood Mayor John D’Amico participated in the crosswalk march as did Lauren Meister and Larry Block, both declared candidates in the 2015 City Council election. Also present was Tristan Schukraft, a candidate in the 2013 Council election who is rumored to be considering a run for 2015. Demonstrators complained that none of the other four members of the Council appeared at the demonstration. D’Amico said they he was considering recommending that the city reduce the speed limit on that stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard, currently 35 miles per hour, to 25 miles per hour late at night when the bars and restaurants in that largely gay neighborhood are busy.
The demonstration was monitored by Lt. David Smith of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station. Demonstrators paused at each crossing of Santa Monica Boulevard to let backed up traffic move. One driver, who shouted an obscenity at the demonstrators, was pulled over by Smith for questioning.