Opinion: WeHo Is Dragging Its Feet on Pedestrian Safety

The safety of its citizens and visitors should be among the top priorities of our local government in West Hollywood, but when it comes to pedestrian safety, events have shown our city leaders have fallen short.

Crosswalk safety is not an issue that has arisen in the last few weeks or months–our West Hollywood government has been in paralysis for more than a decade, and should be held accountable to find solutions.

Lauren Meister
Lauren Meister

With more than a decade of experience serving on the city’s Planning, Public Safety and Transportation commissions, we are aware of the history, debate and possible solutions for crosswalk safety. The solution to the problem is neither creative, nor cheap, but it can be found in the practices of our neighbors next door in the City of Los Angeles.

More than a decade ago, West Hollywood lived up to its title as the “Creative City,” innovating on crosswalk safety by installing some of the first embedded blinking lights in crosswalks on the Sunset Strip.

Unfortunately, these lights could not handle the high traffic volumes along an over-developed Sunset Strip and eventually, stopped working. In an unfortunate but not unfamiliar story, a pedestrian lost her life. Because the lights were not working, her family sued the city. Ever since, the city has been reluctant to install any supplementary warning signals at our crosswalks.

Crosswalk policy has been debated at numerous Transportation and Public Safety commission meetings for years. At one point, City staffers rebuked Transportation commissioners, off the record, for using the word “safety” during their discussions for fear of creating legal liability for the city. But a decade of negligence has left the city liable for its inaction.

 

Scott Schmidt
Scott Schmidt

Although the city adopted a crosswalk policy requiring the removal of crosswalks that are too close to signalized intersections, such as the ones at Palm and Holloway, when it came time for the City Council to actually remove any crosswalks, it refused to follow its own policy.

Improved signage, flashing beacons and other supplementary measures being considered by the city are inadequate solutions. They give pedestrians a false sense of security, and they do nothing to keep a steady stream of people crossing the street from holding up traffic.

West Hollywood should look to Los Angeles and its mid-block stop lights at crosswalks as the preferred solution for pedestrian safety. By making pedestrians wait for the signal to cross the light and forcing drivers to stop for a red light, we will minimize the chances that an inattentive motorist or wayward pedestrian causes an accident.

Some argue that such mid-block stop lights might slow down traffic, but that is not necessarily the case. Pedestrian traffic at some crosswalks can reach more than 100 people per hour–meaning someone is crossing the street every 30 seconds. Requiring pedestrians to wait for a signal will cluster the crossings, thereby minimizing pedestrian impacts on traffic.

To further reduce traffic impacts, the city can adopt Los Angeles’ SignalSync system, linking our traffic lights to computers monitoring real-time conditions.

At around $150,000 for a mid-block stop light, compared to $15,000 for flashing beacons, this solution does not come cheap–but we would not want a jury to decide the cost of city inaction that endangers human life.

We love West Hollywood for its urban village feel, its walkability and its creativity. We hope that the city will take swift and decisive action to maximize pedestrian safety at our crosswalks, regardless of the cost. With the right solutions, pedestrians and motorists can have confidence that West Hollywood is putting pedestrians and their safety first.

Lauren Meister is a former Public Safety and Planning commissioner and candidate for the West Hollywood City Council. Scott Olin Schmidt is a former West Hollywood Transportation Commissioner.


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wehoenthusiast
Guest
wehoenthusiast

Since WeHo is ranked as the most walkable city in California lets make it safe! More lighting on the street for public safety in and out of the crosswalks, but there seems to be some good ideas that people have. Personally like “real” lights, as in red! Will be an interesting city council meeting tonight so far its kinda vague, this is copied and pasted for item 4B on the agenda, just hope something is done soon. STATEMENT OF THE SUBJECT: Direct staff to install signalized crosswalk(s) on Santa Monica Boulevard between La Cienega Boulevard and San Vicente Boulevard, study… Read more »

Una
Guest
Una

Mid block lights were put in place over ten years in NYC around 30 Rock on Sixth Ave. This is on of the most congested areas of the city and clogged with tourists. It was a success. SMB is not even remotely as congested.

Don Azars
Guest

The proposal that we install FLASHING LIGHTS at ALL Crosswalks is a good idea and attention needs to be made to the visability of these lights….drivers with sun blinding them or the lights is a complaint by drivers (including me). As a very long term resident of WeHo, I’ve seen us progress wonderfully..we seem to have been DRAGGING OUR FEET on this issue and I don’t understand why. PLEASE MOVE FORWARD..due to my early call time I cannot attend the meeting tonight..but applaud ACTION and curse the dangerous darkness of inactivity.

Professor Shivers
Guest
Professor Shivers

This is JUST common SENSE, so THEY make sense: “West Hollywood should look to Los Angeles and its mid-block stop lights at crosswalks as the preferred solution for pedestrian safety. By making pedestrians wait for the signal to cross the light and forcing drivers to stop for a red light, we will minimize the chances that an inattentive motorist or wayward pedestrian causes an accident.”

John
Guest
John

Instead of a new grand staircase, please build pedestrian bridges at the mid street crosswalks, decrease the number of them and keep the traffic moving.

Also time the major intersection crosswalks with a few extra seconds to cross and stop Right on Red turns at the major intersections as well. Pedestrians, remember what we were taught at 5 years old, look both ways before crossing and put down the damn phone for 30 seconds while you cross 4 lanes of oncoming traffic. Lets do this.

paul
Guest
paul

I say we tax all cars driving on Santa Monica Blvd $5, and distribute all the money to 1) paint more crosswalks rainbow colored, 2) add *another* free bus service that moves intoxicated 60 year old men dressed like they are 20 from gay bar to gay bar and call it the Creative Fabulous Line, and 3) lower our rent which is excessively high thanks to greedy landlords!

Don Jones
Guest
Don Jones

This is very interesting insight into the reality of inside city hall that the average resident like me does not see. I completely agree with their recommendation to for the traffic light SignalSync system.

@Chris, I remember when Lauren Meister spoke out in 2010 when a pedestrian was killed crossing San Vicente. Don’t be such a hater. Positive thoughts lead to positive results.
http://www.wehonews.com/z/wehonews/pedestrian-struck-by-suv-in-critical-condition/

Bill
Guest
Bill

This issue will continue to get worse if we don’t get back to the basics. Im very surprise that more persons haven’t been hit…. I see it everyday in this city ..people walk directly in front of cars eating, texting, headphones etc. and NEVER look both ways at any intersection. We are adults taught as children to look both ways before crossing the street where ever we are city or rural areas. What does it take to become aware of our surrounding and do not walk in front of oncoming traffic with our heads in the air not paying any… Read more »

JESS
Guest
JESS

Simple solution, like the city of Santa Monica, Lighted crosswalks. Lights in the street. Lights on the signage. Every street intersection, including “T” intersections, On Santa Monica Blvd., Sunset Blvd. and Melrose Ave. that does not have a traffic signal. Those lights need to be RED. NOT YELLOW. People are trained to stop for RED, they push the envelope on YELLOW! They actually speed up to beat the Yellow! Which makes the impact even more serious! If there has been similar issues with the North South boulevards, then the same solution. WeHo is billed as a “walkable city”, so make… Read more »

Nickadoo
Guest
Nickadoo

@ Romanoff The major problem is that the risks of jaywalking aren’t much different than the risks involved with crossing in the perfectly legal, yet unsignaled crosswalks in their current state. If West Hollywood will make those crosswalks safer for pedestrians, we can potentially lessen the temptation to jaywalk in the first place. I realize that no solution is perfect, of course, but reasonable, necessary and cost-effective steps can and should be taken; and they should be taken sooner rather than later. If painting some warnings on the streets and/or adding a few lights and signs to these intersections can… Read more »

Lord Byron
Guest
Lord Byron

Simple solution: close SM Blvd to traffic between the hours of 10pm and 3am,cut off alcohol sales at 11pm, limit everyone to 2 drinks only, and have some Weho City Hall Staff (Kristin, Cory, Larissa, Lisa, Josh K.) work as crossing guards. Problem solved!

Romanoff
Guest
Romanoff

What does this do to address jaywalking, the REAL issue here. This expense does absolutely nothing to address the real problem.