WeHo City Council Asks Staff to Develop Plan for Santa Monica Crosswalk Lights

crosswalk, pedestrian, clinton bounds
Scene of an accident on Aug. 23 in which Clinton Bounds was killed by a car while crossing Santa Monica Boulevard near Hancock. (Photo courtesy of Sergio Davila)

The West Hollywood  City Council addressed the controversial issue of pedestrian safety tonight by asking city staffers to develop a plan for installing stop lights at pedestrian crosswalks on Santa Monica Boulevard between San Vicente and La Cienega that would be synchronized with traffic lights.

The Council also asked the staff to study all of the city’s crosswalks to determine whether improvements were needed elsewhere, to study the usefulness and feasibility of reducing the speed limit on Santa Monica Boulevard, to consider improvements in the painting or marking of crosswalks and to collect more detailed information on pedestrian accidents.

The city staff study will be presented on Sept. 15 to a joint meeting of the city’s Transportation and Public Safety commissions.  Information from that meeting will go back to the Council on Oct. 6, when it will consider what action to take on the issue.

“Tonight West Hollywood took a big step toward improving our walkability and pedestrian safety,’ said Mayor John D’Amico. “Cities across the nation are struggling with the ways that new technologies, such as smart phones impact how we share public space. Distracted driving and, now, ‘distracted walking’ are very real concerns. Tonight’s decision will help us engineer better crosswalk solutions and educate community members about stepping up awareness when it comes to driving and walking on our city’s streets and crosswalks.”

Councilmember John Heilman, who joined D’Amico in asking the Council to consider installing synchronized crosswalk lights, said: “We are constantly looking for ways to make West Hollywood safe and accessible. This is just one option that we think can help with pedestrian safety without increasing traffic and gridlock.”

Crosswalk safety emerged as an issue in June, when a pedestrian was hit by a car while in a crosswalk on Santa Monica Boulevard near Westmount. Anger about pedestrian safety escalated late last month when Clinton Bounds, a well-known figure in West Hollywood’s gay bar community, was hit by a car and killed while trying to cross Santa Monica Boulevard at around 11 p.m. on a Saturday. While Bounds apparently was jaywalking when he was hit, residents staged a demonstration in a nearby crosswalk on Santa Monica Boulevard at Hancock to demand the city take action to improve crosswalk safety.

According to data from the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, there have been 16 pedestrian crosswalk accidents so far this year. There were 28 in 2012 and 22 last year. The majority of accidents occur in crosswalks with traffic stoplights, which was questioned by some speakers at tonight’s meeting. Steve Green, vice chair of the city’s Transportation Commission, noted that those crosswalks are at intersections with more pedestrian and automobile traffic, which likely explains why there are more accidents there.

The Council’s decision to ask for a study of pedestrian safety improvements and its decision to ask the Transportation and Public Safety commissions to study the matter was praised by some residents at the meeting. Ben Coleman of Keep WeHo Safe, a citizen safety group, said such a study was needed to make clear which of many options would be most effective.

But Larry Block, a candidate for City Council in the March 2015 election and an organizer of the citizen protest about the crosswalk accidents, complained that the city failed tonight to take immediate steps to improve safety.

“Now we’re going to do the same exact thing —  no temporary measures until someone else gets hit,” Block said. “This is a do-nothing City Council. All they do is study for two years.  They haven’t done a thing for crosswalk safety.

“Put the special event signs up,” he said, referring to lighted temporary signs that the city erects to warn drivers of street closing or traffic congestion related to special events. “Put a temporary monitor there until the study is done.  Now they want to address the entire city’s problems when 45 percent of the accidents occur on Santa Monica Boulevard. Shouuldn’t they address that first?”

In a press release, the city noted that it has taken a number of steps to address the crosswalk safety issue. In 2012, the city installed rectangular rapid flash beacons (RRFB) at the crosswalk on Santa Monica Boulevard near Westmount Drive. RRFB devices also were tested at two other unsignalized crosswalks: Santa Monica Boulevard at Orange Grove Avenue and Crescent Heights Boulevard at Norton Avenue. The city conducted before-and-after studies for the RRFB devices and improvements in safety were measured.

In February, the Council approved a staff recommendation to keep RRFB devices at the three test locations and voted to install additional RRFB devices on Santa Monica Boulevard. But city staff members decided to hold off on installation plans pending review of additional strategies for pedestrian safety. That decision was criticized tonight by Mayor D’Amico, who complained that City Manager Paul Arevalo failed to inform the Council of the decision to delay installation of the RRFB devices.

“As a Council, we were never told,” D’Amico said, adding that he was upset that a staff person would make a decision to delay an installation requested by the Council. “I think that’s a failure of this city to communicate with this Council. We are a part time body, and we can only do what we can do in a part time way. From my mouth, from my sense, that didn’t go right.”

Arevalo acknowledged that the city staff should have come back to the Council after receiving information that raised questions about whether the rapid beacon lights were the best solution. That solution was discussed at a mobility workshop in March attended by Council members and the Transportation Commission. Following that meeting, the city contracted with Fehr & Peers, transportation planning specialists, to evaluate options for improving pedestrian safety. The complete Fehr & Peers study will be presented at the Sept 15 joint meeting of the Transportation and Public Safety commissions.

0 0 vote
Article Rating

24 Comments
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Christopher Roth
5 years ago

Hey Mike you are correct many time pedestrians step into the crosswalk seemingly daring someone to hit them, or just plain not looking. I know this, I am a driver too. However, the law gives the pedestrians the right of way in the crosswalk as it currently stands. But with the new red light crosswalk, the pedestrians will not be allowed to step into the street until they receive a walk light signal. It’s a big step forward in controlling the endless stream of people crossing at their own will. Hopefully it will allow traffic to move better if they… Read more »

mike dunn
mike dunn
5 years ago

Christopher Roth
I am so tired of hearing about how it’s the motorist that is always at fault. Pedestrians walking into the street w/o looking seems to me to be the primary cause of accidents. Yes, the cars are supposed to stop and when they don’t they should be cited. But attempting to cross the street w/o making sure the vehicles are going to stop is plain stupid.

Christopher Roth
5 years ago

Mike. I am sorry if I was not clear. I may have been a bit too sarcastic. Glendale and Burbank have a ZERO talorence policy when i comes to crosswalks. Afternoon and evening patrol (even moving the redlight cameras) ensure that nobody is violating (drivers or pedestrians) the law. i used to work on Brand Blvd at Colorado and we would watch people getting pulled over at lunch. Most drivers know this when they travel thru Burbank or Glendale. So if we did the same the City could make lots of money from citing violators, and the public would learn… Read more »

mike dunn
mike dunn
5 years ago

All these wonderful ideas are not going to save anyone’s life if those crossing the street don’t use common sense and look both ways and wait until on coming vehicles make a complete stop.

Perhaps the answer is to hire crossing guards like those used at elementary schools to assist those who have never mastered the concept on how to cross the street safely.

SaveWeho
SaveWeho
5 years ago

The city could learn a lot from Burbank and Glendale. Like building parking garages with free parking so it encourages people to come and visit local businesses. That’s half the problem with the traffic. So many people are combing the streets in search of any kind of parking that won’t cost them $10-20…they ultimately hold up traffic. In the meantime you have distracted drivers looking for spots…it leads to poor driving.

Christopher Roth
5 years ago

It may be a good idea for city council to contact the city of Burbank or Glendale. Both are well known for crosswalk safety. Any given day you can get a ticket if you dont obey the crosswalk rules. Motorcycle police hide in alleys waiting to cite drivers and pedestrians. So how is it that people have come to learn to obey these rules? (rhetorical) The answer may make a best practice for out city which is similar in size and also within LA County. Oh by the way, the answer would not only make the city safer, but could… Read more »

Franz
Franz
5 years ago

SLOWING down cars is the number one thing you can do. SMB in WeHo is a pedestrian oriented stretch of street….no cars should be able to cruise near freeway speeds. You mix that with the nightlife and pedestrian activity and you are asking for trouble. Remove lanes, lower the speed limit if it is still above 25mph, and enforce it by giving speeding tickets. This will create a more pleasant surroundings for all involved, including bikers and pedestrians and increased business as people tend to linger more. If you think this will only increase the traffic.. . it’s too late… Read more »

Franz
Franz
5 years ago

SLOWING down cars is the number one thing you can do. SMB in WeHo is a pedestrian oriented stretch of street….no cars should be able to cruise near freeway speeds. You mix that with the nightlife and pedestrian activity and you are asking for trouble. Remove lanes, lower the speed limit if it is still above 25mph, and enforce it by giving speeding tickets. This will create a more pleasant surroundings for all involved, including bikers and pedestrians and increased business as people tend to linger more. If you think this will only increase the traffic.. . it’s too late… Read more »

90069
90069
5 years ago

Jaywalking is most definitely “an issue” ! Has the investigation confirmed if Clinton Bounds was actually in the crosswalk or was he breaking the law? I presume he was not as there has been no news of the driver being charged with a crime…

Lynn Russell
Lynn Russell
5 years ago

Thanks Chris, called when it was originally down and just noticed last night it had traveled downstream. Always happy to call for action and usually get it pretty promptly. No cursing the darkness.

wehoenthusiast
wehoenthusiast
5 years ago

I notice alot now driving (love walking but drive a few days a week) that since the trees have grown in the middle, and all the art work and everything coming up to a crosswalk it is difficult to see. Regardless of whether Clinton Bounds (he was a dear friend) did jay walk is not the issue. The lighting is terrible at night. I know where the crosswalks are but if you aren’t familiar with the city and people are in the middle, which from other comments say is the “safe” zone to then continue walking you can’t see people!… Read more »

Mike Dolan
Mike Dolan
5 years ago

Thank you ‘Wehoan Fed Up with the NIMBYs.’ I find clear truths a refreshing relief from the usual. I support and also see your solutions to be realistic problem solving to this problem of our small city. Resolutions for our city within the center of the 2nd largest city in the country are clearly stated and appreciated. Thanks and agree completely.

24
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x