Today 10 of the 12 candidates for three seats on the West Hollywood City Council offer their responses to questions raised by West Hollywood residents about pedestrian safety (two candidates, Christopher Landavazo and Tristan Schukraft, did not respond). Each week through Feb. 23 we will publish one or more questions raised by readers of WEHOville and the candidates’ responses. Candidates spoke to their qualifications for the Council on Jan. 12 and addressed traffic concerns on Jan. 14. They explained their positions on parking issues on Jan. 19.
Question 4: What should the city do to improve the safety of pedestrians, specifically:
a) Should West Hollywood ban all bicycle riding on sidewalks?
All bicycle riding should not be banned on sidewalks. There should be legal operation of bicycles on the sidewalk with requirements imposed. Those limits would be a requirement to yield to pedestrians, limited speed and provide audible warnings before passing a pedestrian. There are many reasons that bicyclists belong in the road rather than upon sidewalks, including obstructions, unpredictable pedestrian movements, limited visibility and the limited design speed of sidewalks. However there may be appropriate times to ride on a sidewalk or crosswalk, such as when crossing an unsafe high-speed roadway or when the skill or ability of the rider is not suited for the adjacent roadway, as can be the case with children.
I’m visually impaired, and my problem with bicycles on the sidewalk is they startle you coming from behind. While bicycles need a safe place to get from place to place it should not be at the expense of pedestrians. Monthly traffic reports show about 20 percent of all the accidents, car to people, bicycle to people and bicycle to car, include a bicycle. Yet, cars outnumbering bicycles — 500 to one or more. We can do better.
I’m also the founder of CrossSafe WeHo and was the first ones to advocate for the pedestrian safety zones. But we have to connect the dots to bicycle safety, pedestrian safety, and allow the bicyclist to get from one end of town to the other.
On sidewalks along stretches of road that do not have a bicycle land and require use of sidewalk, the sidewalks should be clearly painted to let pedestrians know this is a “shared sidewalk.”
Last month we had the lowest number of vehicle-to-pedestrian and vehicle-to-bicycle accidents in over a year. The number was three car/pedestrian and one car/bicycle accident. The pedestrian safe zones are working. Those stats are down from a total of 20 the month before and between 20 and 35 incidents in each of the other months of last year.
In West Hollywood bicycles are not allowed on the sidewalks on streets with sharrows (traffic lanes marked to indicate that cyclists may share them) and bike lanes. The city should increase the network of secondary street bikeways, allowing for safe riding and moving more bike traffic off of our sidewalks. This Spring’s update to the city’s mobility plan will address these issues in greater detail.
I will work to move more bicycles onto the roadways overall with fewer bikes allowed on the sidewalks. Here is a link to the L.A. County Bike Smart rules http://la-bike.org/sites/default/files/Websitefiles/LACBC_Bike_Smart_Rules_of_the_Road.pdf. And here is the link to West Hollywood information about riding on the sidewalk.
I also initiated the employee bike sharing program. It may be 18 months before we see a regional bike share program for the Westside cities, and because of that, I have been working on a WeHo bike plan to provide up to 500 bicycles, one to each city resident who commits to running two errands a week on his or her bicycle. That would mean a reduction of 2,000 car trips per week or 8,000 per month. This would mean a reduction of as many as 100,000 car trips per year. It is this kind of smart circulation policy that a new Council will bring to the city if we elect people who are really interested in making the changes we need to see.
WeHo cyclists know to ride in the street where bike lanes are indicated. However, the lanes are not continuous. Other WeHo streets have signs reminding cyclists to be respectful and share the sidewalk.
Some years back, I read a local interview with the WeHo bike police, asking them if they ride in the street. The paraphrased answer was, “Are you crazy, those drivers are homicidal. We stay on the sidewalk.”
I biked 3,000 miles last year in WeHo and environs, and I follow the advice of the bike police.
Yes. While we want to do everything we can to encourage alternative forms of transport — walking, carpooling, biking — we still have to ensure the safety of pedestrians. We need to open up as many bike lanes as possible precisely because we cannot have bicyclists and pedestrians clashing on our sidewalks.
We have tried to balance the competing needs of cyclists and the pedestrians by banning bicycles on sidewalks where there is already a bike lane. Bicycles on sidewalks can be dangerous especially for seniors and people with disabilities. But we also want to encourage people to cycle to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. A complete ban on bikes on sidewalks discourages people from cycling. Rather than banning bicycles on sidewalks, we need to increase our efforts to promote safety and co-existence. This can be done by educational efforts as wells as by citing anyone who is endangering others on the sidewalks or roads.
Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to have separate lanes for pedestrians, bicyclists, cars, and skateboarders. We need to make sure that everyone is safety conscious and respectful to others using the roads and sidewalks.
Yes, While we need more and improved lanes and biking infrastructure, especially in mid-city and Eastside areas of Santa Monica Boulevard, bikes on sidewalks endanger pedestrians. My goal in initiating the bicycle task force and supporting other measures to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians was to come up with a plan to meet the needs and safety of everyone.
Yes. I believe bicycle riding on sidewalks is a hazard for both pedestrians as well as the bicyclists themselves.
This is a difficult question, and one where we must work to find a balance. Banning all bicycles on sidewalks creates a hazard for children, who should not be forced to ride on streets like Santa Monica Boulevard.
Yet I believe that allowing bicycle riding on sidewalks is a hazard to pedestrians. Where there are bike lanes and we do ban bicycles on sidewalks, the law is difficult to enforce. If we want to encourage use of bicycles over vehicles, then let’s make our streets safer for bicycles.
In the meantime, let’s look at how bike-friendly cities like Amsterdam find a balance and mark shared sidewalk resources in order to encourage safe sharing of sidewalks.
Not yet. Sometimes it’s not safe to ride on streets. It has to be at the biker’s discretion. Of course, they need to ride very slowly or walk their bikes on the sidewalks if they need to be there.
I’ve frequently seen the West Hollywood Sheriff’s bike patrol riding on the sidewalk, which I find ironic because I’ve seen them hassle and ticket bikers who had no other option on many occasions, including one famous YouTube video.
Making cycling lanes safe is one of the main issues we should focus on in the new Council.
People should ride on the street whenever possible. But we shouldn’t ticket them and ruin their day if they have to jump onto the sidewalk and ride slowly for a bit to avoid getting killed by a vehicle.
I’ve ridden my bike in this city, and it is currently not the best.
b) Should West Hollywood reduce the number of pedestrian crosswalks on major thoroughfares such as Santa Monica Boulevard?
I believe West Hollywood should reduce the number of pedestrian crosswalks after careful study as to which ones seek attention. In particular two crosswalks which I believe can be dangerous are at Palm Avenue and Hancock Avenue on Santa Monica Boulevard where one resident was killed last year. They are very close to each other, and there are two stoplights already very close by. I think it is better to walk a little more to a stoplight than risk a crosswalk.
We need to look at crosswalks on a case-by-case basis. Some crosswalks can be eliminated. I advocated for the West Knoll crosswalk to be removed. A compromise on Orange Grove left a lot of people unhappy with the shifting of that crosswalk. I’m the only candidate (well actually the only person at all) who attended the work sessions on the update to the crosswalks with the sub-committee and city staff. My promise is to bear down on Public Safety and have an accident free month in 2015. We can do it!
Crosswalk safety is very important. Yet too many of us do not follow the simple rules of the road when crossing: Stop. Look. And Listen. And wait for all the cars to stop before stepping out into the road. It is the law that cars must stop for pedestrians, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.
I do not think we should reduce the number of crosswalks. Let’s make it easier for local businesses: It’s good for businesses and the city when customers can easily get to a place to shop. I do think we should improve the technology along the street including putting in signalized crosswalk stoplights. In addition, we need to continue to communicate to people about pedestrian safety, meeting them where they are at. “Lesson in Modern Hieroglyphics” (Nov. 11, 2014), an article about my official crosswalk safety press release written in emoji to engage with the younger people in WeHo, was in the Los Angeles Times.
No. I think those crosswalks greatly contribute to the safety of pedestrians.
We need to make it easier, not more difficult, for people to cross safely on major thoroughfares. A lack of crosswalks will only lead to more jaywalking, which will eventually lead to more pedestrians being struck by cars. We just need to make our crosswalks safer by ensuring that they have signals and are well lit for nighttime traffic. Even if it slows traffic slightly on Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards, there is nothing more important than protecting the lives of our citizens.
In some places we may need to consolidate crosswalks to reduce the risk to pedestrians. We recently took action to explore consolidating two crosswalks that are close to one another to increase pedestrian safety and ease the impact on vehicular traffic.
Yes, but only if this is done in conjunction with other changes. Consolidating select crosswalks to encourage safer pedestrian crossing helps to address some of the pedestrian safety issues I have seen as a Transportation Commissioner. However, this CANNOT be the only solution. Increased lighting, signage and community education are critical to pedestrian safety.
No. I don’t believe that’s the answer. I think installing mid-block stop lights connected to the regional SignalSync system is the way to go in terms of ensuring the protection of our citizens.
West Hollywood should incorporate mid-block stoplights 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 stoplights 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.
Crosswalks located on major thoroughfares that do not have a stoplight will continue to be a hazard. We should eliminate unnecessary crosswalks.
Definitely not. We need to commission a basic study to find the best balance between crosswalks and traffic lights. I’m not a scientist but here’s how I have thought it out:
During peak driving hours it would make sense to coordinate red lights, meaning when cars are stopped, with a walk signal for pedestrians to cross the street.
This would of course be combined with flashing lights traversing the street on every crosswalk coupled with signals so cars know they need to stop. This is the only way to ensure a safe crossing and should have been done long ago.
This would keep traffic flowing and ensure safe crossing. Outside of peak driving times, each crosswalk should have a button on each side of the street that will activate the flashing lights across the entire street and stop traffic for anyone who wants to cross – probably synched with a timer that would not allow the crosswalks to be constantly illuminated and block traffic for long periods of time, so you could safely cross the street every minute or so kind of like at a normal intersection.
c) Should the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station more vigorously enforce jaywalking laws, ticketing violators?
I don’t think they have to enforce the laws more vigorously but not to ignore violations when seen and not take time away from any crime prevention.
Yes and yes, and throw in one more yes. We should have signage at all crosswalks that explain the penalties for not obeying the rules and move forward to our dream of a city that is the safest city to take a walk. We can also paint warnings signs on the ground at each crosswalk. Let’s get creative.
I am never in favor of punishment over education. However, there is a place for enforcement, especially if it includes warnings from officers instead of tickets. This would be an opportunity for our Sheriff’s department to be in the community and to participate in teaching and implementing crosswalk and driver safety.
We all see people jaywalking and walking into the crosswalk before the cars are stopped just as we watch cars zoom by seemingly unaware of the pedestrian waiting to cross. The stop, look and listen rule is the best prevention for any kind of pedestrian accident.
Yes, even though I must sheepishly admit I received such a ticket years ago crossing Fairfax from the Russian Ralphs to the post office. To double my criminality, I was pushing a purloined shopping cart which had a wobbly wheel. I saw the cop before I embarked. The wheel impeded my progress and I did not make it across in the allotted 25 seconds. The officer bellowed over his loudspeaker, “Pull that rig over.”
I complied. As I reached the curb, some apples fell out. He helped me pick them up and gave me a $54 ticket. I have learned my lesson and have not bought apples since.
While I certainly do not want to encourage more ticketing in West Hollywood, we need to curb jaywalking to help keep both pedestrians and motorists safe. Firstly, we need to build more crosswalks to remove the incentive to jaywalk. Additionally, if we are going to have increased enforcement of jaywalking, I would propose a two- to three-month “grace” period where Sheriff’s deputies would issue warnings rather than punitive fines before actual ticketing would begin. This would give the public time to understand the new focus on preventing jaywalking without being monetarily penalized.
I don’t think we need to increase enforcement. We should enforce primarily when someone jaywalking creates a risk to others in the community. Jaywalking should not be a high priority. Our law enforcement resources should be allocated to preventing, reducing and solving violent crimes and crimes against property in West Hollywood. While we shouldn’t ignore other violations that affect our quality of life, we do not need to launch a major enforcement campaign against jaywalkers.
No. While several of the pedestrian accidents we’ve seen in the past 18 months have happened when people were not crossing in designated crosswalks, we need to become a community that takes responsibility for our actions and educate ourselves about how to be safer pedestrians.
Enforcement for pedestrian safety should focus primarily on vehicular infractions, when cars do not stop at crosswalks. Focusing too much on enforcing jaywalking feels like we are blaming the victims. However, the city should continue to attempt to educate our citizens — e.g., by including pedestrian safety information in all city mailings and the occasional crosswalk “checkpoints” to make sure our pedestrians are paying attention.
That said, our Sheriff’s deputies should be out and walking on our commercial streets in addition to being in patrol cars and bikes. We need to have Sheriff’s deputies walking on our commercial streets as a deterrent to other criminal activity like robbery and assault. Then they could also be on the lookout for the most hazardous, mid-block jaywalking offenses and enforce those.
Absolutely not. Once elected, one of my biggest priorities will be to make sure the Sheriff’s deputies start focusing on serving and protecting, and not ticketing.
When a Sheriff’s deputy tickets a member of our community for something innocuous all it does is suck money out of the community and give it back to the county and state, who in turn respond by taxing us for more cops. It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s robbing cities like ours blind all across the country. It’s become a way for the state to subvert tax brackets, because they know that no matter how safe the driver, we’re all going to be popped for a ticket of some kind in the next few years.
That’s not why we pay them. We pay them to protect us, and if the Sheriff’s Department isn’t open to reform on this we should look into terminating our contract with them immediately.
Since we contract our law enforcement through the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, we don’t see any revenue from these tickets, outside of a small percentage from the red light cameras – which I find to be an obnoxious Orwellian presence, and I will work to rid the city of them right away, especially because they provide a miniscule portion of revenue that could be made up other ways.
I don’t think revenue should ever be tied to law enforcement in the first place, but this doesn’t make sense on both counts because there is no revenue. If we allow them to start ticketing people for jaywalking the Sheriff’s deputies will abuse it and begin ticketing people prudently crossing the street because the hand started blinking on the crosswalk sign already or whatever other reason they want.
It is a waste of money. The amount of that fine will be less a resident or visitor will have to spend in a local bar or restaurant, and will deter people from visiting our city because they got really irritated last time they came. I believe this is already happening to a degree because of their presence.
Why pay the Sheriffs Department to fine us? It makes no sense, and history has shown once they are given this directive they see it as a source of revenue for their department and not as a means of serving or protecting.
d) In additional to installing stoplights synchronized with those at intersections, what else can the city do to improve pedestrian safety, especially during weekend nights in the Westside bar and nightclub area of Santa Monica Boulevard?
I believe we should extend the PickUp shuttle to maybe longer hours during weekend nights into the Westside bar and nightclub area of Santa Monica Blvd. I would also urge for more Sheriff Department patrols along the boulevard, especially around closing time for many of the bars and nightclubs.
As you all might know my store is located in the heart of the nightlife on Santa Monica Boulevard. There are thousands of people on the weekends but no sign of additional sheriff protection. On the weekend nights we should have a crosswalk monitor to help guide the traffic at the main intersections of Santa Monica and Robertson boulevards and Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards to start. The stretch of road on Santa Monica from Doheny to La Cienega is the most dangerous stretch of road in the city, accounting for just under 10 percent of our vehicle/pedestrian accidents and probably 80 percent of the deaths experienced on the crosswalks. The presence of monitors or using our Block by Block volunteers will have significant impact on reducing accidents and near-misses.
At night I believe the city should lower the speed limit to 25 miles per hour in our entertainment districts along Santa Monica, Melrose and Sunset Boulevards.
Next, we need to install permanent LOOK signage and I am glad to see that the portable lane splitting signs that I insisted on have been installed at every Santa Monica Boulevard crosswalk to help slow traffic. This is a test intervention and will require maintenance. They are working and I believe they will reduce the number of traffic accidents. I would like to see them installed on Melrose, Crescent Heights, Beverly and Fountain
Finally, as the question implies, the city is moving forward with the installation of the signalized crosswalks as soon as the roadway engineering is complete in 2015.
As always, I am interested in your ideas on how we can improve safety. Give me a call/text 310.498.5783 or email me at email@example.com
Install signs from the London subway system which tell people to “Mind the Gap.” It will confuse the hell out of them and cause folks to watch where they are going.
The most important thing we can do to improve pedestrian safety at night is to make sure that all of our crosswalks feature some type of flashing light system. This is the most effective way to draw a driver’s attention to the pedestrian, decreasing the likelihood that they will hit them.
We should evaluate whether it makes sense to put in an all-way pedestrian crossing, particularly at Robertson and Santa Monica on the weekend in the evening. This location often has a large number of people crossing Santa Monica making it difficult for Robertson traffic to safely turn.
We recently installed new pavement markers at crosswalks in an effort to slow vehicles down and increase the awareness that someone may be crossing. We have already noticed a decrease in traffic speeds approaching these crosswalks. We will continue to evaluate them in the upcoming year.
Better lighting, increased signage and community education are essential to pedestrian safety in West Hollywood. I am an advocate for in-road crosswalk lighting, such as in Santa Monica Boulevard or at Cedars-Sinai, in addition to overhead signals. Better, brighter street lights – especially at pedestrian crossings – need to be combined with regular maintenance of plants in the median to increase visibility. And creating safer pick-up/drop-off zones for people using alternate transportation or a designated driver
As I mentioned above, I think mid-block stoplights are the way to go in terms of improving pedestrian safety. I also think making permanent the new signage the city recently installed would be a positive step, in addition to the social media campaign that the city has started. All those factors together make a big difference.
“Pedestrian safety zone” signage and public relations campaigns are good interim measures, but the truth is we need to address our infrastructure and how it relates to pedestrian safety. For example, we need better lighting on our streets and particularly at our crosswalks. We need to look at our medians and remove those things that interfere with a driver’s line of sight.
Until we make these important changes, perhaps the “Block by Block” crew that we’ve hired for additional public safety in that area may need to be deployed as “old-school “ crossing guards.
Illuminate the crosswalks. Install stop lights that drivers can see so they know when they’re supposed to stop.