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L.A. Could Get Some New Pedestrian-Friendly Diagonal Crosswalks In Downtown And Hollywood

A pedestrian scramble in Tokyo (Photo by Sean Pavone via Shutterstock)
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Mayor Eric Garcetti is pushing for more pedestrian-friendly, diagonal crosswalks at high-traffic intersections, starting with those near Metro stations. There already have a few of these diagonal crosswalks—known as "pedestrian scrambles" or "Barnes dances"—in parts of L.A., Beverly Hills and Pasadena, L.A. Times reports. Garcetti wants to first consider three intersections, all near Metro stations: 7th Street and Flower; Hollywood and Highland; and Aliso and Alameda.

Invented by Denver traffic engineer named Henry Barnes 70 years ago, the scrambles prevent cars from entering the entire intersection so that pedestrians can crisscross from corner to opposite corner, as opposed to crossing twice at 90 degree angles. They're pretty handy for pedestrians trying to catch a bus or move through high-traffic areas, and they're also safer for pedestrians. However, they do increase wait times for drivers and could lead to backups. Some pedestrians who are not used to them find them confusing.

L.A. has put in and removed diagonal crosswalks before, including 25 that were installed downtown after World War II and then removed after complaints. In 1995, L.A. dismissed the idea because there was too much traffic and streets were considered too wide for pedestrians to be able to cross in a reasonable amount of time. Mayor Villaraigosa advocated for diagonal crosswalks in 2008 and had 10 put installed; however, four of them that had been placed in the Fashion District were gone in two years. There are still two north of USC, two in Westwood Village, one in Venice and one in Woodland Hills.

L.A. Councilman Mike Bonin isn't a huge fan, saying he's witnessed backups at a scramble in Venice for both pedestrians and drivers. In Pasadena, however, one of the Old Town scrambles has alleviated backup formerly caused by cars waiting for pedestrians to cross, according to Bahaman Janka, Pasadena's transportation administer.

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Garcetti believes they're a good move when it comes to increasing L.A.'s walkability, something that is already on the rise.

Before we'll get any more diagonal crosswalks, the City Council will need to approve them.

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