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Transportation and Mobility

Who Could Have Predicted This? Drivers On The 6th Street Bridge Are Behaving Badly

6 cars drive across a bridge with arches on both sides of it. In the distance is the Downtown Los Angeles skyline with high rises and office buildings.
Some motorists are making the bridge a backdrop for dangerous behavior.
(Ryan Fonseca
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It seems like only yesterday I was reporting about street safety concerns on Los Angeles’ new 6th Street Viaduct. Oh hey, it was yesterday!

Since the bridge opened to the public on July 10, it’s been getting a lot of traffic — from pedestrians, cyclists, and of course, drivers. Inevitably, some motorists are making the bridge a backdrop for dangerous behavior, like blocking traffic to do donuts or burning out on the crowded road.

On Monday night, one driver christened the bridge with a very public crash and shut the road down as a result. According to the LAPD's Central Traffic Division, someone driving a white Dodge Challenger was traveling westbound on the bridge and doing burnouts at about 10:20 p.m.

On-scene video making the social media rounds shows what happened next. The driver picked up speed but lost control, veered into the opposite lanes and collided into two other cars (head-on into one and sideswiping the other) then rolled forward into the bike lane and hit the concrete barrier protecting the pedestrian walkway. The car he hit head-on ended up partially in the bike lane on the other side of the road.

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The offending driver then abandoned his car and fled the scene. No one was seriously hurt in the crash, according to Lt. Andrew Cullen of the LAPD’s Central Traffic Division. The Challenger was impounded, he added, and police are investigating it as a misdemeanor hit-and-run, plus an “exhibition of speed.”

Speaking with Larry Mantle on our newsroom's public affairs show AirTalk (which airs on 89.3 FM) on Wednesday morning, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said police identified a 30-year-old man as the suspected driver.

Later Wednesday, police officials announced that the suspect had been arrested. He walked into LAPD's Central Bureau station and admitted to be being the driver of the car, according to a press release.

The driver has been charged with exhibition of speed, misdemeanor hit-and-run, reckless driving, and lying to police officers, police said.

In the short time the viaduct has been open, car traffic has created some safety issues, Cullen noted, especially with the number of drivers stopping in vehicle lanes for a photo op. That’s led to police closing the bridge at least twice, citing street takeovers.

“People want to take pictures on it because it's beautiful,” he told LAist, “but what can end up happening is it starts creating some pretty severe traffic problems and it becomes unsafe for bicyclists trying to utilize the bridge.”

Lt. Cullen expects traffic will normalize on the bridge once some of the hype dies down. In the meantime, LAPD patrols are increasing on and near the bridge to “dissuade” dangerous driving, he said.

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For Cullen, there’s no mystery to why people decide to make such risky decisions behind the wheel. He summed it up as a misguided attempt to “garner a bunch of attention.”

“People want to go out there and they want to see and be seen in their cars. And some people foolishly think that burning out your tires or doing things like that will garner more attention for themselves … That's just a really unsafe way to do it. The infrastructure is not built for that. This is a bridge to move people. We have pedestrians, we have bicyclists on this bridge — it's patently unsafe to do so.”

I spent most of last week asking cyclists and city officials about safety concerns on the bridge — particularly how much protection plastic posts and rubber strips offer people on bikes from a speeding hunk of metal. A spokesperson from L.A.’s Department of Transportation told me the “protected” bike lanes were designed to be “permeable” so that vehicles can access them in an emergency.

With this fresh demonstration of just how easily a driver can enter the bike lane (and shut down the whole roadway in the process), I hoped to get more clarity from LADOT, the city’s Bureau of Engineering and Caltrans — which all have some form of jurisdiction over the bridge — on how any potential safety upgrades would work moving forward.

I posed the same question to all three agencies: Which department is responsible for the bike lanes on the 6th Street bridge and has the power to upgrade them?

Much like the bridge bike infrastructure itself, there were some gaps in their responses.

A BOE spokesperson first told me plainly: “LADOT and Caltrans.”

A Caltrans spokesperson said: “This would be something for the city to pursue.”

LADOT then sent a joint statement with BOE, writing: “Any future changes to the bike lane design would be determined by LADOT in collaboration with BOE and Caltrans within the constraints of the viaduct’s current design.”

The bridge hijinks aren’t limited just to car drivers. Some pedestrians have been spotted up on the large concrete arches of the viaduct and one skateboarder landed one of the riskiest kickflips you'll ever see.

What questions do you have about the 6th Street Bridge?

Updated July 20, 2022 at 3:39 PM PDT
This story has been updated with more information on the suspect's arrest and charges against him.
Updated July 20, 2022 at 2:22 PM PDT
This story has been updated to include news that the suspect has been arrested.
Updated July 20, 2022 at 10:52 AM PDT
This story has been updated with new comments from LAPD Chief Michel Moore about the suspect in the hit-and-run crash on the viaduct.