Those Intense West Hollywood Crosswalks Signs Are Working (But There's A Catch)
Have you spotted the intense crosswalk enhancements on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, with those fluorescent yellow warning signs in the middle of the street? Well, it looks like they are working. WeHo by the Numbers analyzed a chunk of data from the City of West Hollywood, and found that there has been a 76 percent change in the average number of pedestrian-related collisions per month at the mid-block crosswalks since the signs were installed.
The vertical warning signs, or "paddles" as they are known in the city, were installed in the middle of 10 unsignalized crosswalks on Santa Monica Boulevard in January 2015. Their prominent in-between-lanes placement forces cars to slow down, and large black text reminds motorists that state law requires them to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks. Those 10 crosswalks accounted for 13 percent of the city's collisions involving pedestrians before the signs were installed, and a mere five percent of West Hollywood's pedestrian-related collisions once the signs were in place. According to a staff report on crosswalk safety given to the West Hollywood City Council earlier this month, there were a total of 12 pedestrian-related collisions at those ten intersections during 2013 and 2014; there have only been two pedestrian-related collisions at the mid-block crosswalks in the year-and-a-half since the signs were installed in January 2015.
The in-street warning signs are part of a larger medley of pedestrian safety measures that the City of West Hollywood launched in October 2014, following the deaths of three pedestrians in as many years. WeHoVille reports that outcry over the August 2014 death of 62-year-old Clinton Bounds, a beloved long-time West Hollywood resident who was struck by a car crossing Santa Monica Boulevard, helped spur the city into action.
Along with the aforementioned in-street paddles, the city's short-term pedestrian safety measures also included their epic "Wink, Then Walk" ads—where a sexy, shirtless man at a crosswalk urges you to "make eye contact with drivers before you cross the street"—and their splashy "Alice in WeHoLand" crosswalk safety PSA, among other efforts (the rainbow crosswalks at Santa Monica and San Vicente Boulevard have been there since 2012). The City of West Hollywood also purchased ads for their mobile safety efforts on apps such as Grindr, because the City of West Hollywood is the best. According to the staff report, West Hollywood saw an overall 30 percent decrease in pedestrian-related collisions from 2014 to 2015, in correlation with their pedestrian safety campaign. Those are strong numbers, though obviously not as dramatic as the figures at the ten mid-street crosswalks that got signs. So why aren't we putting those in-street signs everywhere?
Because asshole drivers keep hitting them. That same staff report reveals that despite the fact that "the paddles serve the intended purpose of increasing awareness to the crosswalks and pedestrians," the city won't be recommending expanding the program because "they have been damaged by passing motorists and require daily repair and replacement to remain effective," which requires "extensive resources." We don't know exactly how much West Hollywood paid for the signs, but a little internet searching puts their cost somewhere in the ballpark of $500, give or take (and not including manpower hours for installation). Which, as a one-time cost, is wildly cheaper than installing a traffic signal, but those numbers scale way up when you add in maintenance, which West Hollywood Facilities and Field Services Manager Steve Campbell tells LAist is basically "24/7."
Campbell estimates that total maintenance costs for the ten paddle signs—including staff time, vehicle usage, the cost of message boards (the city also places traffic message boards alerting drivers to the crosswalk at some of the locations), and replacement materials for the signs, posts, bases and ties—ends up averaging an estimated $130,000 to $140,000 a year.
So, what now? Six of the ten crosswalks with paddles will be upgraded with permanent improvements, with four set to be signalized and two replaced by new mid-block pedestrian signals.