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WeHo Will Be Getting Much-Needed New Signals At Deadly Crosswalks

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Santa Monica Blvd. in WeHo (Photo by Mark Luethi via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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Yesterday, WeHo city council members voted unanimously to install signaled crosswalk lights on Santa Monica Boulevard to improve pedestrian safety. The plan involves new traffic lights being installed between San Vicente Boulevard and La Cienega Boulevard, KTLA reports.

Currently, the crosswalks are merely painted lines on the ground where drivers are supposed to slow down and check for pedestrians. There are no lights that tell drivers to stop. With the brisk traffic on Santa Monica Boulevard, that isn't enough to protect pedestrians: drivers do not always slow or stop when approaching the crosswalks, and pedestrians aren't always paying attention. The new plan would install timed stoplights at crosswalks instead. This way, drivers would get a red light and have to stop, and pedestrians could safely cross then.

Residents at Monday evening's city council meeting expressed concern over the 83 pedestrians who have been hit by cars since January of 2001. Three of those pedestrians were killed, including 62-year-old Clinton Bounds, who was killed last month crossing Santa Monica Boulevard near Hancock. That particular intersection is considered one of the most dangerous in the city. While it was agreed that a flashing light would be installed there, it never was due to what the city called a "gap in communication."

In addition to the light that was never installed, there have been other breakdowns. In 2012, flashing beacons were installed at Santa Monica Boulevard and Westmount Drive, WeHoVille reports. These are simply yellow signs on the sides of the street with flashing lights that are activated when a pedestrian who wants to cross presses a button. The lights are supposed to alert the drivers to the presence of a pedestrian crossing the street, but they are not stop signals. This video explains how they work:

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The flashing beacons were also tested on Santa Monica and Orange Grove Avenue, and Crescent Heights Boulevard and Norton Avenue. Studies indicated that the painted crosswalks were safer with the lights, so in February, the Council approved a recommendation to keep the test lights and install more. However, city staff managers decided to wait until more reviews came in, but never told the Council they were waiting, upsetting Mayor John D'Amico.

"I think that's a failure of this city to communicate with this Council," he said. "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."

The city has contracted with Fehr & Peers, transportation planning specialists who will conduct a study on the area and present the results on September 15 at a joint meeting of the Transportation and Public Safety Commissions. The council will have a meeting with that information on October 6. The study will apply to all of WeHo's crosswalks, consider whether the speed limit on Santa Monica Boulevard should be reduced and if painting or crosswalk markings should be changed.