Los Angeles Walks!

Los Angeles Walks!

This past weekend, a 24-year-old woman was fatally struck by a car as she crossed a street in my neighborhood. Although there are far too many accidents like this in LA, they always feel removed from my day-to-day life, like they’re on some foreign street in a distant neighborhood far across town. In this case, since it happened on a street where I regularly walk and ride, I really felt like this could have just as easily been me. While it shouldn’t take a tragic death to get Angelenos to care about pedestrian safety, it seems like this incident has particularly resonated with my neighbors. We all want to do something about it.

As more and more people choose to walk, bike or take transit, there will be more people on our sidewalks and crosswalks. Yet LA needs to undergo some drastic changes—both physically and behaviorally—to adjust to this new lifestyle. Our streets and sidewalks need to become our most prized spaces in the whole city: beautiful, clean, safe places that are designed for all Angelenos—and that includes Angelenos in strollers and wheelchairs, too. Even if we’re just walking to our cars, we’re still using those streets and sidewalks. We are all pedestrians.

That’s why the timing could not be better for the advocacy group Los Angeles Walks. Founded by the talented urban designer and tireless pedestrian advocate Deborah Murphy, Los Angeles Walks is a volunteer-driven organization that works to make walking safe, accessible and fun for all Angelenos. And a group that includes myself, Alexis Lantz, Jessica Meaney, Colleen Corcoran, Michelle Craven and Anthony Crump are now working with working with Deborah under a fiscal umbrella of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition to begin a local grassroots effort that supports everyone who walks in LA.

And how better to do that than with karaoke!?

On Saturday, April 21, we’re holding what I’m pretty sure is LA’s first-ever karaoke fundraiser for walking in LA. The event will be at the fantastic Atwater Crossing (ATX) and will feature karaoke hosted by KJ Paul. Food and drink will be available for purchase and some of LA’s most famous pedestrians (maybe even you?) will be belting out songs on the karaoke stage.

Please come out and sing your favorite songs about walking—yes, including that songand support walking in LA. Tickets start at just $10, but there are also ticket levels that include cool LA Walks buttons (Stroller, $20) and an LA Walks poster (Flâneur, $50). And if you donate more than $100, you’ll get one of the coolest incentives I’ve ever seen: A portrait of you as an LA walker (just like the walkers you see illustrated above) by the awesome Colleen Corcoran! Makes a great Mother’s Day gift!

I’m really looking forward to working with this group to make some real changes to the pedestrian environment, so I hope you’ll join us for a night celebrating the future of walking in LA. And be sure to walk there if you can! Let us know where you’re walking from and we can publicize your route so others can join you. Here’s the flyer with all the details, grab it as a jpg, or download it as a PDF. And see who’s going and invite your friends on Facebook.

Los Angeles Walks karaoke fundraiser!See you there!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=575833303 Meg Glasser

    I was there when the 24-year old girl was hit on Friday. It was absolutely horrible. My first thought was that the city failed her, her family and the man that hit her. If the city zones an area commercial or residential they should ensure that it can be safely accessed by those that want to use the space as such. Thanks for writing about this.

  • Alissa

    Oh Meg, that’s horrific! I can’t believe you had to witness that. I totally agree, as an honor to this woman’s legacy we need to get the speed limit lowered on that street. Thanks for commenting.

  • Lindsay Kavet

    How said that another person has to die due to someone driving a car. I’m astounded at the amount of people who die in car accidents daily in LA and yet it is not an issue. I’ve emailed and called TV producers and congressmen saying what if 50,000 people were dying in plane crashes or due to the toaster oven (equally unacceptable) yet we continue to think that the high amount of human casualities due to vehicles is a norm. Pisses me off to say the least. I’m glad that this advocacy groups, LA Walks, is alive. There are few advocacy groups our there with the main objective being for people to just drive with more care for human life. As a mom driving in LA I can tell you it’s terrifying. Driving on the freeway when you know, from basic drivers ed, that the car behind you is not following the 3 second rule and if an accident were to happen (spilled anything lately, tripped?) that car would ram right into me and possibly end the life of my children. Children I labored for around 18 hours with, carried for 9. Oh boy. What a task at hand Alissa. Glad you are on it and have brought light to pedestrian safety. Have you seen the yellow warning signs of outlines of mothers holding their kids and running? Streets such as Venice and La Brea, where the streets are really long are particularly dangerous.

  • http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/yulelog/ Yule Heibel

    Horrifying, and so sad.

    Apposite to this, Atlantic Cities just ran an article by Sarah Goodyear, “The Invention of Jaywalking,” on the change of attitudes toward pedestrians (and drivers who kill pedestrians).
    QUOTE
    Browse through New York Times accounts of pedestrians dying after being struck by automobiles prior to 1930, and you’ll see that in nearly every case, the driver is charged with something like “technical manslaughter.” And it wasn’t just New York. Across the country, drivers were held criminally responsible when they killed or injured people with their vehicles.

    So what happened? And when?

    According to Peter Norton, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia and the author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City, the change is no accident (so to speak). He has done extensive research into how our view of streets was systematically and deliberately shifted by the automobile industry, as was the law itself.

    “If you ask people today what a street is for, they will say cars,” says Norton. “That’s practically the opposite of what they would have said 100 years ago.”
    UNQUOTE
    http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2012/04/invention-jaywalking/1837

    A couple of years ago I attended one of Gordon Price’s lectures – he writes Pricetags in Vancouver BC. Gordon described the creation of “Motordom” wherein automobile traffic becomes “normal,” while pedestrians are hedged, regulated, and even criminalized (via jaywalking fines). (See http://pricetags.wordpress.com/2010/05/05/motordom-defined/) We now take it as a “natural” state of affairs that pedestrians have to watch out for cars, vs drivers watching out for pedestrians. We still make the same mistakes, even in cities (like Victoria BC, where I used to live) that trumpet a commitment to multi-modal transportation. But when push comes to shove, more room for cars remains the ne plus ultra, something I criticized on my blog, here: http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/yulelog/2010/04/08/congestion-is-our-friend/

    Finally, check out Charles Marohn’s devastating critique of roads (at the expense of “multi-modal” and pedestrian streets) in this TEDx talk: The important difference between a road and a street
    http://bettercities.net/video/15370/important-difference-between-road-and-street Marohn looks at how expensive our propensity for roads is.

    If all of these critiques were better known and influenced public policy, maybe we could also stem the tide of people getting killed by drivers.

    (On an unrelated note: I went to both your Creative Cities presentations in Portland OR, Alissa, which I really enjoyed very much – at the end of the 2nd one held at ADX, we chatted briefly. I hope to see events like this in the city I’m moving to next, Boston. When I was last there, 2 years ago, it was clear that cars still rule in Beantown, but here’s hoping that there, too, greater walkability is making ‘inroads,’ as it were…)

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