Ask anyone smart enough to get off the tour bus at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and they will mention something many people don’t know about Los Angeles. This is a city made for walking. Albeit not along every street, but think about those stars on the sidewalk on Hollywood Boulevard. The fact is that the best way to see Hollywood, and countless other parts of the city, is on foot.
But that doesn’t mean walking doesn’t face an uphill battle getting the attention of policy makers, planners and others involved in shaping the built environment.
Enter urban designer Deborah Murphy, Safe Routes to School advocate Jessica Meaney and Alexis Lantz of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. Murphy, with the blessing of her sister complete streets advocates, recently started volunteer-driven Los Angeles Walks, to promote a more pedestrian-friendly Los Angeles. According to Murphy — though all of us are pedestrians to a greater or lesser degree — we have not been terribly well represented to date in the sprawling county we call home.
The group is holding a fund-raiser this Saturday night; details are after the jump.
When I spoke with Murphy about Los Angeles Walks, we kept the conversation focused on how every transit rider is a pedestrian. In turn this means addressing the so-called first mile, last mile problem — or how we get between the train and bus and our final destination.
For Murphy, promoting transit ridership goes hand-in-hand with having a good, safe trip to and from the bus stop or train station. The challenge for pedestrian improvements has been funding, with pedestrian projects receiving a fraction of the money allocated to road or transit construction. Less than one percent of the national transportation budget goes to pedestrians projects, according to Los Angeles Walks.
Murphy argues that the Los Angeles region needs to examine its funding priorities. “The money is there but the regional problem is it doesn’t go to pedestrians,” she says. In light of a spate of recent incidents in which pedestrians were either injured or killed by cars and trucks, Los Angeles Walks advocates for wider sidewalks and other changes to dangerous intersections.
Changing the culture to better acknowledge and serve pedestrians will mean drivers will no longer be able to think of pedestrians as an anomaly or an unexpected event at intersections and along the street. As Murphy asked me rhetorically, “How many times have the police heard a driver after hitting a pedestrians say, ‘I didn’t expect a pedestrian to be crossing there.’” According to Transportation for America, at 45 miles an hour a pedestrians has only a 15 percent chance of surviving being hit by a car.
In addition to focusing on better pedestrian connections to transit, Los Angeles Walks works for better pedestrian linkages throughout L.A.’s commercial districts and around schools and parks. As Murphy explains, “People don’t just shop on one side of the street. They shop and want to walk on both sides of the street.”
Tickets are going fast for Los Angeles Walk’s karaoke fundraiser this Saturday evening from 7 to 11 p.m. at Atwater Crossing at 3245 Casitas Avenue in Atwater Village. You can save money off the price at the door by purchasing tickets online.
For more information on the organization and its work, visit Los Angeles Walks.
“This is serious business but we want walking to be fun,” explains Murphy.