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Why Isn’t LA Committed to Making the City’s Mean Streets Safe for Our Kids?

RETHINKING LA-Two weeks ago, 11-year old twin sisters Sydney and Alexis were hit by an 82 year-old motorist as they attempted to cross the busy intersection of Moorpark and Colfax, sending both girls to the hospital with severe injuries. (Link)
The incident prompted much wailing and gnashing of teeth from community members who came down on both sides of the issue, some calling for traffic calming and others suggesting that children need to learn the rules of the road.

As is the tradition with incidents such as this, the outpouring of concern over LA’s mean streets and the need to make them safer for our most vulnerable members of the community faded and was quickly replaced by grumbling over traffic congestion and the lack of parking.

As for the short-lived debate over the need to calm traffic vs. the need to teach children the rules of the road, both sides are correct. The tragic incident in Studio City is another call to action, one that could have been addressed and probably prevented if the City of LA were to put a premium on Safe Routes to School.

There are two Safe Routes to School programs. One is a Federal program that provides $1 million per project for physical infrastructure improvements and $500K for education and encouragement projects. The other is a State program that provides $500K million per project for physical infrastructure improvements.

The deadline for applications for this year’s State Safe Routes to School program is today. If the City of Los Angeles were sincere about making its streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists, transit passengers, and motorists, the LADOT would be tendering a full portfolio of applications in an effort to claim our fair share of funding. But that is not the case.

The City of Los Angeles has a long history of underperforming when it comes to qualifying for Safe Routes to School funding, stirring complaints that it does not get its fair share, even prompting LA’s leadership to lobby Sacramento for special consideration.

This scenario is reminiscent of the story, told in many versions, of the pious believer who rose every day, early in the morning, went to church where he lit a candle and prayed “Please God, please, please, please let me win the lottery!” This went on for months and finally a miracle happened. A voice boomed out “Please, please, please go and buy a ticket!”

Year after year, the City of Los Angeles complains about not getting its fair share of federal and state funding, yet it regularly fails to turn in competitive applications that justify funding success.

The LADOT has a long tradition of turning in hastily assembled applications that come with the excuse, “We had no time to prepare, we were caught off-guard!’ This cycle of non-performance dates back to the days when Wendy Greuel chaired the City Council’s Transportation Committee and Gloria Jeff was General Manager. The faces change but the excuses stay the same.

Los Angeles is not serious about making its streets safer for children and the evidence is its lackadaisical approach to securing Safe Routes to School funding.

As for the current roster of Safe Routes to School applications from Los Angeles, Councilman Paul Krekorian is responsible for more than 20% of the proposals, demonstrating a commitment to the delivery of city services that exceeds LA’s tradition of underperformance.

Safe Routes to School is a funding commitment to increasing the number of children who walk or bicycle to school. The projects must specifically support safe walking or cycling and can include crosswalks, traffic calming such as bulbouts and speed tables, education campaigns and encouragement activities, and enforcement activity directed at the larger community.

For all the talk of greening LA and supporting alternative transportation, the brutal truth is this; LA’s Streets are Mean!

The pedestrian fatality rate for Los Angeles is twice that of New York City. (7.64 per 100,000 residents in LA vs. 3.49 per 100,000 residents in New York) [link] Of the pedestrians involved in collision with motor vehicles, 18% are under the age of 10.

The City of Los Angeles has one year to get ready for the next round of Safe Routes to School funding, a federal cycle that yields $1million per infrastructure project and $500K per education/encouragement project.

Now is the time for the City of Los Angeles to walk the talk, to develop 45 inspired and competitive Safe Routes to School applications that truly demonstrate a commitment to making the streets of Los Angeles work for everybody, especially the most vulnerable members of the community.

(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . You can also find him on Twitter and on Facebook.)
–cw

Tags: Stephen Box, Rethinking LA, LADOT, Transportation Department, Wendy Greuel, Gloria Jeff, Safe Routes





CityWatch
Vol 10 Issue 26
Pub: Mar 30, 2012

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