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LA Gets Diagonal Crosswalks (again)

In an effort to improve pedestrian safety and traffic flow, the City of Los Angeles recently installed ten diagonal crosswalks/pedestrian scrambles/Barnes dances (just pick one, they all mean the same) around the metro area. We were able to check one out with Glenn Ogura of LADOT near the USC campus to learn a little bit about them. Golly Jeepers! During some light phases, we saw well over 100 people taking over the intersection - just take a gander at the video.

But as it turns out, this new idea is something old. Thanks to some nifty sleuthing, Eric Richardson of blogdowntown uncovered the fact that the downtown LA area was once littered with two dozen diagonal crosswalks in the late 1950s. Removed in 1958 because a city engineer's report found they impeded car traffic flow, the lesson is obvious: let's not wait another fifty years to deploy a tool to keep pedestrians safe.

And if you want to watch something that now seems extra silly now, we did something fun on Barnes Dances early in the year. You have been warned.

 

[intro music] 

Glenn Ogura:  [00:24] The diagonal crosswalk is an operation where we have an exclusive phase for both the pedestrians and bicyclists to cross the street.  And as you can see, they have their exclusive pedestrian phase now and we actually have pedestrian countdown hands which advises them as to how much time they have left in order to cross the street safely.  One of the benefits is by crossing diagonally, you don’t have to cross the intersection twice.  The second advantage is to separate pedestrians and bicycles from the vehicles and make it a safer intersection.  You don’t have a situation where you have pedestrians that will interfere with the turning moves, either left turns or right turns.  So that helps us from a safety perspective by having the exclusive phase.    

Speaker:  [01:07] It seems to help, it makes it faster to cross, and also, I mean it’s good that all the cars are stopped, cos then you don’t have cars whipping around the corner as you’re crossing. 

Speaker:  [01:16] It’s fantastic.  All the pedestrians, they can go at one time, and all the cars are stopped, and it’s just wonderful.   

Glenn Ogura:  [01:25] What we try to do is use it on streets that are not necessarily major, major intersections but where they’re all high volumes of pedestrian traffic and there are a lot of turning moves.  We had one place where we implemented the diagonal crosswalk because the bus operation is affected by the fact that they can’t turn when pedestrians are crossing the street.  So it will help also bus operations. 

Eric Richardson:  [01:47] Earlier this summer Steve Hymon from LA Times was writing about scramble crossings coming to LA, and something in my head just clicked that, you know, somewhere I’d read that we had these before.  Well in 1956 the city rolled out a programme doing scramble crossings at intersections around Downtown, one of which was 7th and Broadway, which is the intersection right behind us.  And they put the scramble crossings out and they sort of made a big deal about it and there was several articles about hey, you know, we’re kicking off this new programme, here’s how you have to use them.  Then in 1958 they had expanded by then to 25 intersections around Downtown, but the traffic engineer made a report that said that there were effects on turning movements, you know, that was cause for it to eventually go away.  And in April of 1958 they turned the last scramble crossing back to normal operation.   

Damien Newton:  [02:45] In this Streetfilm we saw that even in Los Angeles, considered to be the car capital of America, there’s a lot of innovative things going on to try and move pedestrians as safely as they can from one destination to another.  Hopefully in Los Angeles today, we don’t make the same mistake we made 50 years ago and we continue to try and move more people out of their cars instead of continuing the car dependence that has led to the congestion that’s unrivalled anywhere in America.   
 

Transcription Sponsored by: Transcript Divas Transcription Services

Clarence Eckerson Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • http://www.chekpeds.com Christine Berthet

    OMG can you imagine . If LA the capital of the car culture can do it , how come NY, the capital of the walKing culture cannot?
    Which 60 's era dinosaur at the DOT is preventing it? Come on Sigourney , it's time to throw Alien off the ship!!!!!

  • Diego Garces

    Wow this is pretty cool!!!! I never heard of such thing....thanks for sharing.

  • brian

    cool, except for the cyclists running into pedestrians...bikes belong on the roads, not the sidewalks unless the rider is a kid

    i like the ones in sf too, they're very busy (I'm thinking of one in chinatown and one in the financial district) and pedestrians are very safe. cyclists just have to wait like the rest of traffic

    for the record, I'm a commuter cyclist myself

  • Brian33

    Diagonal crossings are fantastic for pedestrians. They have been used for many years along Colorado Blvd. in old town Pasadena, CA in a popular outdoor retail/restuarant area used by thousands of pedestrians everyday.

  • http://www.vabike.org vabike

    @brian: I don't know if you commute in southern CA, but "rolling pedestrian" is the dominant mode there in places where there are lots of bikes - beach towns and around college campuses. For every rider in the street, there are probably 10 more on the sidewalk.

    In the past year I've spent many hours walking around the USC campus and across that intersection. I never had a close call with a cyclist, or saw one occur.

    My own neighborhood in Newport Beach is the same. Most people ride slowly on slow bikes - beach cruisers with coaster brakes. "Pedestrian pace in a pedestrian space" is the norm, and it works.

    Same with Segways, skateboards, and electric wheelchairs.

    I'm all for vehicular cycling in the street, but bikes can be, and are, ridden safely elsewhere.

    If you try to chase those cyclists out of the crosswalks, you'll chase them right back into their cars.

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  • emrickenoch

    If you try to chase those cyclists out of the crosswalks, you'll chase them right back into their cars.
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  • Alex Brideau III

    There's also an "all-walk" (this is the term I'm familiar with; "scramble" sounds like terminology thought up by a frustrated driver) in Glendale on the east side of The Americana shopping mall. In that very auto-oriented city, it seems to work well enough. I haven't seen any confusion when I've been there.