A Disappointing Sign for Pedestrians

Posted on 07/24/2012

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Sometimes I think about posting various facilities, roads, signs, sidewalks, etc. that are unsafe, inconvenient, and/or unwelcoming for bicycling, walking and riding transit in Los Angeles… then I think… it’s too easy! I expect that I could post the bike/ped insult of the day for a year and still have a long ways to go. Los Angeles, despite significant and increasing levels of healthy transportation, is still planned and built with cars foremost, if not uber alles.

Case in point, this sign I spotted today:

ATTENTION PEDESTRIANS sign on Vermont Avenue near 4th Street in Koreatown

It reads (all caps): ATTENTION PEDESTRIANS / WATCH DRIVEWAY TRAFFIC / USE CAUTION WHEN CROSSING. 

This sign is in Koreatown. It’s in front of the County of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks office building at 433 Vermont Avenue – between 4th and 5th Streets. Koreatown, with 42,609 residents per square mile (per L.A. Times, 2009), is the most population-dense neighborhood in the city of Los Angeles. The sign location is three blocks from the Metro subway station at Vermont and Wilshire. All this to say, it’s a place where people really do walk.

So this sign, which blocks a portion of the sidewalk, is arguably trying to make pedestrians safer, warning them of potential driveway danger. I don’t know the story of how the sign came about, but I am going to guess that a driver, pulling out of the county’s surface parking lot here, crashed into a pedestrian.

If that’s the case (and it’s my speculation), then who was at fault? Well… I think that cars still need to yield to pedestrians on sidewalks.

It’s Bikas’ version of the cell-phone self-portrait in the mirror – all over the internets these days.

I looked around into the adjacent asphalt parking lot. Full. No complementary sign saying something like  “ATTENTION DRIVERS / DON’T KILL ANY PEDESTRIANS / USE CAUTION WHEN CROSSING SIDEWALK” There were a couple of mirrors, which helps drivers and peds see each other better.

But no sign suggesting any driver responsibility.

And one more image to show the paucity of walking facilities (don’t call them amenities around me!) here’s the sidewalk just south of the sign.

There was a ficus tree here, and it’s been removed. The uneven surface is covered with asphalt. It… a… mess.

So… what do I expect here? WWBD? The sign is, in its imperfect way, trying to make things safer for pedestrians. Maybe there’s a way to give it a message that’s more pedestrian-affirming. How about:

ATTENTION PEDESTRIANS / DRIVERS DO DANGEROUS THINGS HERE / BE CAREFUL / YOU HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY / PLEASE SUE ANY DRIVERS THAT INJURE YOU

Well, maybe that’s overboard. A little. Maybe Bikas readers can suggest something more concise and civil.

And if you’re going to caution pedestrians – folks who are not at fault – who are not engaging in dangerous behaviors – then you, County Rec&Parks, need to caution drivers too. Perhaps the county could erect a sign that says: ATTENTION DRIVERS / PEDESTRIANS HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY / SLOWING DOWN IS SAFER FOR ALL. Perhaps the county could put plastic bollards (“candlesticks”) to make the driveway mouth smaller, to help drivers exiting slow down and pay attention.

In addition, I think a longer-term, systemic response, would be to provide substantial incentives for employees getting work by ways other than driving. I’ll bet that county employees who park here receive exactly the opposite incentive – ie: free parking. The county can charge folks to park, and then reward folks getting to work by walking, transit, bicycling or carpooling. This likely includes employer parking cash-out.

I’d like to organize a crew – City Repair style – to do some guerrilla sidewalk repair for places exactly like that asphalt patch.

I was tempted to deface the sign – or to turn it 90 degrees to face the driveway, and maybe put it in the middle of the car lane… but instead I’ve ushered it into posterity with this whiny post. Look for all-too-regular insult of the day posts coming soon.

Posted in: insults