News Article
A Sunset For All
Have you ever yelled "SLOW DOWN!" at some guy roaring down the street at 60 mph and then turned to the nearest person and called that driver a "JERK?"

Me neither. 

I like to use more colorful language. 

Now I don't want to remove agency from the actions of people who drive recklessly and bear the ultimate responsibility for harming others. However, the longer I advocate for safer streets, the more I realize that the "jerk" in the aforementioned scenario is not limited to the driver. We need to include the traffic engineer to design it that way, and, ourselves, the people who elect officials to fix traffic instead of traffic deaths. 

There will always be reckless men and women causing car crashes, but when we design our streets prioritizing safety; crashes don't need to kill people. This is the premise of the Vision Zero movement. 

The Vision Zero movement simply applies the logic of plane crashes to car crashes. When a plane crashes we don't throw up our hands and say, "It was a plane accident. The pilot should've flown safer." Instead, we, as a society, have decided that people shouldn't die in airplane "accidents." In fact, we don't even call them "accidents;" we call them "crashes" because the term "accident" implies that no one bears responsibility. Then we send out crash experts, engineers, and officials from the National Transportation Safety Board to identify the cause of the crash. Once the cause is identified, they change the systems that failed whether they are human or mechanical. This is called a safe systems approach. Consequently, hurtling through the air at almost six hundred miles an hour in a thin metal tube is the safest form of transportation. 

In 2015, the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue had nineteen crashes. Based on the data, the city of Los Angeles identified it as one of the deadliest intersections in the entire city. Then the Los Angeles Department Department of Transportation used a safe systems approach to address the dangerous intersection by installing a scramble crosswalk. "Scramble crosswalk" is just a fancy name for a stoplight phase where the cars in all directions have a red light and only pedestrians are allowed to cross the street -- including diagonally. In the six months following the redesign there was one crash with zero injuries. 

Vision Zero. 

The changes didn't reduce the number of reckless men and women driving through the intersection, they re-engineered the intersection to reduce recklessness. 

Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards through East Hollywood, Silver Lake, and Echo Park are on the city of Los Angeles's Vision Zero High Injury Network. The High Injury Network is the 6% of streets where 65% of severe pedestrian injuries and death occur. Sunset4All, in partnership with the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition and supported by our friends at SAFE, was founded to rally community support for protected bike lanes, safer crosswalks, better bus stops, and more on 3.2 miles of these vision zero corridors. By applying a "safe systems" approach to the Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards we aim to reduce traffic deaths to zero. As a bonus, the planned improvements will also safely, efficiently connect almost 100,000 local residents with the subway and close an essential gap in our active transportation network. 

Sunset4All has launched a crowdfunding campaign to create the initial engineering plans for these improvements. It's an opportunity for the supporters of safe streets to send a signal to the city that we want to stop acting like jerks and accelerate the "safe systems" approach to our streets. All donations are tax-deductible and will be MATCHED by angel donors thereby doubling everyone's donations. Every donation, no matter how small, is a VOTE for safer streets that sends a message to our elected officials to prioritize kids walking through our neighborhoods over the cars speeding around them. 

Please donate here if you can:
Author: Terence Heuston