Ross: Guerilla crosswalkers fight traffic deaths in the streets of LA

26 July 2023

This morning we aired an interview with a member of the Los Angeles Crosswalk Collective.

This is a shadowy group of safety crusaders who noticed that it took a very long time for the city of LA to paint crosswalks in certain neighborhoods, even at dangerous intersections where pedestrians had been injured or killed.

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So they set up a rapid response service. You go to the website, make a case for your intersection, and if the collective feels it can lay down a crosswalk safely, you wake up to find a professional-looking, impossible-to-ignore, and illegal crosswalk.

In LA, as in Seattle, every local intersection is presumed to include a crosswalk, however, marking that crosswalk yourself isn’t allowed.

But our guest, who we’ll call Tim, was just tired of being ignored:

“We want our children to walk to school safely,” Tim said. “They have the power to make that happen, and they are not doing it”

And he knows the city is capable of responding faster. Case in point, recently, the city saw fit to put up a memorial at a corner where a pedestrian had been killed, but no crosswalk. So…

“We said okay, this is not enough, let’s go and paint some crosswalks there,” Tim said. “We did. And within a few days, of course, what’s had been removed.”

I think I can understand the city’s concerns, an unauthorized crosswalk can invite you to cross where you shouldn’t. Crossing one of California’s six-lane neighborhood arterials is like crossing a runway. You need a dedicated traffic signal, not just a crosswalk.

But for neighborhood projects, here you have a group of activists who, instead of tattooing the city with graffiti, are willing to do crosswalks. Why not work with them?

Tim says he’s tried that.

“If they reached out and said, ‘Hey, we wanted to let you know you can paint your crosswalks, here are some resources so you can do an even better job,’” Tim said. “You know, we’d be happy to work with them.”

But so far, no luck. Even though in the year and a half since they started doing this, he says they’ve gotten really good.

“When we started, it was three hours to put down a crosswalk,” Tim said. “Nowadays, we can do it in one hour of work, plus putting down the equipment and letting the paint dry.”

I wonder if they’d be willing to take their act on the road.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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