Los Angeles Walks
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"The future of the city is walking. Redesigning our cities for walkers & walking will help make our cities places where people want to be. But it’s not something we consciously think about. So every time you’re out there walking I want you to think “Hey, I’m Walking Here!” — Alissa Walker, Journalist & Los Angeles Walks Steering Committee member, at WIRED 2012
Last December, Alissa’s talk at the WIRED 2012 conference in London became a dinner table discussion at an LA Walks meeting. We laughed over the clip Alissa referenced from Midnight Cowboy where Dustin Hoffman yells “Hey, I’m Walking Here!” at a fast-moving car rolling into a New York City crosswalk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c412hqucHKw But in all seriousness, shouting “Hey, I’m Walking Here” was far too representative of our own LA experience—a place where walking doesn’t get enough respect. We found ourselves becoming inspired by other entertaining yet educational stunts that highlighted pedestrians, like a group of pedestrians that actually moved a car which had stopped in the middle of the crosswalk in Brazil: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=UqhUeDTAyYs Or Peatónito, who takes to the streets in Mexico City as the masked Mexican defender of pedestrians: http://m.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2013/02/if-only-every-city-had-masked-lucha-libre-defender-pedestrians/4804/ We realized we needed the same kind of cultural touchstone for LA: a movement bringing attention, safety & a bit of fun to walking to help build a healthier, more vibrant LA.
The benefits of walking reach beyond individual fitness to make communities into healthier places to live, work & play. Walking instead of driving, even for short car trips, decreases air pollution & reduces respiratory & cardiovascular ailments as well as some kinds of cancer. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for Angelenos under the age of 5 & the second-leading cause of death for children & young adults ages 5 to 24. Making the city safer for pedestrians can also make the city more equitable: Most pedestrian deaths in L.A. occur in low-income neighborhoods where many residents do not own cars.
But the solution is not simply to get more people walking—it also requires that streets & sidewalks be redesigned to protect pedestrians from roadway traffic, slow down cars & trucks, & keep walkers feeling safe. With these ideas in mind, LA Walks proposes to launch "Hey, I'm Walking Here!" (or in Español, “¡Ay, Estoy Caminando!”)—a campaign which will not only increase pedestrian safety, but also highlight & celebrate walking as a conscious act that’s happening all over the city. And by expanding upon our existing LA Walks work including awareness, events, community meetings & action, we’ll be able to support long-term efforts to build a more walkable LA by 2050.
Activities funded through our “Hey, I’m Walking Here!” campaign will include:
1. Creating a bilingual “Hey, I’m Walking Here!”/ “¡Ay, Estoy Caminando!” publicity campaign using posters, stickers, public art, infographics & social media.
2. Authoring “Hey, I’m Walking Here!”/ “¡Ay, Estoy Caminando!” materials which will highlight the benefits of walking as a healthy & civic-minded action.
3. Convening community meetings in three neighborhoods where residents will assess the “good, bad & the ugly” for pedestrian activity, highlighting unsafe or unsavory walking environments to improve on the “Hey, I’m Walking Here” action days.
4. Organizing “Hey I’m Walking Here” action days where local communities will be empowered to make temporary, attention-getting improvements to local walking infrastructure (like a Parking Day focused on pedestrians).
5. Designing a pilot program for a pedestrian-focused, smartphone-compatible urban wayfinding system that also serves as a publicity campaign throughout the city, to help Angelenos to understand the distance between neighborhoods & landmarks, & see that more places are walkable.
6. Holding regular group walks to underscore how walking is a fun way to explore the city & promote healthy lifestyles, where we will provide “Hey I’m Walking Here” materials.
7. Promoting pedestrian parades & events during CicLAvias (WalkLAvia) to make sure walkers have a welcoming space when streets are closed to traffic.
8. Educating local residents about how to ask for higher-visibility crosswalks & lower speed limits on their streets (especially near schools).
9. Building partnerships & coalitions with organizations interested in public health, transportation, urban design, sustainability, equity & more.
10. Increasing advocacy efforts with elected officials & decision-makers to make LA more walkable, including addressing design & maintenance of sidewalks.
11. Sending action alerts to the growing list of walking activists when there are opportunities to improve safety.
Deborah Murphy, a native Angeleno, founded Los Angeles Walks in 1998 after a key appointment as the Chair of the City of Los Angeles Pedestrian Advisory Committee, which she continues to hold today. Deborah has consistently worked to bring attention to the act of walking in the city of Los Angeles as a way to build a healthier, more livable city. For 15 years, Los Angeles Walks has been the go-to organization for the press regarding pedestrian safety issues, appearing in media including KCRW, KCET, KPCC, LA Times, LA Weekly, Curbed LA, Streetsblog LA, LAist, Atlantic Cities and more.
Starting in the fall of 2011, Alexis Lantz, Jessica Meaney, Colleen Corcoran and Alissa Walker joined Deborah under the fiscal umbrella of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition to launch a major grassroots efforts to increase awareness of walking in L.A. In 2012 the group expanded even more, adding My La, Karen Mack, Mark Vallianatos, Daveed Kapoor and Tilza Castillo to the Steering Committee.
Key accomplishments include:
- Advocated for the City’s first Walkability Checklist that is used by City Planning Staff in their review of new development projects
- Organized the Great Hollywood Walkabout in 2006
- Organized the Great Glassell Park/Cypress Park Walkabout in 2007
- Organized the Downtown Pasadena Walkabout in 2008
- Part of the team that prepared the Nationally recognized Living Street Model Street Design Manual in 2011
- Part of the Green LA Coalition Living Streets Campaign
- Served on County of Los Angeles Pedestrian Safety Task Force
- Advocated for 15 years for Continental Crosswalk installations in the City of Los Angeles
- Advocated for 20 years for the creation of the Pedestrian Coordinator positions, which were finally created in 2012
- Advocated with a coalition of Active Transportation advocates for a 5% set-aside of Measure R Local Return funds for pedestrian projects and 5% for bicycle projects in the City of Los Angeles
- Advocated for pedestrian and bike safety projects in Silver Lake including a Road Diet for Rowena Avenue for six years, which was implemented in 2013
- Facilitated pedestrian safety charrettes in two Los Angeles neighborhoods: Silver Lake community in August 2012 and Leimert Park in November 2012
- Conducted pedestrian-related events during CicLAvia including a WalkLAvia in October 2012 on three miles of Figueroa Street
Multicultural Communities for Mobility, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition,Occidental College Urban and Environmental Policy Institute, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, Los Angeles Commons, Streetsblog Los Angeles, Colleen Corcoran, Designed by Colleen, Project Food LA
We will evaluate the campaign’s success in the short term by demonstrating that walking is top of mind for Angelenos. Over the long term the campaign will measure several other metrics related to walking, like an increase in the number of Angelenos who walk, an increase in the amount of spending on pedestrian infrastructure, the addition of walkable land uses, and improved health for Angelenos.
We will track the number of events and community forums that Los Angeles Walks holds and the number of participants in these events to see how many people we’re reaching through our message. We’ll also administer surveys at these events to see if our campaign changed the way people felt about walking.
We will capture and quantify the different ways that the campaign shares its “Hey, I’m Walking Here!” message, and count how often campaign slogans and themes are picked up and references in news articles and interviews, like-minded organizations, social media likes and shares, political and policy debates and other public forums.
We will also use data collection to measure an increase in pedestrian activity. Los Angeles Walks plans to participate in the Fall 2013 City of Los Angeles Bicycle and Pedestrian Count led by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, which helps establish much-needed data about how many people are walking and provides a better understanding of current travel patterns in the city.
We will track local and online sentiment for walking and pedestrian advocacy. Los Angeles Walks blogs regularly with updates on upcoming pedestrian-related events and news and produces a year-in-walking round-up of highlights. Comparing past updates to next year’s year-in-walking report can help show whether there is an upsurge in interest in walking in L.A.
We will work with local public health organizations to learn if more Angelenos are walking for exercise or for transportation, and compare this to health data from previous years to see if walking is making an impact in the overall health of the city.
As we track the strength of our messaging and participate in data collection, we will be laying the groundwork for analyzing longer term improvements in walking-related indicators. We will collect baseline data for rates of walking, funding for pedestrian programs and infrastructure, injuries and fatalities to pedestrians, staffing for pedestrian programs, and land zoned for mixed uses and/or with pedestrian overlays.
We plan to work closely alongside existing community efforts, reaching thought leaders, policymakers, and media to help us outline key steps which will not only build safer and more accessible city, but a more fun place to walk as well.
As the most common type of physical activity, walking is an easy and effective way to improve fitness. It reduces body fat and bad cholesterol, cutting the risk of some of the leading causes of death in Los Angeles. Walking extends life—walking 75 minutes per week adds 1.8 years of life; walking 2.5 hours per week adds 7 years of life. Walking regularly also improves mood and reduces fatigue.
And these health benefits can also lead to larger social change. Walking increases our contact with our neighbors, builds social capital and civic awareness and puts more eyes on the street to reduce crime. In a city like L.A. with a diverse population but a history of social inequality and residential segregation, walking also allows people to explore new neighborhoods and can help reduce barriers of class, race, language and location.
Walking also brings significant economic benefits. In other cities, studies show that streets that have received pedestrian improvements such as street porches, pedestrian plazas and traffic calming have often found a boost in sales. Property values are also higher in walkable neighborhoods than in comparable sprawling places. As living in a walkable area becomes more desirable, walkable cities have an easier time attracting businesses and people with ideas for starting new businesses.
Despite what some ‘80s pop songs might say, Los Angeles has incredible potential to become one of the world’s most walkable cities. Even our reputation for sprawl works to our advantage: Los Angeles developed as a series of of neighborhoods connected by an interurban rail system, meaning that there are multiple historic downtowns and commercial corridors that provide interesting places to walk. We also have the fastest-growing transit system in the United States, a “walk extender” because it allows people to walk to a bus or train, take transit, then continue walking to destinations.
A pedestrian advocacy movement is overdue in Los Angeles, yet the timing could not be better. The City has not addressed the funding and maintenance of its sidewalks in a comprehensive manner since the 1970s, but there is growing interest from the City and residents to change this. In the Fall of 2012, the City of Los Angeles hired its first-ever pedestrian staff as a result of leadership and advocacy from groups such as Los Angeles Walks. Walking events like the Great Los Angeles Walk, Big Parade and Secret Stairs have steadily increased in numbers over the last few years. And in the past year the local press have covered more walking-related stories, from Christopher Hawthorne’s recent series on L.A. boulevards in the Los Angeles Times to the LA Weekly’s focus on hit-and-run collisions.
In a city where less than 20% of all trips are taken on foot or bike, we believe that even a small increase in awareness around the benefits of walking will have a dramatic impact across the city. We believe our campaign is perfectly timed to build upon this momentum.
By 2050, Los Angeles will be known globally as one of the best cities for walking in the world. The biggest change can be easily seen from the air: All of L.A.’s once-famous freeways have been removed or capped with parks, their multiple lanes of traffic replaced with extensive linear parks. Down the center of each of these parks are wide bus boulevards, protected cycling lanes and excellent walking paths. This network of “urban trails” connects each of L.A.’s neighborhoods so it’s completely possible to get nearly anywhere in the city on dedicated foot or bike infrastructure, although the comprehensive rail system (once again the largest in the country) is usually faster.
The other notable transformation can be seen at the neighborhood level. A cultural shift has occurred throughout the city and Angelenos in general choose to live close to where they work or co-work, with more than half of Angelenos working from home. When they need to visit other parts of the city to shop, eat or play, people generally walk or bike to a rail station or a bus boulevard, where they can catch a train or the frequent, convenient, attractive zero-emissions buses which are the main form of motorized transportation in 2050. Education has improved as well, with 90% of kids walking or biking to school as they attend quality schools close to where they live. Although cars are still legal, driving is not efficient since all roads have tolls, surface parking lots are banned, and speed limits are 15 m.p.h. in residential neighborhoods. Most people don’t own cars, and those who do usually only drive them as a hobby, since they’re relics of a bygone era.
But perhaps the most important change to the city in 2050 is that the health of its residents has dramatically improved since the early 2000’s. Most Angelenos naturally take the Surgeon General’s recommended minimum 10,000 steps a day, so Angelenos live longer and enjoy healthier lives. The percentage of trips in Los Angeles taken on foot, bike or transit will have increased from 20 percent to 95 percent. These shift into trips taken on foot result in better air quality, reduced carbon emissions, and improved public health. Rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory illness are significantly lower. Plus collision rates for pedestrians have been reduced to practically zero.
Because all neighborhoods are good places to walk, health disparities between ethnic groups and different parts of the city have been dramatically reduced. Families with children can live nearly anywhere in the city and be connected to their community. More importantly, our growing population can move to dense parts of the city to age in place without a loss of independence.
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