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Applause for L.A. City Council Motion to Rein in LAPD Ped Stings

4:17 PM PDT on May 4, 2015

Brigham Yen/DTLA Rising
2013 LAPD pedestrian stings. Photos via Brigham Yen/DTLA Rising
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Last Friday, May 1, Los Angeles City Council livability leaders introduced a motion [PDF] to get the city family to examine the effectiveness of LAPD's ongoing pedestrian sting operations. We would like to think that SBLA's recent article critiquing these stings paid off, but probably the excellent recent Los Angeles Times articles by Steve Lopez and Catherine Saillant got just a tad more exposure.

Motion 15-0546 was moved by Councilmember Mike Bonin, and seconded by Councilmember Jose Huizar. Huizar was pretty busy pressing for downtown livability last Friday, introducing five "DTLA Forward" proposals "to increase, promote and protect pedestrian access, improve traffic flow and improve neighborhood connectivity in Downtown Los Angeles." Note that the LAPD crosswalk sting operations do extend beyond downtown into MacArthur Park and Koreatown.

SBLA does not often cover the fairly simple process of introducing motions, as there is a lot of follow-through needed before the City Council actually passes one... but we are pretty happy to have some activity on these wrongheaded stings that we have been writing critically about since 2008.

Bonin had this to say in describing the situation:

It defies common sense to ticket someone who is entering a crosswalk as the countdown begins when they still have time to cross the street safely without disrupting traffic. We need to be and we will be a Vision Zero city, and pedestrian safety is paramount. But if we are going to be doing 'crosswalk stings,' I want to be sure we are focusing on busting drivers who don't yield to people in the crosswalk.

Excessive and expensive tickets disincentivize walking in Los Angeles. We want people to be safe, but we do not want 'Do Not Walk' to be the message we send Angelenos.

The motion critiques the outdated state law that serves as the basis for stings:

...the law still references a traffic control signal that includes the words "WALK" or "WAIT" or "DON'T WALK" - illuminated devices, with few exceptions, that would now only be found in a museum.

If passed, the motion will direct the LAPD to report on the "public safety rationale" for enforcement, why some areas of the city receive much more enforcement than others, and request any evidence that pedestrian enforcement actually improves safety outcomes. In addition, LAPD and LADOT would have to report on how crosswalk stings align with LADOT's Strategic Plan Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic fatalities.

Though the city of L.A. can do a lot to foster a great, safe pedestrian environment, unfortunately it looks like some changes to state law may also need to happen. The deadline to introduce new bills has passed for 2015, but current bills could be still be modified. Maybe safety-minded Senator Carol Liu could call on the state to add a study of crosswalk law modernization to its review of bike helmet safety?

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