William Matelyan, pedestrian, 84: North Figueroa Street and Avenue 26, 22 July 2014.
José Luna, cyclist, 33: North Figueroa Street and Pasadena Avenue, 26 June 2015.
Irma Yolanda Espinoza-Lugo, pedestrian, 51: North Figueroa Street and Avenue 55, 22 September 2015.
Andres Perez, pedestrian, 17: North Figueroa Street and Avenue 60, 15 December 2015.
Four names, four lives, four deaths. Four more human beings mown down by motor vehicles. Two of them—Mr. Luna and Ms. Espinosa-Lugo—killed in hit-and-run crashes. All of them killed by a defective street design.
North Figueroa Street is overdesigned, built according to principles that made speed the only priority, so that even neighborhood roads are built as if they were highways. It has long been known that such streets kill their users at a high rate; that they induce rather than relieve congestion; that they batter down businesses that live along them. It has long been known, and it is finally beginning to be acknowledged by our turgid civic bureaucracies, that there is a better way. And that one of the best methods available to remake a street so that it serve all users, so that it increase community and business activity, so that it prevent the slaughter of the innocents, is the road diet.
Even the Federal Highway Administration, not known for planning radicalism, acknowledges that road diets, are a “proven safety countermeasure.” The experiences of cities worldwide show that road diets have little if any serious effect on drivetime (and in fact often improve it noticeably), that they reduce crashes, that they boost community. That, especially if they include bike lanes, they improve the business climate.
Even LA’s backwards-looking DOT figured it out, as did the previous iteration of the City Council: so a road diet was approved (unanimously, after extensive community outreach), was designed, was funded. The street was known to be a killer. To quote the LA Times article that recounted Mr. Perez’s death:
The analysis also identified four other nearby streets that intersect with Figueroa—York Boulevard, Avenue 59, Avenue 55 and Avenue 41—covering roughly a mile in Highland Park. A total of 73 people were hit and four were killed at the five intersections from 2002 through 2013.
The street, it was agreed, had to be tamed.
Then…well, if you read this blog, you know what happened. Gil Cedillo squeaked into office in District 1 and cancelled it. And he refuses to say why.
Since then, Mr. Matelyan, Mr. Luna, Ms. Espinosa-Lugo, and Mr. Perez have been killed by this deficient street. The death rate has actually increased. And it did not have to be so. One man’s stubbornness has kept North Figueroa a deathtrap.
Mr. Cedillo, to repeat the question asked of the infamous Senator McCarthy in 1954: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”