15 new 'headstart' crosswalks help downtown LA pedestrians get to the other side

File: A downtown L.A. crosswalk.
File: A downtown L.A. crosswalk.
File photo by Eric Paparatto via Flickr Creative Commons

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Downtown Los Angeles is getting 15 new pedestrian "headstart" signals, also known as "leading pedestrian intervals," to help improve the safety of people crossing the street when vehicles are trying to make right turns. The new signals give pedestrians a four-second head start in crossing the street before cars get a light, according to L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar.

"What happens now, is when you have the pedestrian and the vehicle, the green light goes on for both of them at the same time, and there's this moment, oftentimes, of negotiation between eye stares between the person in the vehicle and the pedestrian whether, 'Hey, do you see me? Do you not? Should I go? Should I not?'" Huizar told KPCC.

Two intersections got these signals in 2014 as part of a pilot program on Broadway crosswalks on 3rd and 4th streets, according to a release from Huizar's office.

"We've seen less collisions, less accidents," Huizar said. "We created a plaza-type environment, and we put these two intersections there as a way of encouraging more pedestrian safety. And it's worked."

Huizar said that his office asked Metro and the Department of Transportation to extend the headstart crosswalks.

"The way we were able to extend them is, when Metro came to us, my council office, and asked to shut down some streets around 2nd and Broadway as they build the regional connector, which is an underground subway system in downtown, we asked them if they could do some mitigation measures to help ease the additional traffic around that area, and what resulted is we encouraged them to look at these headstart crosswalks," Huizar said.

Fifteen locations were identified. Each of them costs about $10,000 to implement, Huizar said, meaning that the total comes to $150,000 to help mitigate additional traffic downtown as the subway line is built.

Huizar said that the new signals help encourage pedestrians to also be more alert, as well as being part of a larger move in L.A. away from being as car-centric.

"For decades the city of Los Angeles has thought about how do we quickly move one vehicle from point A to point B, at the expense of pedestrian safety, at the expense of alternative forms of transportation, and now we're saying, hey, we want to prioritize everyone just the same, and where we are now thinking about, well hey, people are walking here too. Let's think about what types of rights of way, what type of lights do we have, that is thinking of pedestrians just as much as we've thought about cars for decades," Huizar said.

The new signals are at the following intersections, according to a release from Huizar's office:

There was also already a signal at 4th and Broadway from the previous 2014 pilot program, making for a total of 16.

You can see the location of the pedestrian headstart crosswalks on the map below: