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Engineers Scramble for Pedestrian Safety in Los Angeles and Santa Monica

A "good news" story for pedestrians emerges from the streets of Los Angeles and Santa Monica. Traffic signals at heavily used pedestrian intersections have been reengineered to add a 'scramble phase' and the results are startling.
October 2, 2016, 1pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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The "scramble" crosswalks in Southern California aren't yet as famous as the Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo.
Sean Pavone

"We have a huge problem with pedestrian safety here in the city of Los Angeles," said Mike Bonin, chair of the City Council's transportation committee. "And so we're determined to fix that with ... Vision Zero."

NBC4's Patrick Healy reports on two new tools used by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to give pedestrians added protection from motor vehicle turning into intersections they also would be crossing.

Motor vehicle-pedestrian crashes at the iconic Hollywood and Highland intersection have plummeted due to the introduction of a 'pedestrian scramble' (or 'scramble intersection'). Creating a separate signal for pedestrians to utilize all crossings at an intersection, thus allowing diagonal crossing to replace two crossings that are required at typical intersections is referred to as 'exclusive pedestrian phasing' by the Federal Highway Administration.

"Where 13 injury traffic accidents a year were average, there has not been a single one since a change was made last November to the traffic signal cycle, according to the Los Angeles Department of Transportation," states Healy

In recent months, Santa Monica has converted a dozen of its downtown intersections to operate in scramble mode. Besides Hollywood and Highland, Los Angeles has another half a dozen.

Los Angeles has also changed signal timing to allow pedestrians a 'head start' so as to avoid confrontation with right and left-turning drivers who would otherwise be given the 'green light' at the same time.

In engineer speak, it's called Leading Pedestrial Interval [sic], or LPI. LA's first was installed on Broadway in 2014.

According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), Leading Pedestrian Intervals "have been shown to reduce pedestrian-vehicle collisions as much as 60% at treated intersections."

"It's too soon for definitive figures on safety impact, but Tim Fremaux, a transportation engineer who focuses on safety projects for the LA Department of Transportation, said there is sufficient evidence of benefits to expand LPI use," adds Healy.

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Published on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 in NBC Los Angeles
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