Do Scramble Crosswalks Really Save Lives?

One of the City of Los Angeles’ ongoing efforts is VisionZero LA, which is an initiative that aims to end traffic-related death by 2035. One of strategies that has been implemented to accomplish this goal is installation of scramble crosswalks around the city.

Typical crosswalks are designed so that vehicles and pedestrians travel together in the same flow of traffic. For instance, when a walk sign is on for pedestrians traveling in North South direction, vehicles are allowed to travel in North South direction as well. At this time, pedestrians and vehicles traveling in East and West directions must wait.

Scramble crosswalks, on the other hand, allow pedestrians to travel in all directions, including diagonally. When pedestrians are crossing, vehicles are not allowed to travel at all. If you are curious about an example, you don’t have to look far. In Westwood there is a scramble crosswalk on the intersection of Westwood Boulevard and Le Conte Avenue.

This may sound like a great idea to ensure the safety of pedestrians. In fact, Los Angeles Magazine published an article titled L.A.’s New Diagonal Crosswalks Are Literally Saving Lives.

But are they really?

On one hand, yes. Statistical data shows that installation of scramble crosswalks is actually decreasing the number of traffic related injuries. The prime example is the intersection of Hollywood and Highland. According to VisionZero, the intersection used to have in average 13 crashes per year, but after the installation of the scramble crosswalk in November 2015, there have been zero crashes. This is indeed a significant and promising improvement.

However, one vital piece is missing: accessibility for people with disability. Currently there is no measure in place that requires implementation of accessibility features for scramble crosswalks.

First, scramble crosswalks are challenging for those who are blind and visually impaired. The Guidelines for Accessible Pedestrian Signals published by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program states that scramble crossing “makes it difficult for pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired to recognize the onset of the WALK interval, particularly at locations where right on red is permitted.” This is because in a scramble setting, it is not safe to rely on parallel traffic to determine crossing. Also when there is no vehicle movement, it is hard to determine whether it is safe to cross, because it is difficult to tell where vehicles are. The Guidelines for Accessible Pedestrian Signals recommends that accessible pedestrian Signals (APS) provide more detailed information when the button is pushed. For example, the button could say the following: “Wait to cross Howard at Grand. Wait for red light for all vehicles. Right turn on red permitted.” The installation of APS that provide such detailed information will ensure that blind and visually impaired travelers can cross with greater safety and certainty.

Secondly, safety must be ensured also for those who use mobility aides, such as wheelchairs and crutches. According to this study, pedestrians who travel using a wheelchair have a 36% higher risk of dying from a car-related injury as compared to those not using a wheelchair. Scramble crosswalks should be helpful in addressing this alarming statistic. However, the crosswalks must be made accessible in order for them to be effective. Making crosswalks accessible includes installing appropriate curve ramps and level landing, as well as providing sufficient time for crossing.

So, do scramble crosswalks really save lives?

Yes but not completely. Scramble crosswalks may have been proven to be effective in “saving lives” but the city of Los Angeles must do more so that they become accessible for those with different modes of travel such as white canes, wheelchairs, and crutches.

Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 11.42.57 AM

UCLA To Experience a New Level of Bikeability

By Jimmy Tran, UCLA Transportation Bike and Pedestrian Planner

T:\Planning\Bicycle\Bike Share\Photos\City-Hall-Bike-share-hub-1200x675.jpg

Santa Monica’s Bike Share hub at City Hall. Photo via UCLA Transportation.

Short term bike rentals, popularly known as bike share, are appearing across Los Angeles County. From the green Hulu bikes in Santa Monica to the blue bikes in Long Beach, bike share programs give residents and visitors alike a new way to experience a sustainable and healthy mode of transportation. UCLA is gearing up to join the ride with the launch of its bike share program this spring! Like many of the Westside cities, UCLA will work with the vendor CycleHop to bring a bike share program to campus. The bikes and hubs will be located on key parts of the campus and in Westwood Village where there is already a significant amount of foot traffic. There will be 16 hub locations, including Powell Library, Luskin Conference Center, UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, and Broxton Avenue in Westwood Village.

A major appeal of existing bike share programs are their user-friendliness. CycleHop utilizes ‘smart bikes’ where real-time information is available to report bike and hub availability, remaining rental time, and distance biked. UCLA students, staff, and visitors will be able to rent these bikes using smart phones, Metro TAP cards, or via the kiosks at larger bike hubs. Flexible memberships and pay-as-you-go options will accommodate the needs of riders. CycleHop summarizes the rental process in four steps: Reserve, Release, Ride and Return.


The process for renting out bikes from CycleHop Bike Share Programs; Photo Credit: Santa Monica Breeze Bike Share

With this user-friendly bike share program, UCLA continues it’s efforts to improve and upgrade campus infrastructure. In 2015, UCLA attained Silver status in the League of American Bicyclists’ Bike Friendly University program by increasing the number and quality of bike lanes. This is important as UCLA aims to attract riders who are interested in biking, but concerned about the availability of protected bike lanes. Additionally, UCLA provides numerous amenities and programs across campus including: the UCLA Bike Shop, numerous bike racks and repair stands, shower access for commuters, benefits for members of the Bruin Commuter Club, bicycle traffic safety classes, a new bicycle citation diversion process, and an Earn-A-Bike program. Implementing a bike share program will further strengthen the University’s role as a leader in promoting bike culture and safety.

Earlier this year, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) released a report that found bike share programs in seven different U.S. cities experienced increases in the amount of cycling and decreases in the risk of death or injury for each individual rider. The report highlighted how bike share programs improve the visibility of cyclists, which makes bike riding safer for everyone. NACTO emphasized that bike share programs fared better for safety outcomes when coupled with protected bike lanes.

Good bike infrastructure already exists at UCLA with more to come in time for the launch of its bike share. UCLA will install several protected bike lanes on campus including westbound on Strathmore Place, on Westwood Plaza between the Gonda building and the Westwood/Strathmore intersection, and on Charles E. Young Dr. South near the Center for Health Sciences. In addition, supplementing ongoing Bike Friendly University efforts with bicycling awareness and education programs will be key to tackling safety issues and making bike share enjoyable to all Bruins.


National Public Health Week participants begin the 2016 tour of UCLA’s bike infrastructure led by Stantec Engineer Rock Miller (picture far right). Photo via UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.