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Walking Downtown: 101

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Wednesday, July 25, 2007, at 02:19PM

After coming across the May 29 fatal accident at 5th and Spring immediately after it happened, I took a number of photos. I didn't post many of them in the subsequent reports, including the one taken the moment the victim was covered by paramedics. The MTA driver was standing nearby, his shoulders slumping while one hand covered his face.

Officers on the scene said that the pedestrian had stepped off the curb against the light, moving into the buses blind spot.

Attempts to follow up on this accident in the time since have been made, but details of the investigation are hard to find. Even so, with our shared interest in Downtown's growth as a pedestrian-friendly, it merits a look back.

Flowers at Spring LAPD SLO Officer Pat Guillen, who covers that portion of the Historic Core, says that bus vs. pedestrian encounters are sadly not uncommon. Given the weight and momentum of a bus, unless the driver sees the pedestrian, it's witnesses on board that must inform the driver when someone was struck. A driver won't feel the impact.

The then Captain Andy Smith, who was also on the scene May 29, considered the accident an example of why LAPD considers jaywalking tickets a vital assignment and no doubt will continue doing so as Commander.

When I emailed to see what this investigation found, Metro emailed back with: "We share your concern regarding safety. Please know, however, accident reports/information is confidential and, as such, not received in this department nor made available to the general public."

Something should have been reported to more than MTA, Bus Driver Unions and LAPD––if only to bring some sort of awareness that another accident was caused by a pedestrian and driver who simply didn't see each other.

Since readers of this blog are believers in the idea of creating a walkable city, let's make it a bit safer by telling blogdowntowners that walking against a red is illegal, and so is walking against a flashing red. Also, drivers may not see you if you decide to test the light.

By all indications of eye witnesses I spoke to on the scene, the weight of who was at fault on May 29 is not completely clear. That being said, those of us who walk Downtown know just how often a bus (including the DASH) and cars will accelerate across intersections well past a light change––sometimes with a token warning of a horn.

wrong wayAt the last Art Walk, I was with a group who started to cross north on Main as the light turned green. A driver in a small pick-up truck turned left from Main onto 5th into our path without pausing while talking on a cell phone. Once, walking east on Alameda I began to pass an open parking lot gate when a car with a young driver came bursting out missing me by less than a foot. Both times they glared at the "careless walker" who just wasn't paying attention to them (Neither one knew May 29 is a reminder for me to double check my path, and I do more than I did before).

We all share the infrastructure Downtown, and neither pedestrian nor driver own the streets.

Top: Site of May 29 accident, taken June 1. Bottom: Driver turns into crosswalk quickly after realizing they were going wrong way, July 1.

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