My first weekend living in Northeast Los Angeles, I was one of the featured storytellers at BUSted, which was making its NELA debut at Future Studio Gallery in Highland Park. Everyone at the gallery was abuzz about a hit and run accident that happened right outside the night before. Irma Yolanda Espinoza-Lugo was in the crosswalk on Figueroa near Ave. 55 and was struck by a car. The driver pulled over only long enough to remove the license plates from the car, and continued to flee the scene. Days later, Espinoza-Lugo died from her injuries.
After the storytelling show, I walked south on Figueroa with Scott Schultz, the producer and host of BUSted. We noticed that the crosswalk at Ave. 55 had no indicators to let vehicles know if a pedestrian is crossing. As Scott and I continued our walk, we noticed several other crosswalks that were poorly marked. Few had flashing yellow lights that would activate once the pedestrian pressed the indicator button, but many had nothing. A lot of these crosswalks were also in dark stretches of Figueroa where street lamps are blocked by sycamore trees. Meanwhile, cars sped through the four-lane corridor at high speeds.Further south on Figueroa near Pasadena Ave., a Ghost Bike memorial is in place for Jose Luna, who was struck by a drunk driver at high speeds in the early morning hours of June 26th. He was in the cross walk with his bike, and was dragged several hundred feet. According to KTLA, the driver was found hours later, drunk and in bed with his girlfriend, with windshield debris in his hair and Luna’s blood on his car.
I bike this corridor of Figueroa all the time. Not only do I and other riders have to dodge traffic, but we also have to navigate sharp curves, steep hills, and poorly lit stretches of road. If an obstacle comes our way, like a parked car door suddenly opening or a pot hole, cyclists have to make the decision to dart into traffic or be taken by the obstacle.
The LA Times has reported that there have been 68 car vs. vehicle collisions on the three mile stretch of Figueroa between Ave. 26 and York Blvd. from 2002 and 2012, and 153 accidents involving cars and pedestrians during this same period, including nine fatalities.
Figueroa St. was slated to receive a road diet, but these plans were halted by Councilmember Gil Cedillo, claiming the removal of a car lane would restrict emergency vehicles. But does it? Adding bike lanes to this stretch of Fig would also add a middle turn lane. This would still provide plenty of room for emergency vehicles to get through. When I still lived in Koreatown, I regularly biked down 7th St., which was given a road diet years ago. I observed fire trucks coming and going from the station east of Alvarado with no issue.
How many more people have to lose their lives before NELA does something about this? Too many are being injured or killed in this corridor. This can be curtailed with putting indicator lights on all crosswalks, lowering the speed limit, and giving cyclists their own lane. Councilmember Cedillo, please stand up for the people you represent. How many more tragedies need to happen?