No easy solutions for Silver Lake traffic problems

Detour at Rowena and Glendale; memorial for Ashley Sandau, killed crossing Rowena; illegal jay walking

Silver Lake residents gathered Monday to discuss possible solutions to make Rowena Avenue and nearby streets safer in the wake of a fatal traffic accident and a maze of construction detours. But the nearly 2-1/2 hour-long, rambling meeting hosted by Councilman Tom LaBonge left those who were expecting some relatively quick fixes disappointed. In fact, the meeting at Ivanhoe Elementary School was short on short-term solutions and long on complaints and stories of speeding cars, near-misses, jay walking, illegal u-turns and confusing construction detour sign. One man said he even saw a DWP truck recently collide with a van as work crews placed orange traffic safety cones along Rowena.

“We need it now,” said one exasperated woman of a solution to reduce traffic speed and increase safety. “There are people getting killed.”

The litany of traffic problems described during the Monday night’s meeting stem from long-term issues – speeding traffic and jay walking – and several recent public as well private construction projects, most notably the installation of new water pipelines that have torn up neighborhood streets and prompted months-long road closures and detours. In fact detours related to the pipeline construction, which is part of a larger project to remove the Silver Lake reservoirs from the city drinking supply but retain them as open bodies of water,  are expected to last well into 2013 along Rowena and other nearby streets.

That road and water line construction would  delay or interfere with some proposed safety solutions, including a proposal to  put Rowena Avenue on a “road diet,” which would eliminate a traffic lane in each direction in an effort to slow down cars and trucks and make it safer for pedestrian to cross the street.

In the short term, LaBonge said his staff has asked LAPD to beef up police presence on Rowena to deter speeders even though a traffic officer who was present at the meeting expressed skepticism at how effective that would be to slow down traffic. LaBonge also called the Department of Transportation to adjust the timing of the traffic light at Rowena and West Silver Lake Drive near Ivanhoe Elementary to discourage speeding. In addition, LaBonge’s staff is planning on working with Rowena merchants to promote a campaign to discourage jay walking on a street there is a half mile stretch without traffic signals or marked crosswalks.

However, LaBonge, who as a child was struck crossing the street,  remained opposed to installing crosswalk markings or flashing pedestrian crossing signs because he said they create a sense false of security.

Related Link:

  • Heated Silver Lake traffic safety meeting Monday. Patch


  1. No no no. The solution is easy and it has been said in the article. Get police officers to focus on these area viciously. Ticket speeders. Ticket illegal U-turners. Ticket jaywalkers. Do that regularly and most of the problem is solved. It seems like the main problem is lack of enforcement…this is not something that rambling, boozy “community meetings” will solve. N0thing needs to be installed except common sense.

    • You are ABSOLUTELY right. The issue is that people have not been following the rules, not that the road design is wrong.

      People see a J-walker, and say change the road., People see someone going over the speed limit and say change the road. (Actually, I am dubious of the speeding comments. I have seen a lot of people over the years claim speeding when actually it is their personal opinion that the speed limit it too high, not that people are going over it. And I have not seen any speeding when I’m on Rowena, quite the contrary.)

      As for a “road diet,” what do you think the lane closures for the pipeline construction are? If you want to make that situation permanent, then vote for a “road diet.”

      • Jerry Malatesta

        You’re ABSOLUTELY wrong. Lane, turn, street closures are not the same thing as a road diet. A road diet would not have access to certain streets closed. It would not have turns prohibited at certain intersections. It would not have concrete barriers separately lanes. It would not have complete street closures.

        A road diet would have turn lanes, bike lanes, and reconfigured parking.

      • So 35-40mph in front of an elementary school is a good idea?

  2. How about a crosswalk with a user requested flashing stoplight at the mid-point between the two existing stop llights?

    Seems to work just fine in numerous locations on the Westside.

    This would cost far less than the man hours needed to effectively patrol the block.

  3. “However, LaBonge … remained opposed to installing crosswalk markings or flashing pedestrian crossing signs because he said they create a sense false of security.”

    I’m sorry, but this doesn’t make sense. A crosswalk with a light would be considerably safer than just having people to jaywalk all the time.

    • La Bonge is concerned about legal liability to the city. The courts have ruled that putting in crosswalk lines makes the city more highly liable on the theory that they lines falsely give people a sense of security.

      • I think you’re right that the city is worried about liability of this sort. I’m not aware of an actual court ruling on this, however.

        The problem with these claims about liability is that they can be raised to justify virtually anything. It strikes me as bureaucratic stonewalling, but I’d be interested to hear of court cases in LA or LA county that indicate this is real.

    • There is a crosswalk with lights at the end of my street and half the motorists don’t realize they have to stop. Labonge is right that this instills a false sense of security.

      I used to live overseas near a dangerous intersection and they decided to install a new kind of single-lane roundabout with traffic lights and it really made a difference. This is not to be confused with the massive roundabout in Long Beach at Lakewood and PCH. They make drivers more attentive without causing traffic jams.

      The safest vehicle is the one that has already passed.

  4. We need a Rowena Road Diet now!

    And it’s cheap to implement: all it takes is paint to change the lane configuration on Rowena.

    Yes, we would be losing one precious automobile lane in each direction. But we would gain a left-turn lane down the entire street! Anyone who knows Rowena knows many of the accidents between cars happen when someone tries to turn left. Plus, this center left-turn lane will also be a safe zone between lanes for pedestrians crossing. (We could put in 5 more crosswalks, and pedestrians would still “jaywalk” – perhaps it’s breaking the law, but it’s also human nature.)

    Dedicated bike lanes would be added, too, which is good for bikes and also for cars.

    This is the Silver Lake I want to live in.

    • As I said above, we already have a Rowena road diet. That is exactly what the pipeline construction is. If you like the lanes closed for pipeline construction, then support a road diet. If you don’t like the lanes closed for pipeline construction, they you don’t want a road diet. But you cannot say that a road diet will solve the problems the pipeline construction has created.

  5. Along the same lines, people speed LIKE CRAZY on my street, Evans (next to Barbarella Bar). Since there’s a huge hill there, it’s a blind spot. I grit my teeth and hope no one hits me when I turn left out of my driveway. Speed bumps, please! How can we get these installed?

  6. How about creating a real sense of security? Lower the speed limit to 30, add more traffic signals, study the road diet… Rowena can be more than a car sewer if we want it.

    • It is illegal for a city to post a lower speed limit than is safe. That is state law. The city must do a traffic safety study regularly to determine the safe speed, and the speed limit cannot be set below that. So it follows that the scientific standards say that the speed limit on Rowena is safe. The standards include consideration of any number of things, such as traffic volume, number of pedestrians, lighting, street width, how straight or curvy a street is, etc., etc., etc.

      Any individual might have their own opinion, but it isn’t based on the scientific standards.

      • Jerry Malatesta

        Pipeline construction is a road diet? Certainly opinion not based on scientific standards. Or even on real, meaningful similarities.

      • As I understand it LADOT follows the CalTrans manual, so Rowena is engineered for highway speeds. Their standards are not about safety, they are about moving as many cars as possible at as high of speeds as possible. This means removing crosswalks, rounding speed limits up from the average and syncing lights to keep traffic at unsafe speeds. All of this is counter-intuitive to a the safety of a narrow street with dense housing, a public school and a multitude of street facing shops.

        And as Jerry Malatesta has pointed out above, the concept of a road diet is fundamentally different than shutting down lanes for construction in that it adds a center turn lane (which will reduce commuter/local conflicts) and bike lanes (which will give access to cyclists who might otherwise drive the route).

        I see no harm in studying the road diet (even for those only concerned with car travel), as LADOT is well known to place motorist commute times above public safety and complete streets. If they find the road can function better with the road diet than it normally does, than it’s a win/win for everyone, no?

      • And to your point about lowering the speed limit, other cities in California do this all the time by establishing their own standards instead of blindly following guidelines that were meant for highway engineers. What law is stopping us from doing it here in the city of Los Angeles? Wouldn’t lowering the speed limit be safer? I don’t really follow your logic, except that you think it might add to travel times for motorists (which is definitely worth considering, but by no means the only factor to a successful transportation system).

      • How does raising the speed limit increase safety?

        I think the biggest issue in this area is that some streets (like Fountain east of Vermont, then Hyperion from Fountain to Rowena, and then Rowena itself) are designed to look like highways, which increases the speed that drivers travel. Posted speed limits are often hard to see, but all the subtle subconscious cues about the width of lanes and lack of trees make people speed up.

  7. I really can’t believe LaBonge would said that. It’s baffling. One or two more extra traffic lights or crosswalks would do a lot for safety in the neighborhood. Why do these things exist if they’re false. Makes you think he has another reason, but this is the best fake answer he can come up with.

    We can’t change that Rowena is a major artery for getting from one place to another, but I think a road diet on most of Rowena wouldn’t create a bottleneck. As long as the planning is done right to preserve the Hyperion intersection it’d be fine. The high speed lane changes and passing along there is really unnecessary.

  8. I understand LaBonge’s point about a bunch of marked crosswalks on the street giving pedestrians a false sense of security… however, I disagree to some extent. Who ever steps into one of these crosswalks WITHOUT being careful and watching traffic, to make sure traffic will stop? Who says to his/herself, “Hey, I have the right-of-way, screw these cars” and *hopes* the cars stop? I don’t know anyone who does that.

    A lot of people don’t know this, but every place that one street intersects another in California — this is a legal crosswalk, even IF there are NO markings on the street. So along Rowena, there are many streets coming down from Waverly, intersecting Rowena. These are all legal “crosswalks.” If people are crossing here, they are NOT jaywalking. Unfortunately, many drivers don’t realize this and don’t/won’t stop. Painting crosswalks at some of these might be a good start. However… because this is near a school, I can see the issue that kids are not as visible as adults, and if kids *think* they can cross there, they will and that presents a danger.

  9. First take your “Road Diet” and use it as you would a suppository !Rowena is a main thoroughfare to get to silver lake from the freeway making it less convenient to drive on it is the most retarded suggestion i have ever heard of and the moron who suggested it should be fired! Second Drivers use the streets to get to and from your businesses and work. Drivers pay for them with a variety of tax dollars. they are OUR roads not just your neighborhoods. Third It is tragic a driver killed a pedestrian distracted stupid drivers make mistakes and sometimes it ends in tragedy, however drivers are responsible of many tasks while driving, a pedestrian is only responsible to one thing….. Not to get hit by a car! LeBonge is right to say that crosswalks create a sense false of security. If your on a car a bike or a motorcycle you need to realise that a two ton machine is your worst nightmare. Understand that you are not going to win in a fight. In a perfect world everyone would ride bikes and walk .

    • Evidently a bike rider ran down a pedestrian riverside cleanup volunteer whilst ranting about keeping the bike paths clear so your example of a “perfect world” is voided. Speaking of voiding, I imagine a Rowena road diet as pinching the urethra of the neighborhood, forcing the traffic waste matter back into the “kidney” neighborhoods of Silver Lake, Echo Park, Los Feliz, Atwater, etc where they will idle and spew exhaust whilst awaiting their turn to get to their destination. Rowena is a busy thoroughfare and pretending otherwise does not help the situation. Politicians may listen patiently to the fantasies of some of the vocal influential residents but, ultimately, will not paralyze a growing business and residential area. More people are moving into smaller places and they all drive. Stop wasting time fantasizing about turning back the clock and use the energy for realistic ideas to insure the safety of the growing population.

    • I agree. Having lived in a handful of developed countries I think Angelenos have a lot to learn.

      Not all roads are alike and some will need to handle more traffic and higher speeds than others. I really wish city planners would travel to Germany more (I hear Labonge goes at least once a year). In Germany, they are always looking at ways to expedite traffic because they realize getting cars to their destination is the safest thing for everyone, pedestrians included.

      Dusseldorf has an amazing “green wave” system. If you travel the posted speed limit, you can basically travel from one corner of the city to the other without having to touch the brake pedal. Sure, they’ve built plenty of expensive tunnels and viaducts but that can be considered later.

      The big new trend in Germany is roundabouts, which had been written off decades ago for being too primitive. Well, the Germans saw how useful and cheap they were in poorer countries like Ireland and Spain and decided to implement them at home. They build them now with beveled chicanes so that cars have to slow down but not to the extent and discomfort of speed bumps. LA relies too much on traffic lights which seem to be too red too often.

  10. I have an idea.. let’s build more high density condos. This way, we’ll have even more cars on the road.

    Traffic will move so slowly, that no pedestrians could possibly be injured.

    Genius.. I know.

    • Yes, that’s my point. High density condos and apartments are being built now and more are being planned. They’re trying for 800 units at the Barlow project and may settle for 500. A bunch of new units on Riverside, a few streets from Rowena, will add at least 2 vehicles per unit plus many bikes. The higher rents rise, the more people occupy the units, the more cars, the less parking, yadda yadda. Every one wants to live here and the traffic is dense and slow without removing lanes. Drivers are finding alternate routes through narrow residential streets. If you’ve had speed bumps installed on your, street you are aware of the extra resulting noise of the cars bouncing and scraping over them. Life in the big city.

  11. Let’s talk about Distracted Pedestrians, who walk into the streets, without looking up, or left or right. Several times the last few years, around Silver Lake /Echo Park/Hollywood/ WeHo, I’ve witnessed and almost hit pedestrians. why? They walk from the sidewalk or curb to the street, wearing both headphones, texting (looking down), or talking on the cell. The distracted pedestrian does NOT look up or much less look right or left when they set foot on the street.
    Ok. Its MY RESPONSIBILITY as a driver to be 100% attentive to the road, good, I accept the responsibility but the pedestrians also need to be careful.
    I drive slow, especially around all schools and construction zones. Even when driving slow, well, I’ve had to honk at or brake suddenly for these poor distracted pedestrians (teenagers are always distracted). They give me the finger or scream at me. Well, the honk is ‘warning’.
    I’m teaching my child that we all need to respect the streets. By we, I mean drivers and pedestrians. All ages, all the time.

  12. This is so typical of LaBonge – just host a meeting to pretend like you care about an issue and completely ignore what everyone says. That guy is a major weenie.

  13. After talking to a EMT of 20 plus years, I believe the driver who hit my daughter was going at least 50 mph in a 35 mph zone. I was also told if he was going the speed limit, most likely Ashley would have just been injured and not killed. The DA determined it was an accident. The investigation was shoddy at best. The detective told me they could only go on what the driver said. The accident report stated that the driver didn’t realize he had even hit anyone although the windshield was smashed and there was a 12″ dent in the hood. No alcohol or drug testing was done. The car did not stop right away. How do we even know that the person who was supposedly driving the car was actually the one out of the five passengers who were actually driving. This was my only child and I would really like to see changes made in the area.

    • Mary:
      I know this will not bring back your daughter, so perhaps I shouldn’t even mention this… but what about a civil suit? You are most likely correct, the driver was likely speeding. Provable? I don’t know that that matters. The driver was negligent, as State law puts the burden of safety on drivers, not pedestrians. Even if someone is jaywalking, a driver must stop.

      Also, that the LAPD did not test the driver for alcohol/drugs, is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. They have breathalizers in their cars. I think the LAPD needs to be held accountable, too, for NOT having tested the driver.

Post a Comment

Please keep your comments civil and on topic and refrain from personal attacks. The moderator reserves the right to edit or delete any comments. The Eastsider's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy apply to comments submitted by readers. Required fields are marked *