Last Thursday, city crews installed four new metal barriers to prevent pedestrians from crossing Sunset Boulevard where it bends to the south at Mohawk Street in Echo Park. Signs hanging from the barricades warn against walking across what many consider a dangerous stretch of road and to use the crosswalks a block away in either direction. But it was clear that the signs did little to keep pedestrians at bay. From women in high heels to parking valets in red jackets and deliverymen carting cases of wine, pedestrians of all stripes could be seen waiting for a break in traffic before taking a chance and scurrying across the four-lane street ahead of the next wave of cars, trucks and buses. Let’s call it the The Mohawk Bend Dash. The firefighters at the Station No. 20, which overlooks the intersection, say they have seen more people dashing across Sunset since the opening of new shops, restaurants and offices have attracted more pedestrians and created more reasons to brave traffic on the curving roadway.
“They will just wait for a break in traffic and just go,” said LAFD Capt. Armando Valencia, who has worked at the Echo Park fire station for a dozen years. “There has definitely been an increase.”
Many folks apparently would rather take a chance crossing the busy street than take the extra time to walk a block to use the designated crosswalks. Some people casually walk across the street through traffic while others are initially scared off ( as shown in the video) before taking another chance. “I didn’t think it was bad at all,” said one of four college students who took the Mohawk Bend Dash on Friday night for the first time. ” The cars had stopped on this side … they were aways away on that side. It wasn’t bad.”
Jeanne Shen, a city transportation engineer, said the new barriers replaced no crossing signs that had gone missing or had been covered by graffiti. The original signs were requested by the fire station station staff to increase pedestrian safety after watching many people cross the street illegally, she said.
The bend has a reputation for auto accidents, with motorists losing control as they take on the curve too fast. In 2009, a 21-year-old driver was killed when her car -traveling at at estimated 70 miles per hour – skidded out of control and slammed into the corner of Lucy’s Laundrymart.
Valencia does not know who made the initial request for the signs or of any recent accidents involving pedestrians. But he and others at the station have a front-row seat to many close calls. The fire crews have watched as patrons of the newly opened Mohawk Bend, the restaurant on the north side of the Sunset, hop across the boulevard to City Sip while they wait for a table to open up. The station has even turned on its yellow warning signals – normally used to stop traffic when the fire engines leave the station – to give safe passage to pedestrians.
During a lunchtime and early evening visit, The Eastsider observed all sorts of people doing the The Mohawk Bend Dash. A dog walker ignored the barriers and cut across the Sunset during an afternoon walk. A man who emerged from City Sip with a bottle of wine walked past the no-crossing symbols and then began a leisurely jog across traffic lanes to Elf Cafe on the north side of the street. A Mohawk Bend customer with a box of pizza zig zagged through rush hour traffic to get to her car. A few minutes later a man dashed through the same traffic to get to the Wells Fargo ATM. Meanwhile, the valets working at Mohawk Bend were constantly darting into and out of traffic.
An employee who works at the newly opened Echo Park office of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, located on the south side of Sunset, said she did walk to the crosswalk and signal on her way to lunch at Mohawk Bend on the other side of the street. But, on the way back, she decided to run across the street, unaware of the pedestrian barriers. “Everyone does it.”