Silver Lake takes up pedestrian safety following fatal accident

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The death of Ashley Sandau, who died after being hit by a car while walking across Rowena Avenue  in late March, has prompted many Silver Lake residents to ask the city to improve pedestrian and traffic safety along Rowena. But what can be done?   The opening of new shops and restaurants on Rowena between Glendale Boulevard and Hyperion Avenue finds more people dashing across a busy street with no crosswalks and only one traffic signal along a half mile stretch.  Silver Lake residents will provide and hear traffic safety ideas at a community scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. today at Ivanhoe Elementary.

Councilman Tom LaBonge, who is hosting the meeting,  has in general been opposed the installations of marked crosswalks because they create a false sense of security but he remains open to ideas, said LaBonge spokesman Todd Leitz.

Sandau, a resident of Canyon Country, crossed Rowena mid block about 175 feet  from the nearest intersection at Auburn Street when she was struck on a Friday night by a westbound vehicle, said Dec. Michael Kaden of the Central Traffic Bureau. “The drivers said he never saw her before the accident occurred,” said Kaden. The driver, who was not speeding or under the influence, was not legally at fault and faces no charges, Kaden said.

“I feel sorry for her family. I feel sorry for the man who hit her,” Kaden said. “It’s something you have to live with for the rest of your life.”



  1. Haven’t there been talks of a “road diet”/”road buffet” along that stretch, to add bike lanes and a turn lane while reducing motor vehicle lanes? That would be a great start for slowing down all the cut-through traffic on this stretch. A lighted crosswalk like the one recently installed at Silver Lake Blvd. & Earl St. nearby would also be a big improvement.

    Lately, there’s just too much foot traffic and great shops and restaurants on this stretch for the number of lanes and speed of traffic. I’m sure traffic calming would be a huge boon to these businesses and help revitalize this area even more.

    • This bull**** talk of a “road diet” is simply devious. People who don’t really want to admit what their real intentions are make up such terms, and bolster their arguments with fake “research” from a gadfly, throw in a few anecdotes, and seek to manipulate and fool people into going along with them.

      Its just grossly dishonest. If these people can’t even speak about what they are really seeking, then maybe they are too dishonest to be in the conversation at all.

      • Actually, LaBonge has been looking into a road diet along Rowena to add parking, boost business, and enhance safety and access near the school and shops. It’s been written up in the Eastsider in the past: https://www.theeastsiderla.com/2011/12/councilman-orders-study-of-rowena-road-diet/

        Not really sure what secret agenda you think there is here? Some people want safer and more inclusive streets, others want faster moving automobile traffic (hence the debate).

      • The great thing is people can do their own research and decide for themselves…. just Google “United Stated Department of Transportation” & “Road Diet” or “California Department of Transportation” & “Road Diet”, “Oregon Department of Transportation” & “Road Diet”, “Washington Department of Transportation” and “Road Diet” etc. etc. Basically type in any state Transportation Dept and “Road Diet” and you will find hours of studies that support road diets. Governmental departments not gadflies, facts not anecdotes.

        • I think a good example of what would happen if there was a “road diet” is what is going on right now with all of the construction narrowing the road to one lane in each direction. That is essentially what a road diet would be. It doesn’t take a million dollar study to figure out this would be a major traffic issued. Its common sense.

          • A road diet consists of well planned and marked lanes, turning lanes, and other traffic calming measures such as trees, medians and signage to help drivers to slow while also improving the flow of traffic. Left turn lanes and the fact that cars travel closer together on a slower road are what improve the flow. Slower speeds, increased visibility and designated crossings and lanes for peds and bikes increase safety. A pedestrian has a much greater chance of surviving being struck by a car at a slower speed.
            There have been a few fatalities along this stretch, collisions and hit and run’s and cars driving into businesses repeatedly. The traffic simply moves too fast and the visibility is too poor for drivers to safely negotiate this stretch. There are not enough safe crossings for pedestrians and no safe lane for bicyclists. It is the City’s responsibility and moral obligation to keep all of it’s citizens safe when possible. it is disingenuous to claim that nothing can be done to improve Rowena.

          • I’m not sure how that is disingenuous though I never claimed there is nothing that could be done.

    • Cut-through traffic? You speak as if people are cheating. No one is “cutting through.” That is the ONLY route to any number of places, including it is the only route from the Hyperion corridor to get to the freeway south. No one is “cutting through,” they are taking the only route to where they are going.

      Eliminating a traffic lane in each direction — which you failed to mention is what this “road diet” is about — will not make the traffic go away as it has no other route to take. You clearly do not live in the Hyperion corridor. Rowena is NOT an extraneous route. It is a MAJOR thoroughfare.

      Eliminating a lane in both directions will merely make for a serious traffic jam. And with that, you will find any number of drivers doing some stupid things they should not do to try to get around that traffic — stupid things that will only create dangers and accomplish the exact opposite of what you say.

  2. Every time there’s an accident in EP or SL people go nuts. If the drivers not to blame and the pedestrian was careless, the road must be to blame.
    The call goes out for bumps and signals and crosswalks, fewer lanes all traffic choking.

    We should be choking the developers that are going to ruin the single family residence neighborhoods that were the draw in the first place.

    • Perhaps that’s because a lot of our streets are engineered to function as highways, and as a result, are often unsafe and unpleasant for anyone on foot or a bicycle.

      • Hard to see why people (drivers) don’t understand this concept. If there is one traffic signal over a half-mile stretch, then this street is engineered for auto traffic, not foot or bike traffic. Why is it more important for a driver to get where he/she is going fast as opposed to a pedestrian/biker who needs to get somewhere safely? Cars are tools used by people, and the streets they travel along are made for people, not the other way around.

        Put a 30-second signal with a nice, big, clearly marked crosswalk every two blocks and slow down the cars. The extra minute it takes to drive along this stretch is worth saving peoples’ lives.

        • All things are not equal.
          Streets were paved for cars, sidewalks for pedestrians. Perhaps there should be roads where bikes are prohibited.
          If it’s “engineered as a highway”.
          The level of people’s consciousness needs to be addressed.

    • ekirby, you hit it right on. This is one isolated incident. There is no trend of this going on on Rowena. And while I feel very bad about the woman who got hit and killed, the bottom line is that she crossed illegally, in the dark, from behind parked cars, and suddenly appeared in the traffic lane. Even the police didn’t see any blame for the driver so did not issue even a ticket.

      This scenario does not mean there is anything at all wrong with the street as-is. This scenario means you have to follow the rules, cross only at the corner where you can be seen much better (ALL intersections are legal crosswalks, whether marked or not, unless otherwise posted), and of course, look both ways before you cross no matter who has the right of way.

      No matter what changes you might make, if people don’t follow the rules, an accident is a lot more likely. That’s why we have rules.

      Also, I have seen a number of people taking the attitude that the driver is always at fault. Well, no. When you dart out from behind parked cars, the driver can’t do anything. That’s WHY you are not allowed to do that.

      • Gene:
        You’re implying this girl darted out between cars. How would you know that?

        Given you KNOW that every intersecting street in California is a “legal crosswalk” despite a lack of any markings, how do you KNOW she wasn’t crossing Rowena where Auburn intersects? I’ve seen no press coverage anywhere that delineates exactly where she crossed on Rowena, OTHER than to say it wasn’t at “the corner” where there’s a traffic light. As such, there are legal crosswalks at Rokeby/Rowena, Auburn/Rowena, Herkimer/Rowena. That’s 3 LEGAL CROSSWALKS between Glendale and West Silver Lake Drive.

        I live here. I’ve learned I cannot cross the street — nor do I even attempt to — until there is absolutely no traffic coming in either direction. Despite my right to legally cross, I will wait on the curb, because anytime I do try, cars will NOT stop. A big problem, Dear Brutus, is that drivers do not know (or obey) our motorist laws…

      • “… from behind parked cars, and suddenly appeared in the traffic lane.”, Except she would have had to already have crossed two lanes of Rowena before the westbound car could have hit her. And she was directly behind another pedestrian, meaning that the driver had time to see two people cross at least three lanes before he hit and killed one of them. This is not someone leaping out from between parked trucks, why defend the driver as if it was?

      • https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/s/?view=att&th=136845384a0ca81e&attid=0.1&disp=attd&realattid=f_h0oanilv0&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P9pGrwAlIfIHH6pLOlTy5U2&sadet=1335885762234&sads=1Rmn9QFhHeMklFP-jmG-Vi2RH1M&sadssc=1

        This is from the Berkeley site which covers collisions between 2001-2008. Since 2008 there were two fatalities, one near Herkimer where two people were struck and one survived and the girl this year. Before 2001 there was a fatality at Rowena and West Silver Lake where pedestrians were struck at the corner store there. four times cars have driven through the front or side of that building trying to negotiate the right turn there.

        I would love to see a comprehensive list of all the collisions on
        Rowena, going back in time to include all accidents there in it’s current configuration

        • The Berkeley site link is broken but it states that there have been 8 bicycle and 13 pedestrian collisions on Rowena between Glendale and Hyperion between the years surveyed, 2001-2009. Three victims were severely injured.

  3. As the former owner of the Coffee Table, we had been asking for YEARS to put in a crosswalk or a light near our former site. We had seen so many accidents and near misses over the years. The word came down to basically this. “The DOT is in the business to move traffic. Not slow it down.” and “I might take someone to be hit before we can get anything done”
    Well congratulations. It finally happened. Maybe now they will listen. It took a fatal accident to accomplish what should have been done years ago.

  4. Rowena needs a crosswalk with a signal. I can’t recall how many times I used to dart across the street when going to the Coffee Table — totally unsafe, but also almost unavoidable. I’m surprised there haven’t been more accidents, as I see people dart cross Rowena all the time.

  5. It’s not surprising that LaBonge “opposed the installations of marked crosswalks because they create a false sense of security”, but he needs to update his thinking and enter the 21st century – that’s a myth that has been perpetrated by the LADOT since the 1970’s which is based on faulty and biased data.

  6. If the 5 freeway had on and off ramps in both directions at Glendale Boulevard, people wouldn’t need to take eat Rowena to access the freeways.

    • That’s incredibly dumb. Even regardless of where on Glendale Boulevard you are talking, the only route there from the Hyperion side is via Rowena — the very section of Rowena on which they are talking of putting traffic into a deadly squeeze! In fact, the 5 freeway entrance IS at Glendale and Riverside. You MUST use Rowena to get to it if you are coming from the Hyperion side.

      • Or Los Feliz, or continue up Hyperion and U-turn at those lights (Glen Feliz?) which is still quicker than turning into Rowena. But I totally agree with you, any attempt to make any street safer and more liveable must be sacrificed to make it faster far people from elsewhere who are in a hurry to get to the freeway.

  7. @ Edward, Thanks for the link, don’t know that it applies to L.A.. I don’t remember seeing many bikes in pictures of early L.A.

  8. Even a cursory search of “road diet” on Google will take you to example after example after example after example of why a road diet works. In most cases there are nay-sayers who without having done a single drop of research chime in how it won’t work and again and again and again they are proven wrong. The US Dept of Transportation, the State of California DOT, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, Oregon, New Jersey, etc. etc. etc all have empirical examples of why this works and support them. They are all there and easy to find.

    A road diet is as much for efficiency of vehicles as it is for safety. The key is that instead of four lanes of traffic each way, two are taken away to make room for a left turn dedicated section that does not impede traffic as the current one does (causing cars to bottle up behind and often dangerously dart into the next lane to move forward again). That is the key to making it work – no more sudden traffic blockages due to left turn drivers – just constant steady forward flow. That same middle turn lane acts as a de-facto safety island for pedestrians who are then not forced to run a gauntlet of four lanes at a time and can instead concentrate on just one.

    Roads that have less than 25,000 daily auto trips are viable for road diets and in almost every survey done it is found that the road diet either did not affect the number of cars per day or increased them – but at the same time accident rates plummet: with cars vs. both bikes and pedestrians but also with other cars. They also generally improve the areas they are located in, increasing business activity and thus tax revenues.

    Silver Lake Blvd is a good example of that lay-out. The sections of Silver Lake Blvd that are most vibrant/appealing to businesses and pedestrians are the sections with ONE lane of traffic each way and a designated turn lane in the center. Yes, traffic backs up at peak commuter times but so does Rowena now and for the 90% of the time that is not peak time it is far safer and better for the community. Rowena has traffic levels similar to Silver Lake Blvd (both with lower ADT levels than Hyperion) but the city can put counters out to make sure it is viable.

    • Silver Lake Boulevard’s road diet is a perfect example of why road diets don’t work. Driving on that road has been a nightmare ever since it had its diet.

      Silver Lake is not a quaint country town. No amount of wishing from homeowners will change that. The unique geography of the hills means that Rowena is always going to be a major way for people to get through the neighborhood. Wishing it were otherwise won’t make it so. In fact, once all the huge condo complexes are built in the area, the city will probably have to add even more lanes to Rowena.

      • And just how will those lanes be added? Eliminating all parking on both sides of the street? Knocking down all the buildings on one side of the street? An double-decked roadway? A tunnel?

    • Look at your own info: taking out a traffic lane in order to provide for a left turn lane. You see, in many states, they do not have left turn lanes. In California, though, it is the routine to have left turn lanes at any significant intersection. You are arguing to add something we already have. If there was any benefit in these other places, it was because making the left turn lane allowed the cars behind the turner to continue driving. That is not the case here as we already have left-turn lanes.

      If you want to consider a local road diet, consider the one they had on Hyperion between Sunset and Effie Street. They took out a lane and made a middle lane for left turners. It was a horror! They had a street that worked well and made it one that did not work. After about two years, they finally took that out and added the traffic lane back last year.

      That is, we have already tried it here – and it failed miserably.

      • Mark – a “horror” is when another person is killed on a roadway which encourages drivers to exceed the speed limit, which provides no safe buffer zones (bike paths and center left turn lane islands). Cars having to slow down is an inconvenience not a horror and that inconvenience is balanced out by the improved safety and quality of life for those who live there.

        This entire section of Rowena is less than .5 of a mile. How much inconvenience could that that possibly entail? 30 seconds added to a trip? 60 seconds? There are real and genuine safety issues here, no hypotheticals or hyperbole….yet another person has lost their life here (and that is the real measure of a road that has “failed miserably”). As Bill noted, we will have an influx of many new residents actually living on that street and many of them or their guests will likely be parking on the other side of Rowena. Unlike Bill though I would suggest that that is all the more reason to address the safety issues here.

  9. The only way a crosswalk could create a false sense of security is if we don’t expect motorists to stop for people crossing in them. But we do. We expect motorists to obey the law and let people cross the street at crosswalks, if the drivers don’t stop it’s not a fault of the crosswalk, it’s the fault of the impatient, careless driver who’ll prioritize their speed over the safety of pedestrians and of the law.

  10. In my opinion, the fact that Rowena looks like a four-lane highway suggests that the current configuration gives drivers a false sense of security much more than crosswalks or a road diet would to non-drivers. Sit on a corner for five minutes and you will swear there must be someone waving a checkered flag just at both ends.

    We’re talking about a half mile stretch that includes a day care center, an elementary school, a children’s clothing store and a toy store where people feel like they are putting their and their children’s lives on the line everyday.

    My building has been crashed into four times. I remember Thai-American Express or Blair’s (don’t remember the year) being crashed into. My car was parked on the street and totaled by a speeding driver (although it wasn’t that big of a loss, being a 1988 Taurus). People have to sprint across intersections that they have the right-of-way on because most drivers won’t stop since there are no cross walks.

    If you are a driver you know that every time you try to turn left off Rowena you instinctively glance in your rear-view mirror and brace for impact, hoping that road-rager behind you will merely blast their horn until you’re able to turn and and scream obscenities. It’s a nightmare as it is.

    Put it on a road diet. If we decide collectively that we’d rather go back to killing and terrorizing non-drivers than possibly adding a couple of minutes to our commute then we can always go back to that.

  11. I am the mother of the young woman killed, Ashley Sandau. She was my only child and had just moved to LA to pursue a career in her field in which she had just received her master’s degree. We are talking about a beautiful, brilliant young lady who knows not to cross in front of cars. My husband witnessed the accident. He said the car came out of nowhere. There was severe damage to the car’s windshield and a twelve inch dent in the hood, but yet the driver said in the accident report he wasn’t aware he hit anyone, that he “thought he saw a shadow out of the corner of his eye”. I have spoken with an EMT with a lot of experience in gauging speed of a car by the damage to the car. She said with the age of the car, being an older model, the driver had to be going at least 50 mph to do the damage that it did. I can never get my beautiful daughter back, but I would like to see something done with the traffic concerns in this area. Maybe it will save another life. To many people, they may think, oh, another death by vehicle, but this is my baby! I am outraged that the DA is only going by what the driver of the vehicle said. Would we really expect him to say he was speeding?

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