A new signal of safety rises over a dangerous Highland Park intersection

New traffic signal being installed

New traffic signal being installed

HIGHLAND PARK –– City officials on Thursday afternoon plan to celebrate the installation of new traffic signals at Figueroa Street and N. Avenue 55, a dangerous crossing where 51-year-old Irma Yolanda Espinoza-Lugo died  last September after she was struck by a hit-and-run driver.

The dedication comes as Councilman Gil Cedillo has been at odds with cycling and pedestrian activists. The activists have faulted the First District Councilman for opposing measures – such as the addition of bike lanes and the removal lanes for motor vehicles – they say would increase safety and reduce collisions on Figueroa and other streets.  Last week, one of Cedillo’s most vocal critics on the issue, Lincoln Heights resident and cycling advocate Josef Bray-Ali, filed paperwork needed to run in next year’s First District council election against incumbent Gil Cedillo, according to L.A. Now.

But Cedillo’s office has said it remains committed to improving public safety by installing traffic signals and pursuing other measures. Last fall, Cedillo introduced a City Council motion to transfer $305,000 in funds from other accounts to pay for the new traffic signals at Figueroa and Avenue 55. Before last year’s fatality  three pedestrians and two cyclists had been injured in collisions with motor vehicles at the intersection since 2013, according to a report conducted by the city.

Today, workers were installing the signals only a few feet from where Yolanda Espinoza-Lugo was killed.

A memorial to Irma Yolanda Espinoza-Lugo


  1. This project is a shining example of how completely out of touch with best practices, common sense, and fiscal restraint Gil Cedillo is.

    The other pedestrian deaths at on North Figueroa at Avenue 26 (William Matelyan in 2014), at Marmion Way (Jose Luna in 2015), and at Avenue 60 (Andres Perez in 2015) all took place in marked cross walks at intersections with traffic lights.

    More traffic lights add to the problem of motorists speeding between red lights. More traffic lights mean more traffic. More traffic lights mean that the money that could have been used to improve 2.1 miles of street is now being used to paper over horrible design decisions at one intersection.

    The cost of this one intersection to install lights would have covered the cost of a road diet the entire length of North Figueroa.

    • Except nobody wants a road diet on Figueroa, Josef.

    • “More traffic lights add to the problem of motorists speeding between red lights. More traffic lights mean more traffic.”


      • Traffic lights created congestion. Once they turn green, the induce motorists to speed between them. This is what happens. Observe streets with different design decisions (like narrower lanes, pavement color and type differences, trees, closer striped white lines, etc.), without traffic control devices like red lights, and you’ll see the difference.

  2. Too many uncivilized people living in the neighborhood speeding, running crosswalks, and generally not caring about the well being of others. Quite honestly, I am happy gentrification has taken a grip on the neighborhood. Hopefully it will bring a new, more respectful generation of people that will respect the law, their property, and the well being of others!

  3. What I am totally amazed about regarding auto / pedestrian interaction is how pedestrians do not look at the drivers when crossing the street. The streets are the cars territory, the pedestrians enter that territory at their peal but they have a sense that they are immune from the realities of the car / pedestrian relationship. Everyday I encounter pedestrians that walk blindly into a crosswalk with out paying any attention what so ever about me and my car, as if they are immune from the dangers of the street. I am respectful of the relationship, but pedestrians need to pay attention, the results for not are overwhelming. Pay attention when you walk in the street, its the cars landscape.

    • I agree. The many pedestrians walk across the street with total disregard to the fact that multiple vehicles are barreling at them which happen to weigh multiple tons and will cause severe harm if not avoided – vehicles that are being operated by very distracted drivers at times. That being said, common sense is not something that has proven to be common in the neighborhood. If the majority had common sense, Highland Park would be a very different neighborhood.

    • What a backwards, entitled view of the world. You do realize that most of our streets and intersections existed long before cars, right?

      This “car territory” you speak of is actually the public domain, maintained with general tax revenue, and thus shared space. Pedestrians, cyclists, bus riders and motorists should all be given equal consideration. If anything, those wielding the power to kill and maim are expected to pay the utmost attention. Not the other way around. That’s why the state requires one to have a driver’s license, registration and insurance.

      Better question, why do you want to live in a world where the most basic form of transportation has been rendered a stressful and dangerous experience? Is that really the best we can do for our communities, our children, grandparents, neighbors with disabilities… “look both ways, and pray that the motor gods don’t smite you!”

      • I hardly see this as an “entitled” issue unless you want to debate who is more entitled, the pedestrians or car drivers. Also, who/what existed first is completely irrelevant – you should be smarter than that.

        Many pedestrians are careless about their surroundings. When vehicles are barreling down the street at high speeds, it is simple common sense to look BOTH WAYS and ask yourself, “Does it appear safe to cross”? On a daily basis, I see people step into the crosswalk without a mere glance. Maybe you can call it entitled, but I call it STUPID!

        Obviously if we all lived in the utopian society where cars were not necessary and everyone obeyed the rule law, that would be the best, but Highland Park (or really any other place in the world) hardly fits that description. There are so many entitled people in the neighborhood who think of it as their own personal sacred trash can – free to rob and terrorize others. Hopefully those people get priced out and take their entitled attitudes elsewhere.

        • Who is more entitled or who acts more entitled? Drivers must register and apply for licenses to operate roads on streets, which are ultimately public space (not the car’s territory as you claim). Pedestrians and bicyclists are entitled to walk and bike on streets. Whether you find this compelling or not, does not make it less so. I would also suggest the behavior of motorists (like what you are doing here) reflects the perspective that people who drive act like entitled children who really don’t understand the rules or history of the roadway.

          If you are going to claim that it is the car’s territory, while ignoring the regulatory aspects of this and history of our roadway system, which serve to demonstrate the inaccuracy of your claims, then of course it is fair to help you understand just how wrong you are. Streets are not and never have been the territory of cars, that’s only what entitled motorists think. Streets are public space for the travel of people, not cars. This is clear in the law and in history.

          All of your claims are equally true of people who walk or drive: careless and stupid behavior is done on both sides. Why you seem to see this as a problem for peds who you call stupid, while not even thinking twice about “when vehicles are barreling down the street at high speeds” signals a double standard and clear sense of entitlement to me.

          You go on to suggest that people being priced out of the neighborhood will help fix this. Have you been to the west side lately? Do you walk, drive, or bike out there? Higher incomes do not lead to safer streets or behavior. I could go on and on but will leave it at this. There’s lots of research and several professions dedicated to this and your opinions reflect a pretty significant misunderstanding of how this all works, or should work.

          • First of all, this has nothing to do with me. I’m a great driver (with absolutely no sense of entitlement) – not a single ticket or accident in 15 years. I ALWAYS look out for pedestrians because many of them are VERY STUPID (unless you want to debate the definition of “stupid”). When the light turns red, they walk without looking which I recognize and prepare for. As a pedestrian, I too look out for bad drivers – many willing to run red lights to get to their destination 5 minutes sooner. So yes, both are stupid at times and since I would like to believe that I am not stupid and act in the best interest of my personal safety, I have been able to avoid dangerous situation on both ends – as a walking pedestrian and driver.

            I simply choose to change my behavior to the situation as opposed to believe that the situation will change for me. I guess I take responsibility for my actions and believe that if someone is not obeying the law, I can make personal adjustments to compensate for both of our safety.

            I acknowledge the history of our “public space” and also acknowledge that people walked before they drove, but again, it’s completely irrelevant to this situation (at least if I’m trying to be pragmatic). Vehicles are large and dangerous and just because someone has a legal right to walk in the street (while obeying the traffic laws) doesn’t mean they should do it blindly, assuming that EVERYONE in Los Angeles is paying 100% attention to the road.

            Quite frankly, there is the real world and there is the fantasy world. Believing that the world should change and the solution is for all drivers to be more mindful while they drive is simply naive and childish (although it would certainly be nice). Even self-driving vehicles which obey traffic laws 100% have encountered accidents because of other bad drivers.

            With regard to gentrification, I fully embrace it, regardless of whether it helps the traffic issues. But as the neighborhood gentrifies, I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of uninsured motorist and hit and runs drop as a more educated and affluent group of people populate the neighborhood. Quite honestly, I am simply tired of helicopters flying over my house on a weekly basis, followed by the usual reports of gang murders, robberies, car thefts and hit and run accidents. I also believe that trying to physically intimidate others in an effort to curb gentrification is unacceptable and illegal. I don’t believe that anyone in a developed society should have to endure feelings of being unsafe simply because of their “economic” status.

            Oh and for those who believe that there is a mass conspiracy to dislocate those of lesser means, here is my personal take: I was a renter in a nicer neighborhood, but I was priced out with very little possibility of ever owning anything due to much higher home values. Since Highland Park offered a more affordable alternative, I took it because it was the only way I could guarantee that I could afford to live in Los Angeles in the future as I could see that rising rents were going to be a perpetual problem. BUT, if I could afford a safer, cleaner neighborhood, I would leave in a second, but unfortunately for me, Highland Park is the best I can afford.

        • Not for nothing, but human-scale neighborhoods with lots of foot traffic (Day and night) tend to fare pretty well at self-policing the more anti-social elements of society. They call it “eyes on the street”, as in people are less prone to rob, steal and fight one another when they know there’s eye witnesses all around them.

          Some food for thought: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_surveillance

  4. road diet starting on fletcher in june! yay

  5. While I scoff at Gil’s simplistic bottlenecking of his district with unnecessary, counterproductive stop signs and traffic lights (and his ensuing “look at all the good I’m doing!”), this one was needed. Several times I’ve come frighteningly close to hitting somebody who stepped into that crosswalk, esp. at night or dusk, and was driving next to somebody once who DID hit somebody (and I barely saw them either). A lighted crosswalk would have sufficed, but the traffic light is better than nothing at all.

  6. Reading some of these comments is just horrifying. Enjoy your waze app and I hope you get home fast enough to catch game of thrones. I never realized that being in favor of safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists meant I was part of a lobby. Hopefully the pedestrian lobby and bike lobby special interests can join forces and really flex our entitled muscles come election time.

    • Calm down and stop being so dramatic. EVERYONE wants safer streets and everyone hopes that both drivers and pedestrians will be more careful. This is not a DRIVER vs. PEDESTRIAN issue. But, since a car hitting a pedestrian will cause more harm to the pedestrian than the driver of the car, I believe that it would be advantageous for the pedestrian to proceed with caution…OR, maybe I am the only one who cares about my own personal safety and doesn’t feel comfortable walking into the street without looking out for vehicles!?!

      • Calm down and stop being dramatic, says the guy using all caps. Maybe you shouldn’t take my comment as a personal attack against only you, as there are other people involved in the conversation?

      • When people drive as unsafely as they do on Fig., it is a statistical inevitability that there will be serious accidents and deaths. It’s not realistic to expect every pedestrian at every time to be showing maximum care. Mistakes will happen.

        The design of the roadway and its current use encourage high speeds and unsafe driving. In any one case you can identify this or that behavior that would have prevented the accident. But the design and use are the real problem here.

        • Agreed!

          Further, we already design most roads and highways to be forgiving of driver error (soft hit posts, wide lanes and shoulders, utility poles that pop out upon impact, etc.) because we know humans will exercise poor judgement from time to time.

          Seems insane to me that we have to defend comperable engineering standards for pedestrians, especially since they are that much more vulnerable.

  7. It seems that the level of traffic on most major streets in LA should (and would in most cities) necessitate a traffic light every single block.

    But @ubrayj02 brings up a very valid point… $$$. We have limited revenue to spend on this stuff, and a road diet would certainly give HP the most bang for it’s buck with regards to pubic safety, mobility options and local commerce.

  8. Fig is only going to get mote popular. Traffic light is a great way to encourage walking it. Just hope the timing doesn’t cause unnecessary delays.

    • The timing will cause delays. The lights on Figueroa already cause delays. Traffic lights: they are designed to cause delays. Average travel time will be affected and people will still speed between red lights.

      The prior 3 pedestrian fatalities that took place on Figueroa were in marked crosswalks with traffic signals.

      The street, like many in Los Angeles, is poorly designed. It is laid out like a rural highway between stop lights. The design speed between red lights is 50 mph (that is, 15mph above the posted speed limit) with lane widths in excess of 11′ and turning radii that allow at-speed turns (except in the downtown HLP area).

      It is a stroad, and traffic lights break more than they fix in this context.

      • Josef, last I checked you are not a civil engineer. Where are you getting the information that the design speed of Figueroa is 50mph? Design speed is usually used on highways, and is a function of the curves and sight distance. It’s a useless parameter on an urban street that is essentially a straight line for miles.

        I just measured the turning radii in Google maps. Most of the corners are 15′ corners. This is extremely conservative, and what pedestrian friendly areas such as Pasadena and Santa Monica are going toward in Complete Streets applications. 25′ is considered ‘at speed’ turning radius at corners. So again, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

        11′ lane widths are also an arbitrary number you made up. 12′ wide lanes are not ‘bad’. But either way – the lane widths, as measured in Google maps, are generally between 9′ and 10′ – unless you’re counting the parking lane for exaggerated effect.

        In short, I challenge your attempt to sound like you know what you’re talking about.

        • Design speed is a function of a lot of things, but in LA it is typically designed for speeds 15 mph above the posted speed limit.

          Which corners did you measure on Google Maps? Many of the corners outside of the downtown Highland Park area have sufficient space and radii to allow at-speed turns, or have much smaller radii but very wide (11′ or 12′) turn lanes. These intersections (at Avenue 26, Marmion Way/Pasadena Avenue, and Avenue 60, York Boulevard) are consequently where more crashes are happening and where pedestrians have died.

          11′ lane widths – this comes from reading the LADOT’s street plans, and from measuring the width of the streets and lanes myself and with a group of volunteers a decade ago with little wheely measuring tools. 12′ lanes = “not bad”?! Depending on the context. Through the heart of a dense commercial and residential district? 9′ to 10′ is best. Narrow lane widths are one factor in intrinsically limiting motorists speeds.

          In short, you are in favor of the status quo and accept that routine injury, property destruction, death, and mayhem are “not bad”.

          • If you knew what you were talking about with design speed, you would know that design speed is ALWAYS higher than posted speed limit. That’s just transportation engineering. You still don’t say where you got this 50mph number. Why not just go big and say Figueroa has a design speed of 200 mph if you’re pulling numbers out of the air?

            The intersections you cite (Avenue 26, Marmion/Pasadena, Ave 60) have a high amount of transit turning movements. You still need to be able to allow buses to make turns, not to mention fire trucks, delivery trucks, and other service vehicles.

            You didn’t even try to argue on the lane widths, so you tacitly admit you just made that part up.

            Josef, if you are going to make pedestrian safety and prioritization of cycling the cornerstone of your campaign, you’ll have to come to the table with facts, not hysterical fabrications. You also shouldn’t accuse your constituents of approving of ‘property destruction, death and mayhem’. We have a lot of problems in Highland Park, including crime, homelessness, theft, gentrification, development… are you a one issue candidate? What are your other stances?

            If you do get elected, hopefully you will be less contrary to those who have alternate viewpoints. Hell, if I thought you could compromise, I would vote for you, because you do have passion and seem to be responsive. However, your online presence doesn’t bode well for a diplomatic leader.

          • You really are just looking for an argument. You’re inventing incorrect interpretations of what I’ve typed in order to feign outrage.

            This is a counter productive discussion. Have fun supporting the status quo.

          • 35 mph + 15 mph = 50 mph.

            You accept my point about large turning radii and a correlation with pedestrian deaths.

            Lane widths = you have not examined the city’s street designs, nor have you personally measured the street and lane widths. I have. I am correct about this issue.

            I will not accept counterfactual hot air as fact. I am happy to be wrong. Please, prove me wrong without going ad hominem.

            And who is the “Josef/Joseph” you are referring to?

  9. Linette C. Woron

    Reading all the previous comments about traffic and hit and runs, I feel real down. I’ve lived in Highland Park/Mt. Washington for 17 years and feel the change in attitude from all the newcomers– if you want to come here and change things, do it with an acceptance of our community, not constantly tearing it down. Helicopters never bothered me. People have always been very friendly . Until the last few years. As for the guy who’s upset he has to live in the slums of Highland Park and not some place better, please pack your bags now, you are not wanted here—-

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