Health / 2013
“Hey I’m Walking Here!”: A Campaign Celebrating Pedestrians in the City of Los Angeles
"The future of the city is walking. Redesigning our cities for walkers and walking will help make our cities places where people want to be. But it’s not something we consciously think about. So every time you’re out there walking I want you to think “Hey, I’m Walking Here!” — Alissa Walker, Journalist and Los Angeles Walks Steering Committee member, at WIRED 2012 Last December, Alissa’s talk at the WIRED 2012 conference in London became a dinner table discussion at a Los Angeles Walks meeting. We laughed over the clip Alissa referenced from Midnight Cowboy where Dustin Hoffman yells “Hey, I’m Walking Here!” at a fast-moving car rolling into a New York City crosswalk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c412hqucHKw But in all seriousness, shouting “Hey, I’m Walking Here” was far too representative of our own Los Angeles experience—a place where walking doesn’t get enough respect. We found ourselves becoming inspired by other entertaining yet educational stunts that highlighted pedestrians, like a group of pedestrians that actually moved a car which had stopped in the middle of the crosswalk in Brazil: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=UqhUeDTAyYs Or Peatónito, who takes to the streets in Mexico City as the masked Mexican defender of pedestrians: http://m.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2013/02/if-only-every-city-had-masked-lucha-libre-defender-pedestrians/4804/ We realized we needed the same kind of cultural touchstone for Los Angeles: a movement bringing attention, safety and a bit of fun to walking to help build a healthier, more vibrant Los Angeles Walking is a “magic app” for creating a healthy city. As the most common type of physical activity, walking is an easy and effective way to improve fitness. It reduces body fat and bad cholesterol, cutting the risk of some of the leading causes of death in Los Angeles. Walking extends life—walking 75 minutes per week adds 1.8 years of life; walking 2.5 hours per week adds 7 years of life. Walking regularly also improves mood and reduces fatigue. The benefits of walking reach beyond individual fitness to make communities into healthier places to live, work and play. Walking instead of driving, even for short car trips, decreases air pollution and reduces respiratory and cardiovascular ailments as well as some kinds of cancer. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for Angelenos under the age of 5 and the second-leading cause of death for children and young adults ages 5 to 24. Making the city safer for pedestrians can also make the city more equitable: Most pedestrian deaths in L.A. occur in low-income neighborhoods where many residents do not own cars. But the solution is not simply to get more people walking—it also requires that streets and sidewalks be redesigned to protect pedestrians from roadway traffic, slow down cars and trucks, and keep walkers feeling safe. With these ideas in mind, Los Angeles Walks proposes to launch "Hey, I'm Walking Here!" (or in Español, “¡Ay, Estoy Caminando!”)—a campaign which will not only increase pedestrian safety, but also highlight and celebrate walking as a conscious act that’s happening all over the city. And by expanding upon our existing Los Angeles Walks work including awareness, events, community meetings and action, we’ll be able to support long-term efforts to build a more walkable Los Angeles by 2050. Activities funded through our “Hey, I’m Walking Here!” campaign will include: Creating a bilingual “Hey, I’m Walking Here!”/ “¡Ay, Estoy Caminando!” publicity campaign using posters, stickers, public art, infographics and social media. Authoring “Hey, I’m Walking Here!”/ “¡Ay, Estoy Caminando!” materials which will highlight the benefits of walking as a healthy and civic-minded action. Convening community meetings in three neighborhoods where residents will assess the “good, bad and the ugly” for pedestrian activity, highlighting unsafe or unsavory walking environments to improve on the “Hey, I’m Walking Here” action days. Organizing “Hey I’m Walking Here” action days where local communities will be empowered to make temporary, attention-getting improvements to local walking infrastructure (like a Parking Day focused on pedestrians). Designing a pilot program for a pedestrian-focused urban wayfinding system that also serves as a publicity campaign throughout the city, to help Angelenos to understand the distance between neighborhoods and landmarks, and see that more places are walkable. Holding regular group walks to underscore how walking is a fun way to explore the city and promote healthy lifestyles, where we will provide “Hey I’m Walking Here” materials. Promoting pedestrian parades and events during CicLAvias (WalkLAvia) to make sure walkers have a welcoming space when streets are closed to traffic. Educating local residents about how to ask for higher-visibility crosswalks and lower speed limits on their streets (especially near schools).
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
Represented on the City of Los Angeles Pedestrian Advisory Committee; our founder Deborah Murphy has been Chair since 1998
Advocated for the City’s first Walkability Checklist that is used by City Planning Staff in their review of new development projects
Organized the Great Hollywood Walkabout in 2006
Organized the Great Glassell Park/Cypress Park Walkabout in 2007
Organized the Downtown Pasadena Walkabout in 2008
Part of the team that prepared the Nationally recognized Living Street Model Street Design Manual
Part of the Green LA Coalition Living Streets Campaign
Served on Mayor James Hahn’s Transportation Task Force
Served on County of Los Angeles Pedestrian Safety Task Force
Since 1999 we have been the go-to organization for the press regarding pedestrian safety issues appearing in media including KCRW, KCET, KPCC, LA Times, LA Weekly, Curbed LA, Streetsblog LA and more
Advocated for 15 years for Continental Crosswalk installations in the City of Los Angeles
Advocated for 20 years for the creation of the Pedestrian Coordinator positions, which were finally created in 2012
Advocated with a coalition of Active Transportation advocates for a 5% set-aside of Measure R Local Return funds for pedestrian projects and 5% for bicycle projects in the City of Los Angeles
Advocated for pedestrian and bike safety projects in Silver Lake including a Road Diet for Rowena Avenue for six years, which was implemented in 2013
Facilitated pedestrian safety charrettes in two Los Angeles neighborhoods: Silver Lake community in August 2012 and Leimert Park in November 2012
Conducted pedestrian-related events during CicLAvia including a WalkLAvia in October 2012 on three miles of Figueroa Street
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
Occidental College Urban and Environmental Policy Institute Colleen Corcoran, Designed by Colleen Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition Safe Routes to School National Partnership Los Angeles Commons Multicultural Communities for Mobility Streetsblog Los Angeles
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
Many Los Angeles residents already enjoy walking and are instinctively drawn to areas good for walking—places like parks, the beach and walkable commercial districts. But most Angelenos have not taken the next step to consider how their neighborhoods can become more walkable. Los Angeles Walks’ “Hey, I’m Walking Here!” campaign is intended to tap into this latent desire to help Angelenos request more pedestrian amenities, build more vibrant communities, and elevate the act of walking in the City of Los Angeles.
We plan to work closely alongside existing community efforts, reaching thought leaders, policymakers, and media to help us outline key steps which will not only build safer and more accessible city, but a more fun place to walk as well.
To evaluate the immediate goals of our project, we will track the number of events and community forums that Los Angeles Walks holds and the number of participants in these events. We will also capture and quantify the different ways that the campaign shares its “Hey, I’m Walking Here!” message, and count how often campaign slogans and themes are picked up and references in news articles and interviews, like minded organizations, social media likes and shares, political and policy debates and other public forums.
And will evaluate the campaign’s success in the short term by increased attention to walking. Over the long term the project can help improve metrics related to rates of walking, spending on pedestrian infrastructure, walkable land uses, and health outcomes.
Los Angeles walks blogs regularly with updates on upcoming and past pedestrian-related events and news and produces a year-in-walking round-up of highlights. Comparing past updates with updates if this project is funded can help show whether there is an upsurge in interest in walking in LA, and Los Angeles Walks plans to participate in the Fall 2013 City of Los Angeles Bicycle and Pedestrian Count, led by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition which helps establish much needed data and understanding of current travel patterns in the City.
At the same time as we track the strength of our messaging and participate in data collection, we will be laying the groundwork for analyzing longer term improvements in walking-related indicators. We will collect baseline data for rates of walking, funding for pedestrian programs and infrastructure, injuries and fatalities to pedestrians, staffing for pedestrian programs, and land zoned for mixed uses and/or with pedestrian overlays.
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
Los Angeles has incredible potential to become one of the world’s most walkable cities. Our mild climate is one obvious advantage, providing us with perfect walking weather almost every day of the year. Even our reputation for sprawl works to our advantage: Los Angeles developed as a series of small towns, meaning that there are multiple historic downtowns and commercial corridors that provide interesting places to walk. We also have the fastest-growing transit system in the United States, providing an extensive “walk extender” because it allows people to walk to a bus or train, take transit, then continue walking to destinations. New rail and bus rapid transit stops can evolve into walkable hubs that can allow more Angelenos to reduce driving or live without a car. Just raising the visibility of walking a little bit will have a tremendous impact with multiple co-benefits, and has potential to support a transformation the way the city thinks about walking and travels.
The Los Angeles region is also home to a health-conscious population and to many immigrants from countries with walkable cities where public space is valued. Certain demographic groups like young people and empty nesters of all backgrounds have been shown to be increasingly drawn to walkable neighborhoods. From street food to art walks to stair climbs, Los Angeles is slowly embracing walking as a key component of a great city.
But we shouldn’t downplay the remaining challenges to creating a more walkable L.A. During the 20th century, Los Angeles was redesigned as a city for automobiles. Our streets were engineered to move as many cars and trucks as possible as fast as possible. Los Angeles was zoned to keep businesses away from homes, so new buildings were required to add parking. As a result, parking lots, driveways, strip malls and drive through restaurants carved up the city, creating barriers to safe, convenient and pleasant walks.
Although the city and region are beginning to support transit, biking and walking, L.A. is still not a safe enough environment for pedestrians. Sidewalks are in a poor state of repair. Speed limits for cars are too high, and because roads and driving lanes are wide, many drivers speed even beyond the legal limit. There are not enough crosswalks. As a result, pedestrians in Los Angeles are disproportionately likely to be victims of fatal car crashes compared to national statistics. Approximately 100 pedestrians are killed each year in Los Angeles by hit-and-run drivers. Drivers who kill pedestrians often escape detection or are given light sentences, sending a message that that we care more about moving cars than we do about human life. Creating more awareness about walking and shifting L.A. to become a more walkable city will save lives through improved safety and extend and save and improve even more lives through the health benefits of a more physically active population.
A pedestrian advocacy movement is overdue in Los Angeles, yet the timing c
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
By 2050, Los Angeles will be known globally as one of the best cities for walking in the world. The biggest change can be easily seen from the air: All of L.A.’s once-famous freeways have been removed, their multiple lanes of traffic replaced with extensive linear parks. Down the center of each of these parks are wide, green boulevards with clean energy rapid buses, protected cycling lanes and excellent walking paths. This network of “urban trails” connects each of L.A.’s neighborhoods so it’s completely possible to get nearly anywhere in the city on dedicated foot or bike infrastructure, although the extensive rail system is usually faster. L.A. City overall health will be significantly improved with most citizens naturally getting in the public health reccomended minimum 10,000 steps a day as they go about their daily living, and collision rates for pedestrians and the city with drastically decrease. Drivers stop, with tender caution for pedestrians as they cross the street. Hit n’ runs are a thing of the past. people take responsibility for their actions and realize that the guilt of running away from the scene of the crime is more harmful to them than owning up to their actions, and individuals will recognize the serious responsibility in their hands while as drivers. 90% of kids walk or bike to school as they attend quality schools close to where they live. Walking Meetings will be a common occurence in the workplace. And streetwalkers will come to take on a whole different meaning in Los Angeles. A remake of “No One Walks in LA,” will be made with the title changed to “We all walk in LA” and mashed up to Randy Newman’s infamous “I Love LA”. Mayor of Los Angeles will champion themselves as “Sidewalk Mayors” and other urban regions will look to Los Angeles with envy and questions for advice for how their neighborhoods can be as awesome as ours.
All neighborhoods in the city have been redesigned to be more walkable. A cultural shift has occurred and Angelenos in general choose to live close to where they work and shop. When they want to visit other parts of the city, people walk or bike to a rail station. Or they take a short walk to any commercial street to catch the frequent, convenient, attractive zero emissions buses which are the main form of motorized transportation in 2050. Although cars are still legal, all roads have tolls, surface parking lots are banned, speed limits are 10 mph in residential neighborhoods. Most people don’t own cars and those who do, rarely drive them. Freeway capped park projects will pop up all over the city, reclaiming loved space that had been previously sacrificed.
More and more people walk in Los Angeles. The percentage of trips in Los Angeles taken on foot will have increased from 20 percent to 50 percent or more. These shift into trips taken on foot will enjoy multiple co-benefits that will result in better air quality, reduced carbon emissions, and improved public health. The average resident wa