These Four L.A. Streets Desperately Need a Pedestrian-Friendly Makeover

It’s about time officials addressed the city’s hostile boulevards

Although it bisects Los Angeles and spills out at the Pacific Ocean, Venice Boulevard has never attained the iconic status of L.A. streets like Sunset, Wilshire, or Hollywood. Maybe that has something to do with its pragmatic nature; it’s mostly an east-west highway—part of it is actually designated as California Route 187—with little to look at.

While it may not be particularly scenic for drivers, Venice Boulevard is wholly unpleasant for anyone not in a car. The wide lanes mean speeding cars and dangerous crossings. Thankfully, the Great Streets initiative is trying to rein in Venice’s car-crazy ways—specifically in Mar Vista, where something akin to a pedestrian-friendly community has sprung up around Venice Boulevard. New crosswalks are being added—including head-start crosswalks that allow more time to reach the other side—and, hopefully, protected bike lanes. This is an essential first step, but making the city more walkable can’t stop there. The city needs to address these four other dangerous streets.

Santa Monica Boulevard

In West Hollywood, SMB is the area’s unofficial main drag. Though wide, it has medians, bike lanes, and wide sidewalks that prevent it from becoming a de facto freeway. Start moving west—through Beverly Hills and Los Angeles—and things change for the worse.

In Beverly Hills, the street has no sidewalk on one side, and at the busy intersection of SMB and Wilshire, pedestrians are restricted from crossing on the west side of the intersection. Santa Monica Boulevard is worst when it reaches Westwood Boulevard, though. Pedestrians must practically run for their lives since walkers are allowed a ridiculously short time to cross the enormous boulevard. The city could construct curb additions to shorten the crosswalk or at least give walkers more time. It’s criminal the city forces seniors to make this crossing in its current state. Oh, and east of WeHo? The East Hollywood section of the street would make any urbanist cry. See for yourself:

Sepulveda Boulevard

Pock-marked with half-shuttered businesses and weathered signs, Sepulveda is also a cyclist and walker’s nightmare. For much of its length in West L.A. it lacks a sidewalk on its western side. LADOT and Metro added a section of western sidewalk last year near Pico Boulevard when the Expo Line opened—but, of course, it abruptly ends less than a half-mile from the station. The city’s message to transit-users and pedestrians: Figure it out, suckas!

La Brea Avenue

This north-south route is actually experiencing a renaissance north of Wilshire, with new apartment buildings and ground-level retail. Almost immediately south of Wilshire, near the site of a future subway station, La Brea looks like Magnolia Boulevard in the Valley. The picturesque scene: Dilapidated strip-malls, driveways abutting the sidewalk, no shade trees. The most egregious aspect of La Brea is south of the Expo Line station. Not only does the station design leave transit users vulnerable to speeding cars, the multiple driveways of the nearby shopping centers also put Baldwin Village walkers at risk.

To add insult to injury, the beautiful Kenneth Hahn State Park cannot be reached via La Brea, nor by anyone walking. Yup, you heard that right. The only way to get to Kenneth Hahn is via an exit off a freeway-like portion of La Cienega Boulevard, or a bus shuttle if you want to trudge to the La Cienega Expo station. The sidewalk on La Brea abruptly ends after Baldwin Village, and there is no pedestrian route to the park, even though it’s just over a hill from the street. Great planning.

Lincoln Boulevard

Lincoln is another street that’s officially a highway. Usually inundated with traffic, Lincoln is lined with street-facing strip-mall parking lots and ubiquitous power lines. But what about the safety? Well, the good news is that Santa Monica officials—who have held responsibility for Lincoln since Caltrans rescinded control of the boulevard in 2012—are planning pedestrian-friendly additions like a bus lane, medians, crosswalks, curb extensions, and sidewalk trees. That’s great, but Santa Monica government has to stop caving to NIMBYs and start allowing more mixed-use developments along that stretch of street. Think: more people walking their dogs and just a few less car washes and auto body shops.