West Hollywood, colloquially referred to as WeHo, has a problem: Pedestrian safety. In a city with nearly 35,000 people where a 2.8 mile strip of Santa Monica Boulevard courses through densely urban commercial streets, more than 45,000 vehicles travel through WeHo on a daily basis, according to city officials. Both the streets and sidewalks come to life at night. People meet up with each other while Mayor John D’Amico just wants to “meet people where they are.” The mayor says, “Every night, the population of the city doubles, and it’s by and large young people who live in a digital world” making for a deadly combination.
Crosswalk Safety Plan
The focus for the last few years has centered around crosswalks, what exactly constitutes “jaywalking” and a creative campaign to put this issue front of mind. A number of trademark rainbow-colored crosswalks already cover the roads in WeHo. The city has implemented a Crosswalk Safety Plan targeting pedestrian safety by adding stoplights and bolder visual elements designed to alert drivers as they approach crossings.
What is at the root of the issue is the inattentiveness on the part of both drivers and pedestrians. More stops and slower traffic, especially at rush hour, finds drivers turning to their digital devices to break the monotony and ease the frustration. Despite the fact that in West Hollywood pedestrians have the right-of-way, the risk of injury and even death are significantly increased when someone on foot is involved in a collision with a moving vehicle. There is no way a pedestrian has protection for this kind of impact. The WeHo division of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office takes a decidedly pro-pedestrian stance on this issue.
Jaywalking in WeHo is Legal
In West Hollywood, pedestrians have the right-of-way whether or not a crosswalk is marked. Unique to WeHo is the open acceptance of the practice of jaywalking so long as the pedestrian only crosses when there are no vehicles approaching. This crossing between intersections “as long [as] you’re not making vehicle traffic stop for you” is “technically not jaywalking,” according to Lt. David Smith, representative of the Sheriff’s Department. Unlike in other cities where a pedestrian is likely to be ticketed if a foot merely hovers over the street before taking a step, you are protected by the law in West Hollywood as long as you are not jumping directly into the path of oncoming traffic.
Cross Safe WeHo
Individuals who have been personally affected by the car-pedestrian accidents that have occurred or nearly happened are most vocal about the problem and local lawyers have been targeting pedestrian accidents in the area. Keith Cohn, in particular, has not only seen many pedestrians nearly run over trying to cross WeHo streets, but he had to jump fast to avoid him and his dog becoming statistics. This prompted Cohn to take video of the frequency of drivers blowing through the stop signs near his own home on Kings Road. This footage was shared with both the authorities and the city council resulting in $1.4 million being aimed at the issue of pedestrian safety.
This is what brought WeHo’s famous creative effort forth to produce a pedestrian-safety video themed after Alice through the Looking Glass titled Alice in WeHoland. Todrick Hall, who spoof’s Taylor Swift’s song “Shake it Off” in the video said he sees people cross the street never once looking up from their digital devices going from one side to the other.
Slick ads have been posted in the transit shelters with the following messages as seen on LA Times:
- Wink, Then Walk. Make eye contact with drivers before you cross the street. What happens next is up to you.
- Look, Don’t Like. Watch the street, not the screen.
- Ride, Don’t Race. Stop at signs and signals. You never know who is around the corner.
These ads have been produced in conjunction with web-based circulation on social media platforms, a variety of online publications and mobile apps. They were produced by the City’s Communications Division. The Jim Pietras Creative and Melinda Risolo of DMR Creative Services were contracted to develop the ads.
In addition, 3D sidewalk art featuring the vibrant characters from the video have been painted on the sidewalks all along Santa Monica Blvd between La Cienega and San Vicente Boulevards. Each depiction includes a message bubble conveying an urgency on the part of pedestrians to pay attention to where they are going and how they are getting there. Given that people can successfully share selfies with the artwork in the shot shows how the effort is more of a community outreach versus a punitive penalty that typically tries to enforce a learning curve.
It is hoped that the popularity and cleverness of this campaign makes the message of pedestrian safety go viral and help to save lives. You can stay up to date with postings on the Facebook page. No one wants anyone else to suffer as some have in this city where community and comradery is what makes WeHo the popular city that it is.