What Makes LA So Dangerous for Walkers and Cyclists?

Car accident meme

The culmination of bad driving is injury, death and even road rage

Emergency medicine can easily be avoided when highways are made safer. You see, anytime there is a long stretch of roadway like the I-10 West, acceleration momentum can be built up rather quickly for an automobile. And same goes for a human-powered bicycle. But then, all of a sudden, you have to exit an off-ramp into Santa Monica, in Los Angeles, CA for example.

Once you get off the Freeway, you face streets that not even a GPS can sometimes navigate. Intersections are where different movements occur, so they certainly can be part of the solution. Part of the problem is that many famous landmarks were built when LA Streets were traveled by foot, or horse and buggy, for example.

What are Some Dangers to Walkers and Cyclists?

This is why we see no sidewalks or bike lanes in some older areas in town, and not in others. Even in areas with sidewalks, if there are old trees, we see an epidemic of mis-leveled sidewalks. In many cases, pedestrians will walk along the road in at the gutter, rather than brave the tore up sidewalks.

As far as cars, trucks, and buses go, the better traffic signals and street designs, and reduced speeds can help eliminate accident risks. Apparently, the slower you drive, the less collateral impact damage to person and property too.

Also, did you know that:

Over 65% of all severe and fatal traffic collisions involving people walking occur on just 6% of our City streets. (Source.)

Why Does Understanding Corridors Help Us Evaluate Dangerous Areas for LA Traffic?

A traffic corridor is a section of roadway that allows for the ingress and egress of automobiles, bikes, pedestrians and other commerce. Each corridor comes with its own particular set of problems, causes, and solutions. Los Angeles has many different traffic corridors. As discussed above, 6% of these account for the vast majority of serious injury and death.

Obviously, knowing where the most dangerous locations are and avoiding them is the best way to avoid getting hurt. Also, knowing this information means you are in a better position to lobby state, local and federal officials for grants, loans and other funds to make these areas safer.

How Do I Examine a Traffic Corridor For Dangers?

Luckily, with applications like Google Earth and Maps, we can test whole corridors visually without driving to each accident scene. It’s important for us to incorporate data about the cause of a collision so that we can identify tailored solutions for each corridor and intersection.

So we need to look at records of prior wrecks, the history of accidents at or near the location, maintenance records of the city and other construction crews, and even traffic signal phasing problems. There is no one size fits all when it comes to evaluation of a transportation corridor in Los Angeles.

People living in Redondo Beach off Hawthorne Blvd know right away that every Tom, Dick, and Harry from the South Bay does not have a 405 Freeway, or 91 Freeway On-ramp close to home. On average, it takes at least 30-45 minutes to get to the Freeway from South Redondo Beach for example.

So this causes drivers to take shortcuts like PCH North to the I-105, or all the way to Wilshire Blvd when they want to get to the City of Los Angeles or get to Beverly Hills and Century City. In any event, even taking the shortcuts from the South Bay, there is invariably a bottleneck as we get closer to the Freeway. Other issues we need to look for when choosing a safe corridor is the time of day.

Why is Rush Hour an Important Time to Stay Off Roads?

Rush hour means more people on the streets. Statistics mean more chance of a wreck. One thing we also need to examine is the total number of vehicle lanes in our direction of travel. Take Admiralty Way in Marina del Rey, for example.

This has become a dumping off point that literally drives the 90 Expressway into residential and recreational areas. Although traffic lanes were expanded, most injury attorneys would say it is tragic to cyclists and people on foot. In part, it was impossible to expand old Lincoln Avenue further without demolishing many business storefronts, and/or removing sidewalks. So the government is using Admiralty Way in a way.

Much of LA Was Designed in the Era of Horse and Buggy?

Remember, when Lincoln was designed, horses and not cars and buses were all that used that road. So it has stayed small and tight. The presence of a bike lane can mean it is somewhat safer for cyclists, but often this means less or tighter vehicle lanes. And even if you watch your speed limit, other dangers like potholes and vision obstructions can mean the difference between life or death.

So at the end of the day, even when average vehicle speeds are slow, a traffic corridor must be weighed by many factors to get a clear picture.

There are many sources of injury and death statistics. The Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) suggests that: out of the 444 most dangerous intersections in California, 221 appear to be in the City of Los Angeles.

But the High Injury Network used a system based upon traffic corridors and SERIOUS injury or death as criteria. It basically analyzes “’12 statistically significant “collision profiles”’ for bike crashes and those involving people on foot. Below is a quote from the source.


As you can see, school hours, inattentive driving and other human factors play a role. But notice that each corridor comes with its own special set of issues. As discussed, being located in an older part of town with smaller lanes can also play a role.

The bottom line is that there are plenty of unsafe traffic corridors no matter how you look at it. Here is an interactive map that allows you to check your locale for the most dangerous traffic corridors in LA. Of particular interest, cell phones seem to be an ongoing issue with left-hand turn cases.

So when human error combines with pre-existing design and expansion failures, LA spells disaster for many drivers. Staying away from the known and dangerous corridors is a step in keeping safe on the LA streets.