Los Angeles Seeks Pedestrians

March 5, 2012
L.A. converts a street into a public park.

The automobile is undoubtedly the dominant mode of travel in Los Angeles. But to write off the city as made up entirely of car-driving, bumper-to-bumper rush hour commuters is clearly an over-generalization. A growing group of Angelenos is finding ways to make transit, cycling, and walking (and, often, a combination thereof) relevant and viable in their daily lives.

A physical example of this transition opened this weekend in the city’s Silver Lake neighborhood. On a short strip of street bordering a small triangular park within a vibrant commercial area, officials from the city’s departments of planning, transportation, and public works partnered with the county’s public health department to close the street off to car traffic and convert it into an outdoor plaza. On 11,000 square-feet, the roadway has been effectively removed form the automobile grid with the simple application of paint (in glowing neon green polka-dots), bike racks and planters around the edges and seating in the middle. The project was inspired by similar street plazas created in New York City and San Francisco.

“In L.A., 60 percent of our land area is devoted to streets and parking lots. So the real hope here is that we can take that and transform it into something really different than just spaces for cars,” says Bill Roschen, president of the city’s planning commission.

Roschen helped spearhead the street-to-plaza project, part of an effort called Streets for People. His intention is to spread projects like this one throughout the city.

“It’s about culture change,” Roschen says. “It’s looking at streets as not always for cars, but a real shared effort around mobility.”