A nice subtle change occurred over this past week in the Historic Core at the intersection of 5th and Spring where new zebra crosswalks were painted, replacing the common “parallel lines” crosswalk. The striped “zebra crossings” (aka “continental crosswalks”) are meant to provide higher visibility to the intersection so that crossing the street for pedestrians is a safer experience. Because the stripes become a much more salient feature in the urban landscape, the new crosswalks also elevate the pedestrians’ status in a city still dominated by a car-oriented mentality where usually pedestrians take the backseat.
Zebra crossings are characterized by their alternating black and white stripes and were developed in the United Kingdom in 1949. They have become a popular format used around the world to help enhance pedestrian safety, including some examples seen below in Tokyo and New York.
In addition to the new zebra crossings at 5th and Spring, new “stop lines” have been painted as well that delineate clearly where cars should stop behind the line. This buffer zone “effectively widens the crosswalk without altering the legal definition of a crosswalk,” according a case study completed in New York.
It is unclear whether or not this is the beginning of more to come for zebra crossings in Downtown LA. If the crosswalks are successful with pedestrians and vehicles, which I believe they will be, I think they should be implemented more broadly throughout Downtown LA. Los Angeles has not been known to be a place for pedestrians, but with more and more changes like this, our reputation will eventually reflect these positive steps forward.
Some examples of zebra crossings in other cities