In 2015, 16-year-old Naomi Larson was crossing Vista del Mar when she was struck by a vehicle. One week later, Ms. Larsen tragically died as a result of her injuries, making hers the fifth fatal accident in 12 years on Vista del Mar. During that same period of time, 210 traffic collisions on this road, many involving pedestrians, resulted in injury. Both of these facts played into the creation of projects intended to improve safety in Playa del Rey, Redondo Beach, Mar Vista, and Westwood.
Following the death of Naomi Larsen, her family sued the City of Los Angeles, citing a failure to keep pedestrians safe. At the time there was nearly a two-mile stretch between Imperial Highway and Napoleon Street along Vista del Mar without a single crosswalk. The result of this lawsuit was a $9.5 million settlement, reached in April of 2017. Long before that, however, steps were taken to reduce risks to pedestrians and drivers in Playa del Rey.
These steps were not successful. In fact, they made things markedly worse.
Narrowing Traffic Lanes
Vista del Mar once had four lanes – two in each direction – allowing traffic to flow smoothly along the road. Following Ms. Larsen’s tragic accident, this road was narrowed to two lanes with a center lane added for turning vehicles. At the same time, all parking along this stretch of road was moved to the West side and converted into angled spaces – a move that would, ideally, allow for more vehicles to park without placing pedestrians who were crossing the road in danger.
Well-intentioned but poorly designed, these changes have not solved the problem of accidents. They have, instead, made matters much worse.
Since the redesign, traffic accidents have increased an alarming 132% on this small stretch of road. Injuries in these accidents are often worsened by the delay emergency vehicles encounter when trying to maneuver through the two congested lanes. Many commuters, in an attempt to avoid the lengthy delays caused by 9.4 miles of reduced lanes, began turning to side streets for quicker passage, in turn placing residents of these streets – many of them children – in greater danger of injury or death.
In response to this, an organization of frustrated drivers called Keep L.A. Moving filed restraining orders and injunctions to “[R]estore Vista Del Mar, Culver Boulevard, Pershing Drive, and Jefferson Boulevard to their original condition, pending such further environmental review, and until this action can be decided on its merits.”
Whether because of the threat of litigation or due to an increase in traffic accidents, Vista del Mar will return to a four-lane roadway in the near future. In addition, free parking will be added to a county-owned parking lot along Dockweiler State Beach.
Council believes these changes may help reduce traffic accidents. Keep L.A. Moving disagrees and is moving forward with legal action, citing the continued need for lighting and other safety improvements to truly protect beachgoers from a collision.
No matter if you are a driver, a pedestrian, or a cyclist, if you have been injured in or around Playa del Rey, Mar Vista, Westwood, or Redondo Beach, you are entitled to compensation for your injuries. Kirtland & Packard, LLP is here to help. Call us at 310-536-1000 to schedule a free consultation and learn how we can help you get the full compensation you deserve.
Are Bike Lanes the Answer?
There are a number of cities where intelligent planning has allowed bicycle traffic, pedestrian traffic, and automobile traffic to safely coexist. Los Angeles, as it turns out, is not one of those.
Knee-jerk reactions to concerns over pedestrian and cyclist safety along with a desire to reduce emissions have prompted the city to make swift – often poorly devised – decisions about bicycle lanes and road changes. Many of these changes have resulted in an increase in emissions as cars are stalled for prolonged periods due to narrowed or removed lanes. Worse yet, accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists have increased in many of these areas, as both the confusion of shifting lanes and the frustration of severe congestion lead to dangerous conditions for all. Accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians typically result in serious injury.
Bike lanes added to Jefferson, Culver, and Pershing have failed to improve safety conditions not because bike lanes are ineffective, but because the planning put into these roadway changes were not well thought out and were very poorly executed. A spokesman for Councilman Mike Bonin, who many consider to be the driving force behind these changes, claims they were the result of collaborative efforts with local residents and business owners who share a desire to keep neighborhoods safe. The resulting failure of road narrowing and bike lane additions has prompted some in the area to support an effort to recall Bonin and replace him with someone more in tune with local needs and desires.
What are Your Rights?
According to the CDC, pedestrians are 1.5-times more likely to be killed in an accident than passengers in vehicles. This risk, and the risk for serious injury, increases exponentially when poor street planning and design come into play. Poor street design from the get-go caused problems in and around Playa del Rey, Mar Vista, Westwood, and Redondo Beach. Poor response to the risks posed in these communities have only made things worse.
While the long-term solution requires thoughtful planning and intelligent implementation of safety measures, the short-term solution is yet unclear. What is clear is this: victims of serious injury, regardless of their mode of transportation at the time, are entitled to compensation for all related damages. The Los Angeles personal injury attorneys at Kirtland & Packard, LLP are here to see that victims get every penny they are due.
We have decades of combined and individual experience helping motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists get justice following a serious injury. Our award-winning personal injury lawyers have handled a number of complex cases throughout California – and our focus on providing individual representation to each client has allowed us to secure significant compensation for people harmed by the actions of others.
Victims of injury in communities impacted by poor street design and unnecessary changes in lane size and availability have a right to hold city planners and other powerful interests accountable and seek compensation for all related damages. But bear in mind that taking on powerful interests can be near impossible on your own. We are here to take your case as far as needed to help ensure you are awarded the settlement you deserve.
If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed in Playa del Rey, Mar Vista, Westwood, Redondo Beach, or surrounding areas, call us at 310-536-1000 to schedule a free consultation and learn how Kirtland & Packard, LLP can help.
We offer no-obligation, cost-free consultations at our Redondo Beach office. We can come to you to discuss your case if your injuries make travel difficult.