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It's not all about bikes: 'Walktober' begins today

October 01, 2013|By Robert Greene
  • A student walks across West Temple street at Laveta Terrace on October 6, 2011 using a crosswalk where two girls were struck near Angeleno Heights.(Los Angeles Times)
A student walks across West Temple street at Laveta Terrace on October 6,… (Los Angeles Times )

It’s Walktober, in case you didn't know, and Oct. 1 is the Walking Day of Action, which means superheroes dressed as lucha libre wrestlers will appear at several Los Angeles street corners at various times all day to protect pedestrians from cars encroaching on crosswalks.

The inspiration is Peatonito, “the masked defender of pedestrians” in Mexico City.

Well, of course it’s a gimmick, and why not? It allows the activist group Los Angeles Walks to get the word out about pedestrian safety and, more to the point, the role of walkers in crafting the city’s transportation plans. The organization’s founder and executive director, Deborah Murphy, said she wanted to make it easier and safer for people to get to transit – walk to the bus, the Metro or perhaps all the way to school, work, the store or whatever the destination may be.

FULL COVERAGE: Sharing the road in L.A.

The group argues that conditions for walkers in Los Angeles are so bad as to discourage them from using public transit. Unless you live across the street from a bus stop or a Gold Line station, is it easy and inviting enough to walk a couple blocks, maybe 10, to get your connection? Or is it just not worth it, especially if the car is in the garage and ready to go?

So just as potholes are as much an issue for cyclists as for cars, city sidewalks -- buckled, broken, dangerous -- are as important for transit users as for pedestrian commuters.

There’s another subtext: It’s not all about bikes. Cyclists have taken a lead role in a citywide discussion about the use of Los Angeles streets, but the bike-versus-car dialogue falls short. If cyclists appear to be pushing the conversation forward, it’s because they are – but it’s a conversation about the use of urban space, making streets livable, winning attention from government, organizing and seeing projects through. It’s a conversation also about coalition building; Los Angeles Walks formed under the umbrella and with the assistance of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.

It’s worth noting, then, that CicLAvia – the periodic gathering of cyclists that convenes again Sunday, from MacArthur Park to Boyle Heights to other locations in and around downtown Los Angeles, is also WalkLAvia. Walkers will gather at Mariachi Plaza at 10 a.m. at 1st and Boyle in Boyle Heights.

“CicLAvia is an open streets event,” Murphy said. “It’s not just a bike event.”

It’s also not a city government event. City Hall and city officials participate, and organization leaders work closely with elected officials and the Department of Transportation. But the common links in  CicLAvia and WalkLAvia – and the Walking Day of Action and other Walktober events, plus numerous street improvements and street use changes around the city – are a dedicated group of people who find others with common interests, raise funds on their own, then press their case and win buy-in from public officials.

As for the luchadores, they were at Hollywood and Vine at 8 this morning and slated to appear at 7th and Alvarado at 11. They’ll be at 7th and Flower at 3.

The rest of Walktober includes International Walk to School Day on Oct. 9, with 30 schools participating with the Department of Transportation. There is also a Zombie Walk and a Santa Monica Walking Train. And for every weekend in October, Walktoberfest – walks to places where pedestrians can get themselves a beer.

Again – Why not?

ALSO:

The terror of Colorado Boulevard

Hikers and mountain bikers: Separate but equal?

Sharing the road: Can L.A. become a cyclists' town?

This post is part of an ongoing conversation to explore how the city’s cyclists, drivers and pedestrians share and compete for road space, and to consider policy choices that keep people safe and traffic flowing. For more: latimes.com/roadshare and #roadshareLA.

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