Sweet beats for street safety: Crenshaw Blvd. is making safety sound good

The intersection of Crenshaw Boulevard and West Florence Avenue, in the Hyde Park neighborhood of L.A., is a meeting of two huge, wide, heavily used streets, five bus lines, tons of pedestrians, and of course (this is L.A. we’re talking about, here) CARS.

“There’s a lot of pedestrian traffic, people transferring,” explains Naomi Iwasaki, policy analyst with non-profit Community Health Councils (CHC), “There’s just a lot going on. Cars travel extremely fast there, and on one leg of the intersection, there’s kind of a steep hill, and so cars coming up over the crest of that hill are just barreling towards the intersection. There’s a lot of red light running, or cars just not being able to stop in time.”

Street Beats

The area sees so much action, in fact, that it’s actually become one of the 20 most dangerous intersections in the county. It doesn’t help that residents of the under-resourced   neighborhood  haven’t seen their fair share of street-safety city investments. Things will be changing, though, if street-safety partners Ride On! Bicycle Co-op, Community Health Council, T.R.U.S.T. South LA, and Studio MMD (a cool local architecture firm) have anything to say about it.

They’re organizing a one-day demonstration designed to show residents and local businesses how safe and vibrant the intersection could be, with just a little TLC. Details will be hammered out a bit later, once the organizers have had a change to collect tons of community feedback and input via a series of “visioning sessions” (all are welcome), but safe to say that you should expect to find yourself lured in by delicious food – from street vendors, hopefully, if street vending has been legalized in L.A. by then! Also expect curious new temporary safety design treatments on the streets such as:

  1. Bulb-outs, or curb extensions, which basically serve to shorten the distance pedestrians have to travel when crossing the street.
  2. Center medians – ditto. These give pedestrians a resting stop in the middle of a wide street, so that they don’t have to make it all in one go. Huge boon for children and seniors, especially.
  3. A scramble walk. That’s where cars are given a 4-way stop, leaving pedestrians free to cross the intersection diagonally or any whichway they please.
  4. Bus amenities like shelters, benches, garbage cans.

But most of all, expect MUSIC. For starters, several members of the team – including Ride On! founder Adé Neff, who says the event is a chance to “create a playground” and invite people in to think about street safety and mobility – are DJs, and will likely be spinning for passersby. Another idea that’s being tossed around is the temporary installation of a MUSICAL BENCH. Yes, a bench on which you can rest your weary legs while playing music, by tapping on a series of hexagonal electrical buttons which simulate various percussive and instrumental sounds. The organizers hope to plant one of these  at each of the four corners of the intersection, and project the sound through wireless speakers, so that you can sit down on one and hit the snare to make music with someone drumming/sitting across the way.

“We would use the bench to demonstrate that there is a demand and a need for bus stop amenities like benches, maybe shelters,” says Iwasaki. “But it’s fun and it’s interactive. There are no real amenities for bus stops there, and it’s LA so it’s sunny all the time, and it’s really hot. It’s not like it’s sunny and you’re on the beach; it’s sunny and you have concrete glaring back at you. So if we could demonstrate some amenities, I think residents would really, really appreciate that.”

Fundraising is in full swing; the organizers have been awarded a grant of $10,000 as part of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s L.A. Great Streets Initiative, and $2,000 more has already streamed in via their ioby campaign page. Only $8,000 more to go, so if you love the city of angels, and you love a good beat, then get on in there. And if you live in the Hyde Park neighborhood and want to make suggestions or get involved, reach out to any of the organizers. What would make these streets great? They want your ideas!