Though many students take steps to protect themselves from violent crime in the USC area, there is another serious threat that is lesser-known: traffic accidents, which have killed 21 people in the area around campus since 2014.
The city of Los Angeles has implemented efforts to reduce these fatalities. In 2015, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a citywide initiative called Vision Zero, administered by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, to make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. As part of this program, major changes are planned for the University Park neighborhood.
“The core of Vision Zero is [to] better organize our streets so that you have less stress,” said Nat Gale, director of Vision Zero. “You can get from point A to point B without thinking that you’re going to have to take your life in your hands.”
For the USC community, this means protected bike lanes are coming, high-visibility crosswalks including some diagonal crossings; tightened right lanes at intersections to slow cars turning right; and protected left-turn signals so cars are not making a left when pedestrians are crossing, according to Gale.
The DOT analyzed five years’ worth of data to map the streets and intersections where the highest number of deaths and serious injuries occurred throughout the city. In the neighborhood immediately north of campus, Vermont Avenue, Jefferson and Adams boulevards and Hoover, 30th and Figueroa streets are all on the High Injury Network map.
According to DOT data analyses, from 2014 through 2016, 21 people died in accidents and 96 were severely injured within a one-mile radius of USC. These numbers include pedestrians, cyclists and people in cars.
In the immediate University Park area, three people, including one cyclist and one pedestrian, have been killed in the past three years, according to data provided through DOT’s online database.
“I encounter close calls quite often,”‘ A’Ali’lkumakani Dukelow, a junior majoring in journalism, said in an email to the Daily Trojan. He lives north of campus and bikes about two miles to school.
“It’s mostly when cars are turning and they don’t wait for pedestrians to cross the street,” Dukelow said. “I don’t feel safe crossing the street mostly anywhere around campus because it seems like most drivers here don’t want to wait for anyone.”
Dukelow said he always rides on the sidewalk. Bike riders are legally allowed to use sidewalks in Los Angeles as long as they exercise caution, according to the Los Angeles Municipal Code.
“In USC, one of our biggest projects, actually citywide, is called ‘My Figueroa,’” Gale said. “It’s a protected bike lane to get people from USC to Downtown and vice versa.”
The project, currently under construction, will install a two-mile stretch of dedicated bike lane in both directions so students like Dukelow will be able to get off the sidewalk. Construction is scheduled for completion in December.
“That physical separation actually makes the streets much better organized,” Gale said. “So you don’t have to guess when somebody on a bicycle is going to be coming because they’re physically protected.”
Features new to drivers and pedestrians, like diagonal — also called scramble — crosswalks, have already arrived along Jefferson Boulevard at the intersections of McClintock Avenue and Hoover and Royal streets.
The University has had limited involvement with the city for some of the safety upgrades. Department of Public Safety Assistant Chief David Carlisle said USC worked with the DOT on the redesign of the intersection at Jefferson Boulevard and Royal Street, where one of the scramble crosswalks was installed. But Carlisle pointed out that the streets around the campus are city property.
“It seems to me we’re fortunate we don’t have more injuries and more serious collisions than we do,” Carlisle said. “With the number of traffic violations that are occurring on a daily basis by pedestrians and cyclists, and drivers … we’re very supportive of any measures taken to reduce traffic fatalities, particularly when it comes to pedestrians and cyclists, because there are tens of thousands of them here at USC.”