Pedestrians must take back Eagle Rock Boulevard

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One of the advantages of living in a small neighborhood like Eagle Rock is how close together everything and everyone is. But one of the aspects of this area that does not prompt people to think “small community” is the traffic that constantly reminds us that we live in Los Angeles.

For a long time, traffic in Eagle Rock has been a very concerning point of controversy for residents who feel unsafe as cars speed down the streets. But in the past few years, there have been many improvements to streets in Eagle Rock, notably the Take Back the Boulevard initiative for Colorado Boulevard. Now that streets are safer, Eagle Rock residents should support these efforts and get out and walk or bike the streets more.

Besides the obvious environmental, financial and health benefits, increased walking and biking around town will also support local businesses and show that the improvements to our roads are making an impact. It will make more people aware that change is needed to accommodate a flourishing pedestrian and cyclist culture.

The Take Back the Boulevard initiative has made great strides in improving the conditions of Colorado Boulevard, making the arterial more hospitable for pedestrians and cyclists. Take Back the Boulevard was started in 2011, and since then, its members have held community meetings for suggestions and pushed for many improvements to Eagle Rock’s busiest and most problematic road.

Colorado Boulevard, before the advent of the 134 Ventura Freeway, was the main road between Glendale and Pasadena. Yet even after the 134 Freeway was built, the conditions of Colorado Boulevard never changed. Many sections of the road still retained the feeling of a freeway, according to adjunct professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Take Back the Boulevard member Mark Vallianatos. It is not uncommon to see many cars traveling down the boulevard at high speeds. In the past decade alone there have been numerous crashes, accidents, injuries and fatalities on Colorado Boulevard.

“What I think is good about the Take Back the Boulevard initiative on Colorado is the example of how people who live in an area can be fed up with some problems or dangers and come together and have an idea and start getting change,” Vallianatos said.

Colorado, and many other streets in Eagle Rock, still has much upon which to improve. More crosswalks, more street lighting, more medians, updated sidewalks and many other improvements can still be introduced. But first, more people must be seen walking the streets.

The Take Back the Boulevard initiative has reduced the number of traffic lanes on the boulevard, making it harder for vehicles to travel at excessive speeds. By creating bike lanes, new crosswalks and improving old crosswalks, the initiative has also encouraged less driving and more walking. It has become a much more welcoming atmosphere for pedestrians.

Another improvement on Colorado Boulevard (the most recent and the first of its kind in Los Angeles) is the introduction of rectangular rapid flashing beacons, which alert drivers when pedestrians are crossing the roads. These were recently put in at the boulevard’s intersections with El Rio, Glen Iris and Hermosa Avenues, according to Field Deputy for City Councilmember Jose Huizar and Take Back the Boulevard member Nate Hayward.

“Colorado is the heart of Eagle Rock,” Hayward said in an email. “It’s definitely improved due in large part to the community’s efforts.”

Beyond Eagle Rock, many other areas of Los Angeles are developing to create a much friendlier urban setting for people who walk, bike or favor public transit. Los Angeles citizens should recognize and take advantage of these changes. Los Angeles is known for wide roads that allow people to drive across lanes and around fellow drivers aggressively. But as more people walk the streets and take alternative modes of transportation, conditions can be different. Already in Eagle Rock we have seen how people can change a community by taking action. That action must be followed up.

In Eagle Rock, the next step is to implement changes on Eagle Rock Boulevard. On this street, cars can still travel at rather high speeds and the road’s highway feel completely undermines changes to roads to make them safer. People must walk the roads, visit local businesses and use bike lanes. Eagle Rock needs more pedestrian activity throughout the community in order to remain a small, friendly, pedestrian-safe neighborhood.

Whether it be for work, leisure or getting a quick bite to eat, walking around Eagle Rock will make the road more than just a space for motorists. Eagle Rock will be a neighborhood for everyone, for every business, and drivers will be more aware that they do not own the road; they have to share it.

Stephen Nemeth is an undeclared sophomore. He can be reached at snemeth@oxy.edu or on Twitter @WklySNemeth.