Pedestrian Light Installed on PCH in Pacific Palisades

By Sue Pascoe

On March 29, Caltrans installed a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon (PHB) light on Pacific Coast Highway, north of Temescal Canyon Road and across from the Palisades Bowl mobile home park. The light replaced a continuously blinking light that warned of a crosswalk, but was largely ignored by motorists.

Some residents in Palisades Bowl are less than 500 feet from the ocean, but to reach the shore means crossing PCH, a stretch of roadway that is part of what the City of Los Angeles calls a High Injury Network (HIN).

The L.A. Department of Transportation has identified streets that although they comprise just six percent of the total streets in L.A., nearly two-thirds of all death and severe injuries involving people walking occur in the HIN.

Michelle Brown was hit by a car and her dog killed. Today she and her husband Jon have a new dog, and hope that no one else will go through what they did after the accident.
Michelle Brown was hit by a car and her dog killed. Today she and her husband Jon have a new dog, and hope that no one else will go through what they did after the accident.

Jon Brown and his wife Michelle had moved to the Palisades Bowl from New York City two years ago. Shortly after they moved in, “I was having lunch with a friend in Hollywood,” Jon Brown said. “I got a call that my wife had been in an accident and my dog had been killed.”

His wife had been crossing at the Palisades Bowl pedestrian walkway with her dog, when she was struck by a car driven by a teenager, who didn’t see her. The dog was killed instantly. Michelle was badly hurt and transported to UCLA Hospital.

Brown asked how often they see pedestrian accidents like this. “I expected them to tell me maybe once a week, instead they told me my wife was the ninth person they had seen that day.”

Brown knew something had to be done and fought for a change at the PCH crossing. Michelle joined him at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the PHB on May 5, and said, “I’m excited for the light and hope there won’t be any more accidents.”

The PHB, which is also known as HAWK, or high-intensity activated crosswalk, is only the second installed in California (the first was in Manhattan Beach).

When a person presses the walk button, a yellow light starts flashing, then goes to a solid yellow. That is followed by a solid red and motorists are required to stop because a pedestrian is in the crosswalk. When a pedestrian is through the crosswalk, the light starts flashing red, alerting motorists to continue only after they have made a complete stop. The light goes dark when the cycle is completed.

Ali Zaghari, deputy district director of traffic operations for Caltrans, served as the emcee, and Councilman Mike Bonin, Assemblyman Richard Bloom, and California Highway Patrol Lieutenant Kevin Kurker gave remarks.

“The credit for this light does not go to the city,” Bonin said. “Our involvement was magnifying the complaints of the residents. The credit goes to the state.

“The reason I’m thrilled is it helps our objective for Vision Zero. We want zero traffic deaths on our streets by the year 2025,” said Bonin, who cited a statistic that in the first four months of 2017 there were more traffic fatalities in Los Angeles then the state of California.

Bloom said, “People who lived here have advocated for this system.” He pointed out that although the light cost $750,000, it will pay for itself, but people still must pay attention when crossing the highway, or any street for that matter.

That same message was reiterated by Kurker, who said “Pedestrians need to be aware of surroundings when crossing streets. Keep your eyes off the phone.”

Zaghari concluded, “We will continue to work on safety on PCH.”

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