Beg button case study: Pacific & N Venice Blvd

Beg button case study: Pacific & N Venice Blvd

One of the great things about living in Venice is the area’s walkability and bikeability. It’s the perfect area to ditch your car and make those short trips to the grocery or restaurant by two feet or two wheels. I love the fact that my girlfriend would rather walk (or ride) when going out at night (just one of the reasons I love her). And when the weekend rolls around and the beach traffic resembles a parking lot, getting yourself around this way is really the way to go.

The infamous "beg buton"
The infamous “beg buton”

But there’s a lot which can be done to improve things for pedestrians to make the area move walkable and livable. The number one change would be to remove the requirement of hitting the beg button in order to get a WALK signal at many intersections. For those that don’t know, the term “beg button” is a derogatory one because it places pedestrians at a second class level on the streets, clearly giving priority to cars while reminding walkers that the streets aren’t designed for them. If we walk up to an intersection without hitting the beg button, we’ll never get a WALK signal allowing us to cross. To add insult to injury, at many intersections even if we hit the button and there’s more than enough time for us to cross the street, the signal remains DON’T WALK and we have to wait for two light cycles before we can cross.

A perfect example of this is at the intersection of Pacific and N Venice Blvd (and S Venice Blvd a short distance away). As the diagram below shows in green, the light cycle is basically a one minute cycle for Pacific (including a short left turn segment for northbound drivers) and a 25 second cycle for traffic heading west on Venice Blvd.

Intersection of Pacific and N Venice Blvd
Intersection of Pacific and N Venice Blvd


However, the available walk time for pedestrians heading north or south on Pacific is a meagerĀ seven seconds before it turns to a flashing DON’T WALK. Under California law, pedestrians are not legally allowed to start crossing once it starts flashing. So even though there is another 53 seconds which are available to cross the street before the cars on Venice would have a green, one cannot legally cross. To add insult to injury, if you arrive at the intersection and press the button even one second after the green for traffic on Pacific, the WALK light one come on. You have to wait a full minute and a half before you can legally cross.

One could argue it’s a traffic flow issue, but the only cars that would be impacted are ones heading west on Venice and turning north onto Pacific. In general, this actually isn’t very many cars. The majority of the cars are waiting to turn south onto Pacific or head straight to the parking lots on the beach.

The bottom line is that this intersection should provide a pedestrian WALK signal for all light cycles in all directions, without the need to hit the beg button. The only appropriate use for the beg button is to signal the need for crossing light if there are no cars in the intersection to trigger the light (based upon the sensors in the pavement).

Get rid of the beg buttons.

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