Over time, I’m realizing how much pedestrians in LA are truly second-class citizens compared to cars. Before moving here, I’d often heard a mythology about how respectful cars are towards pedestrians here. But it’s false. So much is stacked against an enjoyable pedestrian experience, it’s incredible.
One obvious example of the inequality are the “beg buttons” that by default install are required to be pushed before a pedestrian can get a light to cross the street. I don’t mean requesting the light change so that one can cross traffic, but instead simply having it change to walk at the normal time when the traffic light cycles, as opposed to staying in the “Don’t Walk” state.
These devises are sometimes disparagingly referred to as “beg buttons” by many pedestrian activists because you are essentially having to ask for permission to have a crossing signal phase. Beg buttons are one of the more subtle means by which we degrade the urban environment for walking, and Streets.MN has a handy typological guide. The buttons exist for driver convenience, not walking convenience. The absence of an assumed pedestrian phase permits greater optimizations of green times for the prioritized vehicle travel direction. It took me a long while to realize this relationship, but now I take note of everywhere I see them, or don’t see them.