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An anonymous group is taking it upon themselves to create crosswalks in Los Angeles

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Despite what you may have heard, people do actually walk in Los Angeles, and pedestrians are suddenly finding crosswalks appear in places where there weren't any before. Like, out of the blue, a set of four crosswalks recently popped up at a busy residential intersection in Hollywood. They were not painted by the city of Los Angeles. Instead, a secretive group that calls itself Crosswalk Collective LA claims that it's behind this do-it-yourself project.

NPR's Vanessa Romo has been looking into this group and joins us now. Hi, Vanessa.

VANESSA ROMO, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: So I had no idea this was a thing that was actually happening, and I live here.

ROMO: (Laughter).

CHANG: So what more can you tell us about this group that's painting all these mystery crosswalks?

ROMO: Well, as you just said, the Crosswalk Collective is very secretive, and they've only been willing to communicate over Twitter. So we don't know how many people are in the group or who they are, but it is absolutely clear that they're fed up with waiting on the city to make what they say are much needed improvements for pedestrians. In fact, their motto is, quote, "the city doesn't keep us safe, so we keep us safe."

CHANG: OK. Well, how have city officials been reacting to all these do-it-yourself crosswalks? Like, are they leaving them in place, or are they painting over them, or what?

ROMO: You know, in preparation for this interview, I actually went there on Saturday night, and they are all still there. The city is definitely aware of their existence. And when I got officials on the phone and asked them what they planned to do, they wouldn't specifically say that they were going to remove these crosswalks, but they said the city removes anything that's perceived to interfere with city plans.

CHANG: And are these guerrilla crosswalks, like, already having an effect on pedestrian traffic or car traffic? Like, do they seem to be working?

ROMO: I know that people love to think that nobody walks in LA, but, you know, this intersection is close to a metro station and a park and lots of businesses and other shops. So as far as the neighborhood, it appears to be an improvement.

CHANG: So I'm curious, Vanessa, how does this group that's painting all these crosswalks fit in with other activists in LA who are, like, painting their own bike lanes or just trying to make the city safer for people who aren't driving cars?

ROMO: Well, there are a lot of these groups in LA, and I think what they do is highlight the fact that the city and the Department of Transportation are slow to act on public requests and that people are really desperate to make streets safer because the reality is that the statistics are grim. A group called Streets For All, which studied data from the Los Angeles Police Department, says that 128 pedestrians were killed in Los Angeles in 2021.

CHANG: Wow.

ROMO: That averages out to one person being killed every three days, which is four times the national average. And then one more stat to throw at you - a poll showed that more than half of LA residents said they feel that crossing the street in their neighborhood is dangerous.

CHANG: I mean, yeah. I don't even feel safe crossing my own street in front of my house. Does this group say what it's going to be planning to do next? Like, are there more crosswalks in the works?

ROMO: The group says, absolutely. You know, the response on Twitter has been overwhelmingly positive from the public. In fact, the Crosswalk Collective said that they were having so much trouble keeping up with all of their requests from people for new intersections to have new crosswalks that they made an online form that's available in English and Spanish.

And, you know, it's spread beyond just LA. People all over the country are interested in asking how they can replicate the process. So in response, the collective said they're going to put out a how-to guide that's going to include a standardized, professional-grade crosswalk stencil.

CHANG: (Laughter) That's excellent. That is NPR's Vanessa Romo. Thank you, Vanessa.

ROMO: Thanks, Ailsa.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.