Density is not the same as walkability

I was in Los Angeles recently and stayed in a hotel in what is known as et condo corridor, a stretch of Wilshire Boulevard east of Westwood that is lined with high rise housing.  The blocks behind the street feature single family homes on fairly small blocks,  about as dense as single family homes can be.  Wilshire is served by a major bus route, the street is the site of a proposed new subway linking downtown to the west side, and the busy, if unremarkable, Westwood business district and UCLA are about a ten to fifteen minute walk away.  Sounds walkable?

It’s not.  Wilshire is three lanes in each direction with traffic that races by well above the 35 mph speed limit. There are some trees and a planting strip between the sidewalk and the street, it doesn’t feel like a big enough buffer against the traffic.  The blocks on Wilshire itself are long and crossing the street, even at signals, seems unsafe.

This is evidence that walkablity is more than density, or even proximity to a commercial district.  It really reflects the totality of the pedestrian experience.   Perhaps it is not surprising that the street if pretty empty of pedestrians.

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