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West Hollywood takes a light approach to fight crosswalk dangers

Todrick Hall, left, and West Hollywood Mayor John D'Amico attend a launch party at the Abbey, a popular gay bar, for the city's new YouTube pedestrian safety announcement video. Hall directed the video.
Todrick Hall, left, and West Hollywood Mayor John D’Amico attend a launch party at the Abbey, a popular gay bar, for the city’s new YouTube pedestrian safety announcement video. Hall directed the video.
(Francine Orr, Los Angeles Times)

In a push to make crosswalks safer for pedestrians, West Hollywood is getting out the word in a way only this city can — a party at a gay bar, a press release the mayor wrote in emoji and a YouTube video featuring a drag queen dancing to a parody of a Taylor Swift song.

The city has posted ads in Santa Monica Boulevard bus shelters with a muscular, shirtless man and the words: “Wink, Then Walk. Make eye contact with drivers before you cross the street.” Another ad, urging drivers to stay off their phones, says, “You might like what you see in the crosswalk.”

West Hollywood has even purchased ads on Grindr, the location-based smartphone app for gay and bisexual men.

“We’re trying to meet people where they are,” said Mayor John D’Amico. “Every night, the population of the city doubles, and it’s by and large young people who live in a digital world.”

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Though the city’s approach is playful, crosswalk safety in West Hollywood is a serious issue, and the city is studying — and considering investing heavily in — new crosswalk lighting and vehicle turn signals. Since 2011, there have been 88 car-pedestrian collisions, three of them fatal.

The traffic is thick on West Hollywood’s thoroughfares, particularly Santa Monica Boulevard, and at night, the streets and sidewalks are alive with pedestrians — a potentially deadly combination.

But West Hollywood officials say they are aware of the city’s hard-partying reputation and don’t mind making light of it in a public-safety campaign if it’s one that people will remember, the mayor said.

After all, West Hollywood launched a popular free bus service last year called the PickUp — which officials touted as a “flirtatious take on public transit” — to cut down on drunk driving. It stops outside bars, restaurants and nightclubs and has a jar of free condoms next to the bus driver.

The city hosted a launch party this week for its new YouTube pedestrian safety announcement video, which cost $15,000 to produce, at the Abbey, a popular gay bar.

“The video features a vibrant cast of characters with drag queens, gym bunnies, models, go-go boys and fierce dancers who perform a pulsating choreographed routine in West Hollywood’s iconic Rainbow Crosswalks,” said a city press release.

Todrick Hall, who directed the video, said he hopes people get the message to pay attention when they’re driving or walking. He remembered seeing signs around town in August about the accident that killed 62-year-old Clinton Bounds, who was hit by a car while trying to cross Santa Monica Boulevard.

“People have a good time here, but ... I’ll see people walking across the street and make it from one side of the street to the other and never look up from their phones,” he said. “I just think it’s about time we become more aware.”

Not everyone, though, appreciated the city’s lighthearted approach.

“I lost somebody, and they’re making a party out of it,” said David Etter, who said his boyfriend, Mehmet Tasci, died after he was hit in a West Hollywood crosswalk.

“There’s no party in death.”

Twitter: @haileybranson


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