Wilshire CPAB and Sycamore Square Neighbors Urge Motorists: “Don’t Block the Box!”

 

Police and community volunteers at this morning’s “Don’t Block the Box” driver education event at Olympic Blvd. and Sycamore Ave.

A while back, during the 2018-19 school year, LAPD Officer David Manning, from LAPD’s West Traffic Division’s Community Traffic Safety Unit, held a community education event – in the middle of a busy intersection – to remind drivers near Carthay Elementary School not to block intersection “boxes” when they stop at nearby traffic signals.  (The “box” is the part of the intersection used by both east/west and north/south traffic, depending on which directions have a green light.) Blocking the intersection when stopped is not only illegal, but causes gridlock and safety hazards when traffic moving in other directions tries to cross the blocked street.

About a year ago, Manning, who is also a member of the Wilshire Community-Police Advisory Board (C-PAB) Traffic Committee, was also contacted by Gayle Robinson, the principal at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, about similar issues with traffic frequently blocking the intersection at Olympic Blvd. and Sycamore Ave., which provides access to that school.

After Robinson’s call, Manning said he submitted a request to the LA Department of Transportation to paint a box saying “Keep Clear” and “Do Not Block” on the street near the  Olympic/Sycamore intersection…but the request was rejected by LADOT due to insufficient crash data.

So Manning invited the Wilshire C- PAB Civilian Co-Chair, Mitch Jacoves, who doubles as the Traffic Committee chair, to invite C-PAB members to participate in a second “Don’t Block the Box” anti-gridlock education action, this time near Wilshire Crest school.  And this morning, Manning, Jacoves, and C-PAB members Medrene Gee (from the Miracle Mile neighborhood) and Conrad Starr (from Sycamore Square), along with Nick Maestas, a friend of Gee’s who also lives in Sycamore Square, formed a bright-vested team for the early morning traffic blitz.

 

Officer Manning briefs his crew before they hit the intersection.

After a brief training session, from 6:45 to 7am, the participants spent the better part of an hour handing out small fliers to motorists stopped at the intersection, explaining the safety issues and city regulations about blocking intersections. The cards included the text of the law prohibiting the blocking of an intersection or crosswalk…

 

Vehicle Code 22526(A): A driver of a vehicle shall not enter an intersection or marked crosswalk unless there is sufficient space on the other side of the intersection or marked crosswalk to accommodate the vehicle driven without obstructing the through passage of vehicles {or pedestrians} on either side.

 

…and a small drawing illustrating the area that should be left clear:

 

 

In the 45 minutes alloted, the small crew was able to interact with 249 drivers at the intersection (with only 15 people who did not want to engage and refused the information they provided).  Manning noted that if he had tried to do the same thing by himself, stopping and citing individual violators for an hour, he would only have reached about six people in the same amount of time.

 

 

Of course, said Jacoves, some drivers were more receptive to the gentle warnings than others. “I saw some guys who looked like they were on their way to construction jobs—who were noticeably apprehensive about this police presence and people in green vests coming into traffic to stop motorists and approaching cars.

 

Jacoves helping out.

But, he said, “When they found out we were educating them about gridlock laws, they seemed really relieved.”  Also, Jacoves said, “I saw numerous distracted drivers: on cell phones, putting on makeup.  I think they were happy they were not getting cited!”

 

 

Maestas, who lives near Wilshire Crest, said, “I get blocked all the time, so I wanted to be proactive in helping alleviate the situation. I frequently turn left from Mansfield onto eastbound Olympic and it’s always blocked, even though there’s a signal there.”  Today, he said, “It made me feel really good to be doing something about the problem and cooperating with the police, as opposed to just complaining about it. It was actually a lot of fun and I would do it again.”

 

Sycamore Square resident Nick Maestas handing out information cards

Maestas said that drivers’ reactions to the event this morning “ranged from suspicious to surprised to thankful. I greeted them all with a smile. There were nine people who absolutely refused to roll down their windows and communicate — they didn’t want to engage. It’s obvious people know the rule, because when they see the police, they don’t block the intersection…but when they don’t see the police, they don’t heed the rule — which is the case pretty much anywhere in Los Angeles. The police confirmed as much today. I hope we can do more of these and more people will get involved.”

 

Medrene Gee working the street, too.

And finally, Gee noted that, “Even this small effort is something, because one driver even asked me, ‘When did this become the law?’ Either they’re not paying attention or they are just clueless. The threat of a near-300 dollar ticket might make a dent in bad driver behavior.”  Gee said, though, that she found that most drivers’ reactions “receptive and pleasant,” and only three drivers declined to roll down their windows for her.

 

Wilshire Crest principal Gayle Robinson, right, explaining to Ofcr. Manning how traffic jams up near the school.

If you’d like to get involved with the LAPD Wilshire Division Community-Police Advisory Board, and/or its Traffic Committee, the C-PAB meets every third Thursday of the month, at 7 p.m., at the Wilshire Community Police Station, 4861 W. Venice Blvd.

[Background information, quotations and photos for this story were provided by Conrad Starr.]

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