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Should Downtown's 'Art Walk' Be Closed to Cars? Obviously

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Crowds fill in the streets at June's Downtown Art Walk
Crowds fill in the streets at June's Downtown Art Walk

Tragedy struck Los Angeles last week as a driver backed over a curb in Downtown Los Angeles and killed two-month-old Marcello Vasquez during the monthly Art Walk event. Vasquez's death is drawing major media attention. And rightly so. This is a death that could have been avoided.

When you mixed vehicles and tens of thousands of people in a confined space, something like this is bound to happen. As anyone who has gone to one of these events knows, Art Walk outgrew the confines of the sidewalk arguably as long as a year ago. If you haven't witnessed the crowds for yourself, this video will show you all you need to know.

Vasquez's death has already lead Downtown artists to petition the city to close both Spring and Main streets to traffic during Art Walk. They are absolutely right. This is a no-brainer for the city.

The monthly event already necessitates the presence of traffic police. Instead of sticking them in the middle of an intersection guiding traffic, as the city does now, why not have them put up a few orange cones and block off the streets instead? If the city needs a few extra bucks to pay for the measure, then the Downtown business community should step up and fork over what they need to. This event is a huge boon to Downtown and has been a central component to the revitalization of that neighborhood. Not only will shutting down the streets make people safer, it will give the event more room to expand. Win-win for everyone.

As the blogger Brigham Yen points out on his blog, street closures for regular events are commonplace all over the country. If New York can close Times Square every weekend to traffic, Los Angeles can find a way to rope off Main and Spring once a month.

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The L.A. Vitamin Report is a column about quality of life issues by Matthew Fleisher. It is brought to KCET's SoCal Focus blog in partnership with Spot.Us, which receives support from the California Endowment.

The photo used on this post is by Flickr user mikeywally. It was used under a Creative Commons License.

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