Sidewalking: Designing Sidewalk Interventions with Youth in Los Angeles

Research Team: Dana Cuff (lead), Yang Yang, and Claire Nelischer

UC Campus(es): UCLA

Problem Statement: Ensuring safe and independent mobility is vital for the well-being of youth in the city. However, in places like Westlake in the City of Los Angeles, various factors create challenges. Westlake is a densely populated neighborhood with high poverty rates, limited access to green spaces, and a high incidence of traffic-related injuries and fatalities. CityLAB's Pathways to Autonomy study identified that while there are positive aspects–like well-designed sidewalks around schools, parks, transit stops, and neighborhood landmarks–youth travel routes often have significant "gaps." These gaps result from a combination of social and built environment factors that affect safety and the overall pedestrian experience. The research findings can now be translated into practical, small-scale urban interventions to bridge these gaps, allowing young pedestrians to navigate the city safely and confidently.

Project Description: This project aims to leverage youth-centered data obtained from the Pathways to Autonomy study, with two primary goals: i) develop, test, and share tactical urban transformations that create "last link" corridors along city sidewalks near schools, enhancing independent mobility for youth; and ii) empower youth to become advocates for their own public space and infrastructure needs, particularly adolescents of color with an emphasis on equity. To achieve these goals, the research relies on Youth Participatory Action Research methods, including walking audits, photovoice, mapping, and design workshops. The gathered data will inform the implementation of 3 to 4 "micro-urban interventions" along a two-block sidewalk segment in a Los Angeles neighborhood where street safety is a pressing issue. Students will present their sidewalk interventions to agency partners, planners, and policymakers, offering practical urban improvement suggestions and generating feedback. The final outcome will be a widely distributed Sidewalking Toolkit, documenting the research for use by cities throughout California.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $74,969