In Our Shoes
Last Friday – World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims – was a day that I’ll never forget. Alongside members of the Los Angeles Vision Zero Alliance, I helped to spray-paint over 500 silhouettes of shoe prints on the steps of City Hall East. Each pair of shoes represented a person – a mother, daughter, friend, husband, grandfather, child – who had been killed by traffic violence since August 2015.
In August 2015, Los Angeles signed on to Vision Zero, a worldwide movement to end traffic deaths by 2025. Since then, over 500 people have lost their lives on the unsafe conditions of our city’s streets. On Friday, the LA Vision Zero Alliance launched #InOurShoes, an interactive art memorial that calls on Mayor Eric Garcetti and the LA City Council to take real action to make LA’s streets safer.
The day started by laying out physical pairs of shoes (donated by safe streets activists) across the steps of City Hall East. Seeing so many shoes without their owners was eerie. Soon, passers by began to stop and ask about the display, and many took action by signing a safe streets pledge. Others returned with flowers and images of loved ones to place into the shoes.
Beyond the steps, we laid out paper and began to spray-paint 503 pairs of shoes – one for each individual killed by traffic violence since LA launched Vision Zero. The process was long, tedious, and painful. After my first row of twenty-five pairs, I had to stop to breathe. I didn’t want to paint any more. These weren’t just silhouettes. This wasn’t just paint. This was somebody’s life, cut violently short, by unsafe road conditions. And it was too many. Way too many.
After four hours, volunteers had painted all 503 pairs of shoes, and the imagery was shatteringly breathtaking. The prints blended into each other and smeared, forming a collage of pain and memory that was almost too large to take in all at once. 503 people – neighbors, friends, loved ones – gone from our lives due to unsafe road conditions. The thought is overwhelming – but seeing it laid out on paper was even more jarring.
As the day continued, people brought flowers, toys, and pictures to place in the shoes. The memorial began to become less anonymous, and more personal. Statistics began to turn into stories. Strong survivors like Grandma Beverly told their stories of loss – heart-breaking, soul-wrenching stories. While listening, I silently doubled down my commitment to make LA streets safer, because my commute time isn’t as important as my neighbor getting home safely. Because I’d rather travel 25 MPH on local streets than attend another vigil. Because I’m putting myself #inourshoes. Join me.