Friday, October 30, 2015


photo courtesy of WalkArlington

A quick reminder that the most fun night of the year is also one of the most dangerous for pedestrians--especially short ones who have a tendency to be more focused on the next sugar handout than the cars on the street (that's me I'm describing). 

If you're looking for a neighborhood that with give you the most treat for your trick, check out Zillow's Trick or Treat Index for 2015, which ranks cities and neighborhoods based on factors such as crime rates and housing density. 

Have fun!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Walking Comes First in European Transportation Policy

It seems like we're always looking to Europe as we try to improve pedestrian safety here in the US. Are they really doing things so much better over there? Short answer: yes.

You can see why by taking a look at this one simple chart from the European Transport and Safety Council's new report Making Walking and Cycling on Europe's Roads Safer. It illustrates one of the report's key recommended policies:  

"Further develop a policy of modal priority for road users, particularly in urban areas, the hierarchy being based on safety, vulnerability and sustainability. Walking should be at the top of the hierarchy, followed by cycling and use of public transport."

That's pretty wonky policy language to wade through, so let me put it more simply: Walking comes first.

Let me translate a few more of those wonky policies for you.

"Give priority in road maintenance to the quality of surfaces on footways, cycle paths and the parts of carriageways most used by crossing pedestrians and by cyclists."

Walking comes first when maintaining roads.

"Provide shorter and safer routes for pedestrians and cyclists by ensuring that routes are direct and that the quickest routes are also the safest. Travel time should be increased on unsafe routes and decreased on safe routes."

Walking comes first when designating travel routes.

"Prioritise the safety of cyclists and pedestrians when developing sustainable urban mobility plans."

Walking comes first when drafting transportation plans.

You get the idea.

It's worth noting that the report also devotes a considerable amount of space to promoting low speed limits in urban areas, particularly those with lots of bike and ped traffic:

"Encourage local authorities to adopt zones with a speed limit of 30km/h in residential areas and areas used by many pedestrians and cyclist."

"Introduce lower speed limits for junctions and intersections."

"Prepare national enforcement plans with yearly targets for compliance in the areas of speeding, especially in urban areas, where there are high numbers of pedestrians and cyclists."

I'll do the math for you--that's 18 mph. Most of the roads in my neighborhood are designed for speeds at least twice that high, and that's just the residential roads. I'd love to see a state law lowering the default speed on residential roads to 18 mph, but I doubt that's happening any time soon. Until then, maybe Pacific Beach can be the test case?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Latest Child Traffic Safety Statistics

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is out with its latest fact sheet on traffic safety, this time focused on child safety. Including data from 2013, the latest year from which data is available, here are a few key statistics:

  •  Of the 4,735 pedestrian traffic fatalities, 236 (5%) were children
  • One-fifth (21%) of the child traffic fatalities were pedestrians
  • Of the estimated 66,000 injured pedestrians in traffic crashes, 10,000 (15%) were children
It took me a minute to recover from that first statistic--nearly 5,000 people killed walking in just one year. The good news is that according to the fact sheet, the number of child pedestrian traffic fatalities decreased by 36 percent, from 366 fatalities in 2004 to 236 in 2013. The biggest decrease came in the oldest age group. Does this mean our roads are getting safer, or are kids just walking less?

Here's one statistic that might help answer that question: 81 percent of child pedestrian traffic fatalities occurred at non-intersection locations, an increase from 77 percent in 2012. This suggests to me that any improvements in safety could be due to fewer kids walking, and not to safer roads.

It's also an important reminder that we continue to have a serious problem with roadway design. Roads are for people, and they need to keep all people safe--especially kids. Right now we've only designed them to keep drivers safe, and the result is dire for kids who dare to venture into roadways outside the designated pedestrian crossing locations.

The fix for this problem is not to push kids off roadways or blame them for "foolishly" using space that is meant for cars. The fix is to create roadways where kids aren't killed when they walk in "non-intersection locations." It's time to stop protecting cars at the expense of protecting children.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

When you design roads this way, people die

One of the downsides of being a pedestrian advocate and transportation planner it that I have to spend a disproportionate amount of time reading horrifying stories like this one, about a 7-month-old baby killed (and father severely injured) at a street crossing here in San Diego. It's so hard to wrap my head around what it must be like for these parents as they try to pick up the pieces of their lives.

This week the City is working on updates to the intersection aimed at preventing similar crashes in the future, including installing a new signal at the intersection. We say it so often that it's cliche, but it shouldn't take the death of child to fix intersections that are so obviously dangerous. Here's a picture of the crossing where the crash took place:

Notice that the northbound right "turn" isn't really a turn at all, more of a channelized "veer" that aims high-speed traffic straight at a crosswalk. Moreover, the crosswalk is set back just enough from the intersection to make pedestrians less visible to drivers. This is a space designed for cars, and cars alone. Is it any surprise that people are hurt and killed here?

The most frustrating part is that there really isn't much purpose to this stretch of roadway, other than moving cars as quickly as possible at the expense of walkability and pedestrian safety--a point neighbors have picked up on. They've asked the City to close down the road and make the entire space into a park. Let's hope the City listens, before someone else is killed at this crossing.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Walking and Access to Jobs

A newly-released report from the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota ranks the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the US based on accessibility to jobs on foot. According to Access Across America:Walking 2014, New York has the highest job accessibility by walking. As you can see by the map below, there are hundreds of thousands of jobs within walking distance in Manhattan and the surrounding neighborhoods, but the entire region provides fairly good access to jobs on foot.

Compare New York to San Diego, where even the densest neighborhoods can't offer many jobs within easy walking distance.

The study will provide a basis for future work on walking and employment access. According to the authors, "Using this data as a starting point, future reports in the Access Across America series will track the way that accessibility in these metropolitan areas evolves in response to transportation and safety investments and land use decisions." It's important to have a baseline; one the big challenges in pedestrian advocacy is simply a lack of data about walking. With studies like this, we'll have a better understanding of existing conditions for pedestrians, which can help us determine how to effectively improve walking conditions.

You can find the full ranking of cities in the report, but here's the top ten:

1. New York
2. San Francisco
3. Los Angeles
4. Chicago
5. Washington
6. Seattle
7. Boston
8. Philadelphia
9. San Jose
10. Denver

And one last map, for people who continue to insist that LA is only for driving. Take a look at all of that green and yellow...