Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Pedestrian Blog? That's so...pedestrian.

I'll admit that walking isn't the most glamorous mode of transportation out there. Compare a sneaker to a maglev train, or a lear jet, or even one of those goofy segways: it just doesn't have that much caché. But to quote Enrique Peñalosa, one of my favorite ped activists (and a pretty snazzy politician to boot),

"God made us walking animals — pedestrians. As a fish needs to swim, a bird to fly, a deer to run, we need to walk, not in order to survive, but to be happy."

The problem is that the way we've built our cities and transportation systems generally makes walking a very unhappy activity. Our streets are dangerous, polluted, congested, and just plain ugly. And on top of it all, there's rarely a place for the poor, persecuted pedestrian to walk to.

But this blog is going to change all that.

Okay, maybe my eyes are a little too big for my flip-flops. After all, this is "Where the Sidewalk Starts" not "Where the Sidewalk is In Place Along All Major Streets and is Connected By Thoroughly Signed and Marked Crosswalks With the Occasional Median Refuge Thrown In As Appropriate." But as they say, every great journey begins with a single step (love those walking cliches!). Consider this step one.

1 comment:

  1. I hope that all of my State and City representatives will do everything they can to get Assemblyman Mike Gatto's AB 529 (some info below) and the corresponding Senate bill passed and signed by Governor Brown.

    I don't own or drive a car, but I live surrounded by cars, and their danger and noise, on Riverside Drive in Sherman Oaks, which raised its 35 mph speed limit to 40 mph last year. I am tired of living with the danger of fast cars that endanger us almost every time my partner and I walk on L.A. streets, with more than one near-miss in recent months from cars that approach, and turn right and left, through the intersections we walk through at way too high a speed.

    I also am thoroughly sick of the noise pollution from the many pickup trucks, SUVs, sports cars, and other vehicles outfitted with exhaust resonators for recreational noise-generation -- an effect that is only louder when the vehicles fitted with these should-be-illegal devices are driven faster.

    As an environmentalist, I note too that more moderate-speed driving with gentler acceleration reduces emissions of CO2 and other pollutants, an official objective of the California State Government, and that higher-speed driving has the opposite effect.

    Also, a proposal:
    The westbound side of the westernmost half-mile of Riverside Drive, between Van Nuys Boulevard and Hazeltine Avenue, should become an experimental slower-speed zone of not more than 35 mph, and optimally of 30 mph. The cars and trucks that race westward past my home on this stretch of Riverside Drive represent an enormous continuous waste of gas and unnecessary extra emissions of CO2 (and noise in the case of resonator-equipped vehicles) due to the fact that virtually all of these vehicles will need to stop for the long red light they will encounter at the terminus of Riverside Drive at Van Nuys Boulevard or the backed-up traffic waiting for that red light to turn, briefly, green.

    Another good reason to do this in the case of Riverside Drive is the blind curve that is located just east of the T-intersection that terminates Riverside Drive and is encountered by these westbound vehicles. A neighbor of mine who lives near that blind curve has told me that he has witnessed a number of rear-end collisions and near-collisions at this location over the years; the last time we spoke he described his intention to contact our Councilmember Krekorian's office to request action to address this problem.

    This westernmost half-mile segment of Riverside Drive, and similar stretches of arterial roadway in Los Angeles and California, should therefore become the sites of what might be referred to as Arterial Slow-Down Zones, to slow vehicles down from the higher speed of these thoroughfares' main portions, with appropriate signage and possibly blinking lights and other roadside measures, for safety and fuel-efficiency/pollution-reduction reasons.

    Gregory Wright in Sherman Oaks, California