Thursday, October 29, 2009

This week on foot

Powell gets ready to incorporate 'pedestrian scale' guidelines
Controversy over a proposed big-box retailer leads a Missouri suburb to adopt clearer requirements for pedestrian-friendly development.

Montgomery aims to improve pedestrian safety in parking lots
Startled by the number of pedestrian crashes in parking lots, a D.C.-area county works to improve parking lot safety.

Residents fight crossing closure
Residents of the UK city Wareham argue that eliminating the main pedestrian crossing over the town's rail line would split the community in half. Safety officials argue that keeping it in place would hurt pedestrians even more.

Experts have few answers about spike in train-pedestrian fatalities
Across the ocean, US officials struggle with similar problems.

K-rails are affecting pedestrians, kids
Glendale parents complain that barriers put in place to protect homes from mudslide damage interfere with walking routes to local schools.

Salute all cars kids. It's a rule in China
But at least their children don't have to salute every passing car.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Show your support for pedestrian-friendly changes to CEQA

For decades the California Environmental Quality Act has been making life difficult for pedestrians in the name of enviromental protection.

Hidden deep in the appendices of the CEQA Guidelines is a checklist intended to help jurisdictions decide which transportation impacts from new projects are "significant." The checklist provides a number of questions to consider, nearly all of them focused on vehicle flow, parking, and traffic congestion. Only at the end is there a suggestion that jurisdications should also, maybe, if they have the time and feel like it, consider impacts to "alternative transportation" (no explicit mention of pedestrians to be found).

Not surprisingly, the result has been years of environmental studies that go to great lengths to examine traffic conditions and provide solutions to project-induced congestion problems...while entirely ignoring--or even harming--pedestrians and other transportation modes.

Spurred on by agency staff and advocates in the Bay Area, the California Natural Resources Agency has proposed changes to the CEQA guidelines (available here) that incorporate alternative transportation modes more fully into environmental analysis. The proposed guidelines tone down the emphasis on driving and vehicle-focused performance measures, and instead encourage jursidictions to evaluate impacts to all aspects of the transportation system--including impacts to pedestrian facilites.

While this won't completely eliminate the anti-pedestrian bias in environmental documents (individual jurisdictions still adopt their own specific thresholds of significance, most of which are currently based on level of service for drivers), it is an important first step.

I encourage you to contact tothe California Resources Agency to show your support for these changes. The public comment period ends November 10. Comments should be sent to:

Christopher Calfee, Special Counsel
ATTN: CEQA Guidelines
California Resources Agency
1017 L Street, #2223
Sacramento, CA 95814
Facsimile: (916) 653-8102

Thursday, October 22, 2009

This week on foot

Amendment prohibits pedestrian harassment
The Columbia City, MO City Council passes an amendment to its municipal code making it a crime to honk at, shout at, or otherwise intimidate pedestrians. Violations could cost offenders as much as $1,000.

Go to the dark side with BMW night vision
BMW introduces a new night vision system that uses infrared cameras to detect pedestrians nearby and alert drivers to their location. The system is smart enough to pare down detection in pedestrian-heavy areas (so drivers aren't overwhelmed by alerts when driving next to crowded sidewalks) and to distinguish between pedestrians and animals on the side of the road.

Damaged bridge puts pedestrians at risk
Pedestrians in Lagos, Nigeria struggle to make it across a busy roadway after the street's pedestrian bridge was destroyed by a passing truck.

New high tech system could protect pedestrians
Software engineers in Israel are developing an in-vehicle video system that identifies pedestrians and alerts drivers to stop, or even applies the brakes.

SFPD and Health Department Announce Pedestrian Safety Campaign
San Francisco receives a $300,000 grant to fund efforts to improve pedestrian safety.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Space Wars

I don't like to get to down on the City of Ventura too much, because the city does sport some lovely pedestrian amenities like countdown pedestrian signals at major intersections and a very walkable downtown. Still...take a look at the sidewalk-bike-lane combo above.

Now, I concede that by providing sidewalks and striping bike lanes at all, the city clearly acknowledges the fact that bicyclists and pedestrians might (imagine it!) actually want to use the roadway network. This is more than many cities do.

However, lurking there in the background you'll see not two, not three, but four travel lanes for vehicles, and that's only in one direction. In fact, vehicles on this road (Victoria Avenue, in case you were wondering) luxuriate in a full 100 feet of roadway width compared to the 20 feet of sidewalk space that bikes and peds--and landscaping--must share.

Maybe I'm greedy, but it seems to me that the cars might be able to sacrifice a few of those feet for a bike lane and leave the sidewalk for the walkers. Oh, I know the argument: the cars NEED that roadway space to keep traffic flowing freely (nevermind that, despite driving that road at rush hour nearly every day, I have yet to see even the mildest traffic jam).

Ventura claims that its goal is to provide residents with, "more transportation choices by strengthening and balancing bicycle, pedestrian and transit connections in the City and surrounding region." Let's not sugarcoat things: a bike lane on a sidewalk next to an eight-lane road is not balance. It's putting vehicle travel ahead of other modes, and putting it so far ahead that the other modes don't have a chance to catch up. If Ventura--and any other city--wants to acheive balance, it needs to make real changes in the allocation of roadway space. I think Victoria Avenue would be a great place to start.

Friday, October 16, 2009

This week on foot

Muni hopes new decals will save passengers
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency slaps bright yellow stickers on the back of its streetcars to raise awareness about pedestrian safety issues.

Crossing to their own beat and Pedestrians Take Their Chances on NYC Streets
Authorities in New York and Boston struggle with issue of jaywalking.

Woman Collapses on Lagos Pedestrian Bridge

A 52-year-old woman dies in Lagos after attempting to climb the steep steps of a Nigerian pedestrian bridge.

Pasadena Moves a Step Closer toward Building Gold Line Station Pedestrian Bridge
The Pasadena City Council approves a contract to build a pedestrian bridge connecting the Gold Line's Sierra Madre Villa Station to the south side of the Foothill (210) Freeway. The bridge will allow pedestrians to access the station from both sides of the freeway.

Japan Helps Ha Noi, HCM City Move to Improve Pedestrian Safety

Eighteen new pedestrian bridges will be constructed in Viet Nam as part of the Ha Noi Urban Transport Development Project.

Public Buses in Cleveland to Issue Vocal Warning to Pedestrians

Following two pedestrian deaths in 2008. Cleveland's transit authority plans to replace it's current warning system (audible "beeps" when buses turn into a crosswalk) with a verbal warning "caution, bus turning, pedestrians look both ways, look both ways."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Demanding the Right to Walk

Here in the US we tend to think of walking as a sustainable, healthy form of transportation. But is it also one of our fundamental human rights? The pedestrian advocacy group The Right to Walk Foundation in Hyderabad, India believes so. The group recently filed a petition with the State Human Right Commissioner alleging that city officials' refusal to address walkability concerns in Hyderabad constitutes aviolation of citizens' fundamental rights to education, work, an adequate standard of living, and freedom of movement and residence.

The petition calls for six changes to pedestrian policy in Hyderabad, such as the implementation of manned pedestrian crossings, clear demarcation of sidewalks and a "no encroachment" policy, and the requirement that all government employees travel to work using non-motorized or public transportation at least one day a week.

I especially like that last suggestion--but I think it ought to be extended to politicians as well.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Just the Essentials

Final Score: Pedestrian-friendly references - 85, References to "cars" or "driving" - 10.

In its newly released draft report highlighting the Essential Smart Growth Fixes for Urban and Suburban Zoning Codes, the EPA sends a clear message that the car has been booted off the throne (presumably by the foot of an irritated walker).

The report identifies 11 policy areas in which local governments can change their zoning codes to promote what the EPA calls "complete neighborhoods—places where residents can walk to jobs and services, where choices exist for housing and transportation, where open space is preserved, and where climate change mitigation goals can be realized." Nearly every chapter includes modifications to improve walkability, such as revising street standards to add "narrow local streets" categories or reducing block lengths to improve pedestrian connections.

While I'm not sure I agreee with how the EPA characterizes all of the suggested changes (is requiring sidewalks on both sides of the street really a "wholesale change" in the regulatory framework, or a "thing we obviously should have been doing for years and ought to put in the code starting tomorrow"?), I'm encouraged to see walking featured so prominently in a national-level policy document.

I wonder if our Board of Supervisors would notice if I slipped some of these into our next ordinance update?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

This Week on Foot

Pedestrians told to switch off to avoid car accidents
Police in Victoria, Australia blame distracted walking for uptick in pedestrian deaths.

Use of walkway over the Hudson steady as week begins
Thousands turn out on foot, bike, and segway to celebrate the opening of a new footbridge over the Hudson in Albany, New York.

Pedestrian safety drive a success
Traffic safety officials in Dubai credit a pedestrian safety campaign for a 29 percent drop in pedestrian fatalities.

Traffic signal puzzle for pedestrians
A lack of proper signals and other protections make crossings especially dangerous for pedestrians in Calcutta.

DART restores left turns, forms safety program
To help protect pedestrian safety, Des Moines, Iowa buses are required to honk, then pause, before making right turns over crosswalks.

"Luxury Intersections" could save lives
Canada looks to traffic innovations in Sweden as a model for improving its own pedestrian safety.

10th International Conference on Walking and Livable Communities
Walk21 holds its 10th conference in New York.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Happy International Walk to School Day!

Grab a kid and join the nearly 3,300 schools across the country who are participating in walking events today. Here's a rundown of some of the fun activities kids in LA area schools will take part in.

Serrania Elementary in Woodland Hills
Classes will track walking routes to count how many kids walk and bike to school today.

Edison Elementary in Burbank
We will have parent volunteers stationed at each corner outside our school handing out Clif Bars, Twisted Fruit snacks, WTS pencils, water, activity sheets, etc. to promote walking to school. Participants will sign a WTS banner. We are looking to create a 100 Mile club to promote fitness at our school throughout the entire year.

Robert F. Kennedy Elementary in Compton
Students, parents, teachers, and other staff will be walking from opposite directions to school. A special breakfast will be provided and nutrition and physical activity pamphlets will be given out once on campus. Incentives will include cookbooks, pens, and jump ropes. Those walking will have posters and banners promoting healthy living.

Repetto and Ynez Elementary in Monterey Park
Repetto and Ynez School's administrators, teachers, students and parents meet together at a nearby park. Our District's Network for a Healthy California, Monterey Park Fire Department and local city officials kick off the morning with an inspiring message as our schools begin walking to their respective schools. It's a great morning to "walk for health!"

Hermosa View Elementary in Hermosa Beach
We will be having meeting points along our safe walk to school routes to have kids meet and walk to school together. We will also encourage kids to decorate their shoes for walk to school day. We will encourage city officials to join us for our Walk to School Day to encourage our kids!!

La Mariposa Elementary in Camarillo
We are trying Walking School Buses this year. This event kicks off out Walk or Wheel Wednesday Program.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pedestrian and dog killed in Montebello

The LA Times reports that the 84-year-old wife of a former Montebello mayor was killed last night crossing the street at the intersection of Jefferson Boulevard and Alfred Place. The intersection has no traffic signal or stop-control, and the crosswalk was unmarked. The driver fled the scene and has not been aprehended.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Silent but Deadly

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released a report comparing the difference in pedestrian and bicycle crash rates between hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEs).

The analysis shows that HEVs are more likely to be involved in pedestrian crashes while performing certain manuevers, namely slowing or stopping, backing up, entering or leaving a parking space, and turning. The authors hypothesize the higher HEV crash rates may be due to HEVs' quiet crusing at slow speeds; when traveling straight (presumably at higher--and noiser--speeds) HEV and ICE crash rates are comparable.

The good news is that pedestrians are less likely to be injured if they are hit at slow speeds. Nonetheless, as HEVs become more prevalent we need to consider carefully how to address the problem of quiet cars. Over in Japan, Nissan has been giving this issue some serious thought, hiring a team of composers to come up with a "beautiful sound" to accompany their electric vehicle the Leaf.

For those feeling less poetic, Datasystem Co has developed a device that will emit your choice of 16 sounds, including a "boing" and a "meow"-- and for the less whimsical, a simple "Excuse me."