Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Where the Sidewalk Starts will return in January. In the meantime, remember to yield to pedestrians. And elves.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

This week on foot

This week starts out with two stories that prove the point that vehicles truly can be considered potentially deadly weapons. First, there was the Redding pedestrian struck twice by same driver (on purpose, of course). Then we learned that a Seattle cab driver rams pedestrian who complained about his driving.

As if the intentional crashes weren't enough for pedestrians to contend with, the region was hit (no pun intended) by several unintentional crashes, including a Fatal traffic collision in Fillmore and a Mother, 3-year-old hit while crossing Ventura street.

With all this mayhem it's no wonder that Glendale mayor says distracted driving at 'epidemic' level in Glendale, citing charge in pedestrian death. But it wasn't distracted driving that led to the death of three young men on train tracks in Commerce. Still, Why 3 youths killed by train were walking on tracks remains a mystery.

Speaking of mysteries, blogdowntown posted a story this week that clears up the mystery of the City of LA's hefty new jaywalking fines. In Breaking Down the Cost of Jaywalking: Where Does Money from a $190 Ticket Go?, the blog explains that the vast majority of the money (wait for it) doesn't go to improving pedestrian safety. Fortunately, this week a Senate vote adds noise to silent electric cars, hybrids--so maybe there's a little hope left for pedestrian safety after all.

Or maybe not. This week one Vancouver paper published a clearly anti-ped editorial complaining that Pedestrians are nearly impossible to see at night. Most cringe-inducing quote: "If a pedestrian is wearing dark clothing and is struck mid-block after dark, I propose that ICBC automatically rule that the pedestrian is 100-per-cent liable for their injuries and for damage to the car. It's called walking without due care." Given attitudes like this, I guess it's no surprise that Torontoist nominated Blaming Pedestrians for it's 2010 villain of the year.

But to end the year on a positive note, this week in Georgetown, Massachusetts, Police earn pedestrian safety award for 30 years without a pedestrian fatality in the town. I'm thinking of moving there.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Guiding Bellevue Towards Walkability

I was scouring the internet recently in search of well-written ordinances for buffering and screening (what, you don't spend all day hunting down esoteric bits of code language for your job?), when I came across the two great sets of design guidelines created by the City of Bellevue, Washington.

Turns out Bellevue had some pretty forward thinkers who, back in the early 1980s, decided that it would be a good idea to stop devoting so much space and energy to the car. They adopted a whole new code to guide development in their central business district, and eventually created some lovely design guidelines to help implement it.

The two that I found particularly interesting from a pedestrian perspective were the guidelines for Building/Sidewalk Relationships and Pedestrian Corridors and Major Open Space. The first devotes about 25 pages to delineating the precise relationship between the sidewalk and building frontage for each of a half-dozen street types. It might seem like a lot of attention to pay to a slim slice of the downtown space, but creating a dynamic interaction between the sidewalk and adjacent buildings actually accomplishes a number of important goals--which the document handily identifies-- such as creating a pedestrian environment with activity, enclosure and protection (important in the rainy northwest).

Friday, December 10, 2010

This Week On Foot

It seems there is no end to ways that vehicles can be responsible for pedestrian deaths. This week we learn of a Pedestrian killed in front of South Coast Plaza after being hit by debris from car. As if being hit by the cars themselves isn't enough.

Fortunately vehicle-makers continue to pursue technology that makes cars (if not the stuff they carry) safer. For example, Mercedes-Benz Adds Pedestrian Spotlight Function to Night Vision System that aims light at pedestrians at night. And just in time too, since one of the most dangerous evenings for nighttime revelry is around the corner. If you're wondering why Why New Year's is the Deadliest Day of the Year for Pedestrians, Health Canal explains that it's the combination of drinking and darkness that leads to problems.

However, in Bangalore it's not the vehicles that are causing troubles for pedestrians, it's trees. This week residents plea with officials to Remove this giant of a barrier for the safety of Bangalore pedestrians

Officials in Bangalore might not be paying enough attention to pedestrians' needs, but fortunately there are some places that are. In Tennessee, Camera cash may buy pedestrian beacon in Oak Ridge, and in Des Moines transportation officials tout 4.8M Miles With No Pedestrian Crashes after installing pedestrian safety measures on a dangerous stretch of roadway.

Perhaps envious of other cities' efforts to promote walkability, in New York Skidmore students seek sustainable pedestrian and accessibility options for campus.

But pedestrian naysayers remain. One Vancouverite rants that Pedestrian decals a waste of money, and shouldn't be installed on the sides of buses. And the folks over at Raise the Hammer point out that We Value Drivers' Time More Than Pedestrians' Time.

Nonetheless, we shouldn't give up on walkability. As one new study points out, it has a lot of benefits. When you live in a walkable neighborhood you can Walk Places, Meet People, And Build Social Capital.

And one final reminder for those who live in harsher climes: Clearing sidewalks is the duty of all property owners. Don't make us walk through the snow.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Coming in 2014: One less way for cars to kill you

As reported in the LA Times and elsewhere, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is recommending that new regulations be adopted to require all new US vehicles to include backup cameras by 2014. The NHTSA estimates that about 300 people are killed and 18,000 injured each year due to backup crashes. The vast majority of those killed are children, who are particularly difficult to see when backing up a vehicle, and older adults. While these numbers aren't huge compared to overall pedestrian fatalities in the US, they certainly aren't insignificant. Since we have the technology available to (hopefully) prevent these deaths and injuries, I think it's great that the federal government would like to require it in all vehicles.

I have to back down a loooonnngg driveway every time I leave my house, passing by a home where two young children live along the way. Even though I slow down and double check to make sure they aren't around when I pass by, it still makes me nervous every time. I'd love to have one of these cameras in my car, and I'm glad to know that the next vehicle I purchase likely will.
photo courtesy of

Thursday, December 2, 2010

This Week on Foot

This week Switchboard brings us Images from the world's 10 (or 11) most walkable cities (as ranked by Frommer's). Not surprisingly, LA didn't make the cut--but Munich did, especially exciting for me since I'll be spending the Christmas holidays there. I promise to come back with lots of walking pictures, but in the meantime, here's an image to inspire you:

Meanwhile, things in the Southland have been less walkable. Between new of a School crossing guard punched, robbed; two arrested, a  Pedestrian injured after being hit by car near Highway 101 in T.O, and the LAPD's stiff jaywalking fines, it's no shock that some fed up pedestrians feel like we should just
Outlaw Walking!

That idea would probably be a hit with some people in New York, where Anger Over Rampant Bike Lanes, Pedestrian Plazas Leads to New Legislation forcing the NYDOT to publish its criteria for the installation of traffic calming mechanisms.

But elsewhere people are hoping for, not fighting, pedestrian improvements. In Russia Residents In Russian City Protest Pedestrian Fatalities , while in Arizona there's celebration as the Region gets $4.5M for pedestrian, bike paths.

All of which led Grist to ask an interesting question: Can a neighborhood be too walkable? Personally, I think the answer is "no." But maybe I'm a little biased.

Your Guide to Twalking

In this short video, LA Times technology writer Michelle Maltais explains new smartphone apps that use in-phone cameras to allow users to see the pavement beneath their fingers as they text and walk (aka "twalk"). Given all the hype over pedestrians' inability to safely use their phones and walk at the same time, perhaps there's something to these applications. On the other hand, they do little to stop texting drivers from mowing down unsuspecting walkers. So let's not get too excited.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

LAPD Hits Peds Where it Hurts

Namely, in their pocketbooks.

As reported in this story from the LA Times, pedestrians who jaywalk in downtown LA will pay a nearly $200 fine for their offense. The hefty fines, along with a "zero tolerance" policy for pedestrians crossing the street outside of crosswalks, is intended to reduce crashes and lower crimes rates over the holiday season. Because, as LAPD Lt. Paul Vernon explains, "Jaywalking is often done by thieves, purse snatchers and robbery suspects to target their victims."

If only we could just keep everyone inside their cars, where they would be safe from such villainy.

Of course, if you take a look at the LAPD website you'll see that, mysteriously, the top five traffic violations causing causing collisions have nothing to do with pedestrians. For the record, they are:
  • Following too close
  • Running a red light
  • Driving under the influence
  • Left turn violations
  • Speeding
It seems to me that if the City of LA was really interested in improving safety over the holidays, it would turn downtown into a pedestrian-only zone and get rid of the real safety problem: cars.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turkey meets zebra (crossing)

image courtesy of

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Trouble in the Valley Continues

We've heard a lot in the last few weeks about the crashes that killed pedestrians Conor Lynch and Emely Aleman, but today I'd like to talk about another recent crash in the Valley that hasn't received quite as much attention. (Apparently--cue frustration and gnashing of teeth--it takes a child or two dying before people really start to take note of the challenges pedestrians face on the streets out there.)

Earlier this month Julia* was hit by a car while crossing the street at Ventura Blvd and Etiwanda Avenue with the signal and in the crosswalk. The crash sent her to the hospital for weeks, and although, unlike Lynch and Aleman, Julia survived her crash, she's facing a painful recovery (not to mention some painful battles with her insurance provider).

Some might be tempted to dismiss this incident, arguing (with a hint of fatalism) that there's not much that can be done about drivers who flagrantly break the law and run a red light. Perhaps. But let's take a closer look at that intersection, shall we?

Here's a picture of the northeast corner of the intersection, looking south across Ventura Boulevard.

For strarters, notice the crosswalk striping: two measly white lines. This may be considered the "standard" for crosswalk striping, but it's hardly going to get the attention of drivers zipping down Ventura Boulevard at 45 or 50 mph. And there's not even a median refuge to help pedestrians as they navigate seven lanes of traffic. I would argue that an intersection with this kind of traffic volume/speed requires a more extensive crossing treatment. Please, at least give the poor pedestrians a stop bar behind the crosswalk!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

This week on Foot

This week isn't looking so hot for Canada, where a Toronto girl the 16th pedestrian struck in recent days. It could explain why Police issue 13,000 tickets in pedestrian safety blitz. Yikes, 13,000! At least those were mostly to drivers, as opposed to the practice on the UNC campus where Citations to be issued for pedestrian violations.

Meanwhile, in Ohio Officials lower speed in wake of pedestrian fatal, and on the other side of the globe Township office projects promote sustainability (although admittedly I'm a little dubious of the walkability efforts of a company called "Megaworld").

Back in the US the Alexandra Council approves cash in lieu of pedestrian bridge, while in Florida Some aren't so happy with pedestrian bridge that they think will encourage more vehicle traffic on their local streets.

But it's slow pedestrian traffic that businesses in London's West End are worried about, which is why they're advocating for the installation of a Pedestrian slow lane in London.
And finally, this week the blog Gayapolis confirms something that won't surprise many urban planners: Top Walkable Cities Also Among Most Gay Friendly.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Walking Webinars

A few upcoming opportunities for online learning:

November 23, 10 am - 12 pm
Pedestrian Safety Focus
Presented by the National Highway Institute. Sign up to participate here.

December 2, 11 am - 12:30 pm
Safety and Operation of Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons (HAWKs)

This webinar will explore the origin, installation, and operational experience of the Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon or HAWK. Participants must register at least 24 hours prior to the start of the webinar, space is limited, and there is a fee for non-TRB Sponsor employees. More information available here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Great LA Walk

And for the umpteenth year in a row, I will be out of town for the Great LA Walk--but if you're in LA this Saturday, you should take a stroll down Wilshire with a few hundred of your new best friends. Get the details here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cool Ped Stuff #11: Mockumentaries

Behold, the Plight of the North American Bipeds

Thursday, November 11, 2010

This Week on Foot

As Angelenos continue to discuss the low penalties for drivers who injure or kill pedestrians, elsewhere in the country the pedestrian deaths go on. In Minnesota a Grand Avenue pedestrian death appears to be 'tragic accident', while in Michigan a Pedestrian who died could've had a ride. Both of these crashes happened after dark, which is why the folks in Oregon remind us that with the change in daylight savings time (and in the season), Dark, slick roads set the stage to endanger pedestrians.

Outside the US things aren't so bright for pedestrians either. In Wales there is a Business man’s objection to Rhos on Sea pedestrian crossing because it takes up his parking spaces, and the Vancouver Sun reminds us that Pedestrian-train collisions take their toll on operators, too.

Of course, we can admit that sometimes drivers aren't at fault. In Denver Boulder police ticket pedestrian struck by car after the pedestrian crossed against a light (while drunk). I understand the ticket, though the broken leg probably sends a stronger message.

Elsewhere in the country, cities are taking action to protect pedestrians. There are New pedestrian street markings in Chicago , a High-intensity activated crosswalk for pedestrian safety installed on Huron Street in Ann Arbor, and in Montana Cyclists, walkers cruise through new Main Street tunnel.

Other places are looking at pedestrian issues as well. Connecticut's Walk/Bike Summit Forum Examines How 'Complete Streets' Will Aid Cyclists, Walkers, and a new Ventura video illustrates planning for connection, walkability, quality. If the photo simulations the video shows ever come true, I might just consider sticking around this county...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

When the Punishment Doesn't Fit the Crime

Damien Newton over at Streetsblog LA beat me to this blog post (that's what happens when you only get to blog part time) about the recent spate of pedestrian fatalities in the valley. First there was high school student Conor Lynch, who was killed crossing Woodman Ave. Then there was Emely Aleman, killed crossing Laurel Canyon Boulevard. And the penalty for the drivers of the vehicles who killed these two? A misdemeanor, with a maximum one year sentence.

Does this strike anyone else as a little lenient?

To be clear, neither driver has been accused of anything beyond "merely" hitting a pedestrian--no DUIs, hit-and-runs, or otherwise driving recklessly. So, while a civil court may determine that a stiff fine is in order, local and state law limit the criminal charges that these drivers can face.

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Other Favorite Pocket Park

I've been meaning to blog about this park in San Diego's Little Italy neighborhood for ages. It's been around for 10 years or so, but I doubt many people walking down India Street would realize it's there--which is maybe what I like the most about it. Here's the view from the sidewalk:

I'm sure most people passing by assume that this leads to a private building entrance or someone's office, and in part they would be right; the park is actually a "quasi public" space meant to serve as open space for some adajacent apartments, as well as a park for general use.

It's not too inviting at first, but go a few feet further and suddenly you're presented with this:
 And this!
I think it's these kind of surprises that make walking such a great mode of transportation. There's a sense of discovery that you just won't ever get with a car (because you go to fast to take in the finer details of a neighborhood) or even transit (with its set routes and rigid schedules). And in the interest of promoting that kind of exploration, I'm not going to tell you exactly where this park is. You'll just have to take a walk and find it for yourself.

Friday, November 5, 2010

This Week on Foot

This week began with another tragic, high-profile pedestrian crash involving school children. Intersection safety scrutinized after NoHo crosswalk death (and serious injury to a second child). In response, the City will "discuss the area's history of accidents." How comforting.

Perhaps LA will take advice from Springfield, MO, where children are being bussed across a busy street because the Williams Elementary Pedestrian Bridge To Be Torn Down. But let's hope not.

A better solution would be to look to places like Perth, Australia, where the Inner city speed limit may be cut to improve pedestrian safety.

And it isn't just Perth that's looking for real solutions to its pedestrian problems. In Austin, TX a Walkability audit could affect future landscape, and in Denver Bicyclists and Pedestrians to be Counted in 6 Coloardo Communities.

Stuff like this is important, particularly as the time change makes evening walking less safe. As the Austrian Committee for Traffic Safety warns us, Twilight especially dangerous for pedestrians.

And if you don't buy into any of this walkability stuff? Maybe you'd be interested in A rant over yet another crosswalk scramble

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

WalkSanDiego Seeks Executive Director

I really can't say enough about the great work that WalkSanDiego does; conducting workshops and walk audits that help identify pedestrian improvements for local communities, training the planning and engineering community about walkability prinicples, leading walks through some of San Diego's most interesting neighborhoods, the list goes on and on. Over the past decade WSD has grown from a small, volunteer-only organization to a robust nonprofit with several paid staff and a $650,000 annual budget.

WSD is currently seeking qualified candidates for its executive director position. You can learn more about the job and how to apply on the WSD webpage here.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Case of the Mysterious Pocket Park

When I first moved to my neighborhood, I would often pass this cactus garden on Topanga Boulevard and marvel at the creativity of the people who chose such a unique landscaping scheme for their yard. Were they industry people who had a bunch of leftover props from a Western shoot and didn't know what to do with them? Cactus lovers with a lot of spare time on their hands? Then, not too long ago, a strange thing happened.

The yard started growing.

First it moved to the median separating the parking on Topanga from the road.
Then in crept to the other side of the street and took over the bus stop.
Soon it made it all the way down the road to an adjacent parkway.

Monday, November 1, 2010

City of Los Angeles Revises Parkway Rules

Okay, let's start with the basics. A parkway is that little strip of grass, trees, or (depending on your neighbors' level of motivation) dirt and weeds between the edge of the road bed and the sidewalk. Although the parkway is technically within the public right-of-way, the adjacent property owner is responsible for its design and maintenance.

Parkways are an important part of the pedestrian landscape for two reasons. First, they provide space for streets trees and other plantings that make the pedestrian environment more comfortable and interesting for walking. Second, they act as a buffer between the sidewalk and the traveled roadway, which increases pedestrian safety.

In practice some homeowners get pretty creative with their parkways, but until last week the only things homeowners were technically allowed to plant without a permit were street trees and lawns. Yawn. With the release of Los Angeles' new Residential Parkway Landscaping Guidelines, homeowners can now plant a variety of "drought-tolerant turf substitute plants," including grasses, a handful of flowers, and even beach strawberries.

Friday, October 29, 2010

This Week on Foot

The big pedestrian story this week in Los Angeles is that of 3 youths held in Eastside school bus crash that killed a pedestrian and injured numerous students--but sadly Ventura County is holding its own with pedestrian mishaps, where Boy, 11, hit by car, critically injured in Oxnard and Pedestrian identified in apparent T.O. hit-and-run death.

All these crashes got SoapBox LA thinking about The Politics of Crosswalks , while across the internet Infrastructurists ponders The Rise of the Walkable City.

Perhaps the real fix for the (lack of) pedestrian safety is self-driving vehicles. Not to be outdone by Google's recent efforts, in China 4 vans travel 8,000 miles without drivers and with few incidents (they weren't quite able to handle Moscow's traffic jams, which doesn't bode well for LA).

Meanwhile, one US court rules four-year-old cyclist can be sued after colliding with pedestrian, while another Judge blocks Venice boardwalk permit system, agreeing with the argument that the system violates free speech rights. But it's pedestrian rights that folks in India are worred about, where sidewalk Encroachments spell doom on roads.

With all the battling over who gets to use the public space, is it any wonder that in New York a Pedestrian-Only Ramp Proposed For Ferry Terminal?

Finally, as the holiday weekend nears, transportation authorities across the country are warning folks of the pedestrian safety risks associated with trick-or-treating. The Tennessee Highway Patrol notes that Halloween most dangerous day of year for pedestrian injuries, deaths among young children  and the Ohio DOT points out that  Pedestrian-Vehicle Crashes Double Before Halloween.

Here in California things are relatively safer, as the Number of Californians Hit by Cars Jumps 25% On Halloween, but if you ask me that's still a pretty scary statistic. If you're hunting for the safest spots for candy gathering, you might start with the top-ranked neighborhoods on Zillows Trick or Treating Index (see yesterday's post). But no matter what you get up to on foot this weekend, be careful. Remember, It's always a walk on the wild side for pedestrians.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Best LA Neighborhoods for Trick-or-Treating

Real estate website extraordinaire Zillow has released it's list of the top five neighborhoods for gleaning candy from strangers this year. Neighborhoods were ranked using the semi-scientific
Zillow Trick-or-Treat Housing Index, which considers the Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI), population density, Walk Score and local crime data for each locale.

Zillow weights each variable equally, so an area's walk score only counts for 25 percent of the total index--which probably explains how Beverly Hills made this list (try strolling down the BH stretch of Sunset and tell me that neighborhood is safe for walking). Still, I'm glad to see a site like Zillow recognizing the importance of walking, even if it's only for one night a year.

And without further ado, top neighborhoods are:
1. Beverly Hills
2. Venice
3. Hancock Park
4. Studio City
5. Westchester

So what do you think? Are other places in LA are better haunts for little ghouls and goblins?

Oh, and in case you're out of town for the holiday, you can check out the Zillow blog for the best trick-or-treating spots in all of its Top 20 Trick or Treat Cities.

There's irony in here somewhere...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cool Ped Stuff #10: Bloggers

And you thought I was the only one crazy enough to spend my spare time writing about pedestrians. No indeed, there's quite a confederation of us out there. I've listed some of these in my blogroll, but I think all of them are worth checking out (with the help of google translate, if necessary).

In English:
TBD on Foot (Washington, DC)
Pedestrianist (San Francisco, CA)
Twin City Sidewalks (Minneapolis/St. Paul. MN)
Walk Around Portland (Portland, ME)
Coeur d'Alene Pedestrian & Bicycle Blog (Coeur d'Alene, ID)
WalkBikeJersey Blog

In Spanish:
Pedestre "Pedestrian" (Mexico City, Mexico)
Diario de un Peaton "Everday Life of a Pedestrian" (Madrid, Spain)

Monday, October 25, 2010

SCAG Ped Planning Goes 2.0

For those of you who dream of writing a Regional Transportation Plan (or is that just me?), SCAG has finally given you a chance with its new Bike Ped Wiki. Just create a user profile, sign in, and you're free to add your own thoughts, edits, pictures, and any other content you can come up with to the wiki, which will ultimately be incorporated into the official plan next summer. The kind folks at SCAG have populated the pages with some content to get you started, but the rest is up to you.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

This Week on Foot

This week began with sad news as 2 teenagers' lives intersect with tragic results in Sherman Oaks. The death of 16-year-old Conor Lynch during a cross country practice led the LA Times to note that Cross-country runners face risk on L.A. streets. True. And so do the rest of us, like the Pedestrian hit by car in Bellflower hospitalized

And it's not just cars that are a problem. In Washington state Bikes, pedestrians clash on campus at Whitman College. Even parking lots can be dangerous, like this one in Richmond where a Pedestrian hit by car, pinned in parking lot mishap.

Fortunately, people around the world are working to address these dangers. In Palm Springs, Pedestrians to have easier time crossing streets due to the installation of some new, decorative crosswalks, while in San Francisco the Glen Park plans leave out cars, put focus on pedestrians
New York Officials eye more pedestrian-friendly city in order to keep residents happy (and stop them from leaving town). Even El Paso Project Promises To Bring Different Downtown Concept

Our friends in India continue to be successful in their efforts to improve pedestrian safety in that country. In Bangalore, Pedestrian-operated lights soon at 30 junctions. Meanwhile, in Canada Worsley students focus on walkability, and get to hang out with Colombia's pedestrian extraordinaire, Gil Penalosa.
And if you've been wondering where to do your Halloween-night walking, Zillow has released its second annual list of best places for trick-or-treating. In case you were wondering, LA ranks 14th, right behind San Diego.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Want to Avoid Dementia in Later Life? Take a Walk.

A longitudinal study of older adults (average age 78) released this month in the journal Neurology shows that walking at least 72 blocks a week, or six to nine miles, leads to greater volumes of grey matter--and less memory loss--over time. About 40 percent of study participants developed some form of dementia over the course of the study, but those who had more grey matter because of walking reduced their risk of cognitive impairment by two-fold.

So at least now we have some evidence that creating pedestrian-friendly environments is important for public health.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Will a Walkable Neighborhood Make Me Skinny?

Well, it's hard to say...but it will definitely make me skinny. That's because I live in a walkable neighborhood and I value walking. It's that last part that is the key to low Body Mass Index (BMI), according to this recently published study from the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. Living in a walkable community isn't enough. You also have to want to walk.

First, some background. It's clearly established that there is a relationship between walkable communities and walking. A pedestrian-friendly neighborhood has more pedestrians, plain and simple. What's less clear is why exactly this is so. Is there more walking in pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods because people who already like to walk a lot move into them? Or does walkable community design cause erstwhile couch potatoes to get up and move? A growing body of evidence suggests it's the former of these two possibilites that explain the high walking rates in pedestrian-friendly communities, and this study adds to that evidence.

Friday, October 15, 2010

This week on foot

People have been buzzing this week about how it appears Americans' love of suburban living is disappearing, and being replaced with a preference for homes in denser, walkable areas. Ecohome notices that Baby Boomers, Gen Y, and the Recession Shift Long-Held Housing Tastes and Trends, while the Wall Street Journal explains How SoHo Can Save the Suburbs.

Of course, for this trend to really take off we'll need to to better than Ontario, which this week brought us a remarkable Wilson Street Redevelopment Walkability Fail, and the greater Washington, D.C. area, where You're free to mow down pedestrians in Prince William. Even Hawaii's efforts to clear the sidewalk for pedestrians are a little questionable. Perhaps the Sidewalk tent ban approved by the Honolulu city council will make things easier for walkers, but what about the homeless people who use the sidewalks as living space?

At least Tennessee is heading the right direction, as Environment And Conservation Announces Walk With Me Tennessee Initiative. And in California one group took pedestrian justice into their own hands when Man who hit Marysville pedestrian followed by witnesses.

Meanwhile, in Bangalore folks are wondering, Will pedestrians get more time to cross roads? (Answer: maybe.)

Finally, Road Warrior reminds Pedestrians: Just push the ‘walk’ button once, because all those extra pushes won't make the signal change any faster. But as one commentor points out, sometimes they sure are satisfying.

Monday, October 11, 2010

CicLAvia Reviews

With apologies for my shameful lack of promotion for this event, a few recaps of Sunday's transformation of seven miles of downtown LA streets into a bike/ped paradise:

LA Times
For a few surreal hours Sunday, the car was stripped of its crown in Los Angeles and pavement was turned into playground.

Streetsblog LA
CicLAvia touched hundreds of thousands of people, even if it were just that they heard laughing on their streets instead of cars honking their horns.
While a majority of participants used the chance to cycle between East Hollywood and Boyle Heights via a variety of neighborhoods like downtown and MacArthur Park, others used it to dance, have a game of dodgeball or tennis, do yoga, make art, or go for a run.
Curbed LA
People were talking, waving, and smiling at each other. Families, hippies, hipsters, artists, activists, old people, kids, all sorts of religious people in their headgear....
I might have made it to the epic event, if it wasn't such an epic journey to LA proper from the Valley, but I've heard nothing by rave reviews and am hoping that this sparks some interest in a similar event in other places in the city (like, I don't know, Woodland Hills?).

Factors Involved in Distracted Driving

This recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Distracted Driving and Driver, Roadway, and Environmental Factors, got me thinking once again about my efforts to cut down on my own distracted driving. As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I decided about 10 months ago to give up talking on my cell phone while driving. So far it hasn't been as bad as I expected. I find that I use to the time to ponder work problems, plan my schedule for the week, or just muse on life issues (when I'm not bopping along to cheesy country music, that is).

Thus, it was with great relief that I learned from this report that "distraction from internal sources was more common than distraction due to non-driving cognitive activities"-- or in plain non-academic speak, more people are distracted by stuff (or people) inside their cars prior to a crash than by just thinking, like I do. Phew.

Interestingly, despite our recent focus on distraction from electronic devives, "Among 14 internal sources of distraction, conversing with a passenger was the most frequently recorded source -- 17 percent...." The report goes on to warn that this doesn't necessarily suggest that passenger conversation was the cause of the crash, just that it was happening prior to the crash occurrence. So you don't have give up talking in the car just yet. And of course, phones aren't blameless in all of this--they're the second-mosts common distraction recorded. Not surprisingly, cell phone use was higher among younger and middle-aged drivers, and women--which likely reflects patterns of cell phone usage overall. And, if there's any good news to come out of the statistics, "Drivers mostly conversed on phone when there was no traffic flow interruption." So I guess at least people are using at least a little judgment in their phone habits.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Happy International Walk to School Day

Grab a kid and hit the streets. There are hundreds of schools participating in this year's event, here's a rundown of some of the festivities in the Southern California region, courtesy of the International Walk to School Day site:

Beverly Hills
Horace Mann School
Horace Mann is kicking off their Walk to School Wednesdays with International Walk to School Day. There will be certificates for each family that participates. The PTA will be hosting breakfast bake sale.

Mariposa Elementary School
We'll have walking school buses along four routes. We'll also have a bike train.

Mckinley Elementary School
We will be using our Nutrition Advisory Council to promote the event starting two weeks ahead of time. We will top it off b providing a healthy breakfast upon return.

Culver City
Linwood E. Howe Elementary School
Our event started as "Walk to School with Ms. Anderson (the principal)" but is now..."Walk to School with the CCUSD Superintendent, CCUSD Director of Human Resources, Culver City Fire Chief, Culver City Police Chier, Culver City City Manager, and Ms. Anderson!" We are still awaiting responses from the mayor and city council members. Linwood Howe families are invited to join all of us in the front of Culver City City Hall on October 6th to walk to school, which is a few blocks away. This is the first time our school is participating in a walk-to-school event and we hope to be visible to the community by wearing our school spirit wear and holding signs which promote walking and wheeling to school.

R.D. White Elementary School
Last year we had close to 90% (over 600 kids) of our school walk on Walk-to-School Day! We had healthy snack and gift give-aways sponsored by local companies, a State Senator and local government officials present, and press coverage - it was a GREAT day!

Monterey Park
Repetto Elementary School
Beginning your day with breakfast and being active everyday are messages our school is promoting. In conjunction with Walk to School Week. Our school takes an active role in creating a healthy school environment and work at providing opportunities for our school community to learn about integrating healthy lifestyle habits; not just at school but at home. During walk to school week, we anticipate over 300 students, teachers, parents and community members to join us informing our walking school bus

San Diego
Sunset Hills Elementary School
Every year we have a theme for the event. Last year we did "Buzz on up to School" We painted the sidewalk with chalk drawings of bees and encouraging sayings for the children. We also collected old shoes for the needy. If you walked to school that day you received a toe token for your shoelace. Our school gives them out for running club so we purchased a special one for walk to school day. The kids seem to love the day and we usually have about 150 to 200 walkers each year.

Citrus Glen Elementary School
District personnel and parent volunteers will help us kick off a safe Walk to School Day. Students who participate will receive a bracelet.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Woodland Hills Gains Costco, Loses Walkability

Okay, I've done my best to embrace walking in my neighborhood, to ignore the fact that while we might have any number of walkable destinations, our every step is thwarted by urban design where the automobile doesn't so much "dominate" as "crush into oblivion." Sometimes literally.

So when I learned of the supposedly mixed-use "Village" project, announced with much fanfare by Westfield a few years back, I was cautiously hopeful. Granted, the sidewalks that a mall developer would produce were hardly likely to serve the five essential purposes touted by our friends Loukaitou-Sideris and Ehrenfeucht, but maybe we could get one or two of them. Like the one about beauty. Because nothing could possibly be uglier than an empty parking lot and some vacant buildings, right?

Except maybe Costco. And a gas station.

Best Policies for Bikes and Peds

We may not like to admit it, but it's true: planners are copycats. It's not that we don't like innovative ideas--we do. It's just that we like them so much better when someone else has already gone through the political hassle of implementing them for the first time.

So it's no surprise that in our quest to identify the best policies to improve pedestrian (and bicyle) safety and walkability, we spend a lot of time looking at what others have done. And (given our love affair with all things European), it's even less of a surprise that the when the FHWA sent its team of experts out to hunt down the most effective pedestrian policies for the Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety and Mobility International Scan it turned to Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Five key lessons/themes the group identified from its review:

1. No single “silver bullet” policy or action exists to make streets and roads safer and more conducive to pedestrians and bicyclists.

2. To achieve desired outcomes, pedestrian and bicyclist policies should clearly state a purpose and vision, as well as a way to measure progress toward the desired outcomes.

Friday, October 1, 2010

This week on Foot

There's been lots of good news in the international pedestrian world this week. In Islamabad Pedestrian bridges fixed to avert accidents, while Krakow's New Pedestrian Bridge Opens. In Tawain Fluorescent traffic signs help Taipei pedestrians, and over in Dubai Pedestrian fatalities hit record low over 9 years.

But don't get too excited, pedestrians are still on shaky ground out there. Not only do they have to contend with vehicular hazards, in New York an Air Conditioner Falls From Window, Injures Pedestrian. And just when you thought all those fancy new pedestrian detection devices were going to make things a little safer, Volvo Pedestrian Avoidance Test Goes Wrong, Company Blames Dummy.

I guess it's better than blaming the pedestrian?

Good thing that next week Walk to School Day encourages pedestrian safety...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

One Less Trip, Five More Glasses of Water

Remember that time when I promised that in honor of Carfree Week I would attempt to abide by One Less Trip rule over the weekend and replace one trip that I would normally take by car with an alternative mode? That was before I found out that we were in for a late-September heat wave, complete with 100+ temperatures. So I hope you all really appreciate the fact that I refused to let myself off the hook and managed to actually abide by my rule. A few lessons from my alternative mode travels:

Day 1: Street Trees
I don't know why we have no street trees in my neighborhood. Heck, we're called Woodland Hills. Maybe the City of LA is like Ventura County, and cuts down all its street trees because it can't afford to maintain them. Maybe there never were any trees along Ventura Boulevard to begin with. At any rate, I would have appreciated a few for Friday's two-mile walk to the hair salon/Target. Granted the heat hadn't really hit yet, and it was merely a balmy 95 degrees on the sidewalk. Still, my neighborhood is consistently one of the hottest in the valley, and you've got to assume that the lack of greenery is one cause.

Day 2: Missed Opportunities
For Saturday's alternative mode trip I broke out the bicycle and headed to the farmer's market (leaving especially early to beat the heat--and so that I wouldn't miss my favorite cinnamon rolls from the french pastry stand). Riding alongside the freeway gave me ample opporunity to contemplate the absurdity that is Caltrans' fenced-off right-of-way (see below). Not only is there no sidewalk on this side of the road (though I saw plenty of people walking in the dirt next to the curb), the chain link fence deprives this neighborhood of what otherwise has the makings of a really cool linear park. Not that I expect that kind of creative thinking from the people who brought us the 110, but in a city known for its lack of park space this is a real waste.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Streets for Feet

Kudos to the Hollywood Community Studio (and especially my friends Jessica and Kristen) on the success for their Streets for Feet park project. A lovely way to celebrate this month's carfree activities (Park(ing) Day, International Carfree Week, etc), the project shut down two blocks of Hudson Avenue in Hollywood and turned it into a pedestrians-only space complete with cafe tables, plants, sidewalk art--and of course, hula hoops. With land for park space at a premium, creative projects like this can use existing resources to give Angelenos the parks they deserve (and of course improve neighborhood walkability.

As Jessica Cowley explains:

I think the demonstration project was a great way to start a dialogue with community members about open space, and get folks to think about how we might be able to make our streets into spaces for more than just cars....everyone I spoke to had positive things to say about the project, from residents of the Hillview (the big pink apartment building that fronts one side of Hudson) to visitors from Denmark, who were pleasantly surprised to find a pedestrian plaza in what they see as a very car-centric city.

You can get the full wrap-up of the project, including results of the community survey and (more) photos from the HCS website.

Friday, September 24, 2010

This Week on Foot

As one by one universities across the country start a new school year, many of them are looking to improve walkability for their students. 'Pedestrians, pay attention,' new USF campaign urges, while explains How Universities Can Win Big with Location-Based Apps that point out the walkable features of their campuses.

In New York, the World Reacts to Union Square Pedestrian Plaza, Bike Lane while jealous Albert Street stakeholders push for pedestrian mall of their own. Georgia follows New York's good example where a City to install hawk lights at bike trail intersections, while in Missouri Independence Starts New Road Harassment Law.

Elsewhere, things are not so good. Here in California a Vehicle strikes and kills pedestrian on PCH, while in Hong Kong Police target jaywalkers in road safety blitz. And I'm not sure if I should be encouraged or horrified that Bentley to recall cars over fears 'Flying B' could impale pedestrians.

But on a happy note, our walking friends up north have had a good week, where Walk SF goes pro as pedestrians get priority. Congratulations Walk San Francisco!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Celebrate World Carfree Day

Sandwiched between last Friday's Park(ing) Day and the upcoming International Walk to School Day (October 6) is World Carfree Day. For a summary of some of the events worldwide, check out The City Fix.

Since I have a notoriously UN-carfree commute (trust me, I've tried to find alternatives to driving), I'm brainstorming ways to cut down my car trips this weekend. My "One Less Trip" philosophy, which I just now made up, suggests that you challenge yourself to reduce your vehicle miles traveled by replacing just one trip a day that you would normally make by car with an alternative mode. Since I already try to make a lot of my non-work trips on foot, this may involving me braving LA's streets on a bike. I'll report back on Monday...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Designing for Pedestrian Safety

Want to learn more about how to design roads to keep pedestrians safe?

For those in the LA area, Metro invites you to participate in a 2-day Designing for Pedestrian Safety Workshop funded by the Federal Highway Administration. The workshop will include a walking field trip to a problem area to help participants understand and identify obstacles to walking. All workshop sessions will cover the same content and will be held at:

Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90012
8:30am – 4:30pm.

Dates include:

Monday, November 15 & Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Wednesday, November 17 & Thursday, November 18, 2010
Monday, December 13 & Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Wednesday, December 15 & Thursday, December 16, 2010
Monday, January 10 &Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Wednesday, January 12 & Thursday, January 13, 2011

To register for the workshop, please email Metro and include your name, organization, department, job title, phone number, and email/mailing address. Or contact Adela Felix at (213) 922-4333 or Julie Leung at (213) 922-4373.

Also, don't forget about the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center's ongoing webinar series on designing for pedestrian safety. There are still a few webinars left in the eight-part series, and you can always watch previous sessions online. For more information and to register click here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

This week on foot

This week started with some good news for folks down under, where Sydney to get pedestrian-friendly CBD. Of course, not everyone is excited about the idea of pedestrian improvements like countdown signals and shared roadways. Some believe that Businesses will suffer under CBD plan, arguing that lower speed limits and fewer parking spaces will lead to fewer customers. (You all know that research on this subject has shown otherwise, right?)

Elsewhere, pedestrians are getting blamed for other problems. In Michigan, Bike thefts up at CMU; police cite pedestrian-friendly campus as cause. I guess there are some down sides to improving walkability?

Happily, folks across the country are facing these dangers bravely, and boldly installing pedestrian improvements in their communities. In New York we learna about the DOT Installing Countdown Pedestrian Signals In Brooklyn and how the Park Smoking Ban Outlaws Butts on Pedestrian Plazas, Too, while Va. Beach OKs Shore Drive safety improvements and in Canada Bridge, trail make getting around lake safer ("It's amazing what a difference 125 feet of concrete can make").

Still, it's not all bright and sunny out there. On Thursday an 80-year-old pedestrian fatally struck crossing Glendale street. Perhaps it's no wonder that LAist asks, Do L.A. City Councilmembers Really Care About Pedestrian Safety?

Happy Park(ing) Day!

Today we celebrate the many ways that parking spaces can be used--besides for parking cars. Check out the Park(ing) Day LA website for a map of all this year's spaces-turned-parks.

And for those who can't  make it to their favorite spot on Friday, the Hollywood Community Studio will be shutting down Hudson Avenue at Hollywood Boulevard for a "Pavement-to-Plaza" demonstration project full of fun performances and activities. Here's the schedule it you'd like to take a peek.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Habitat for People

Over at my real job (no, in case you were wondering this is not my real job, just a time-consuming hobby) I've been working lately on a habitat evaluation project. We're looking at a new method of habitat analysis that considers hundreds of factors (type of trees, location of boulders, number of downed logs), then assigns a value to the habitat based on all those factors. The method draws on about 100,000 studies of wildlife habitat.

Want to guess how many studies there are of pedestrian habitat?

Okay, it's hard to say precisely. BUT one recent count puts the number of studies related to travel and the built environment at about 200. So even if you factor in a few studies related to pedestrians safety, maybe a handful about walking and health, or walking and economics, I'd guess the number is less than 1,000.

Not that I begrude the critters their share of attention, but it's curious how little interest we show in learning about ourselves and our human environment. We talk big about wanting to be "green" and encourage the use of alternative transportation, but we don't seem to be willing to put forward the effort (much less the funding) to really understand how to build cities that will acheive those goals. Seems like we should try to fix that...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sidewalk Redefined

In this compelling recent article, Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris and Reina Ehrenfeucht describe the downfall of sidewalks in the US, and suggest how planners might bring them back to life. They identify five essential purposes of sidewalks:

Movement This one's pretty self-explanatory. Sidewalks are how pedestrians move from one place to another.

Encounter Sidewalks are the places where you meet people: people you know, people you don't know, and people you might not want to know. And sometimes, this purpose of the sidewalk trumps the "movement" purpose, as in when a street fair temporarily closes a pathway to normal traffic. As the article describes, sidewalks are where, "Spontaneous and planned festivities break the rhythm of everyday life and give collective expression to people’s joy, sorrow or aspirations."

Confrontation Not every activity that takes place on a sidewalk is comfortable. Rallies and protests, sit-ins, or even talking loudly might be distruptive or violate social norms. Still, the authors' believe that these activities should be accomodated on "democratic" sidewalks.  

Survival We don't always like to dwell on it, but for some people the sidewalk is "home," and the only place where they can carry out the ordinary activities of daily life (eating, sleeping) that the rest of us more commonly do indoors. Sidewalks are also, often controversially, the places where some people like street vendors or day laborers go to earn a living.

Friday, September 10, 2010

This week on foot

This week starts with more fun techie news, as we learn that a Vehicle Camera Watches the Road for Stray Pedestrians and a Car applies brake for pedestrians.

Now if only we can get policymakers to behave as intelligently as the vehicles they drive. It doesn't seem to be happening in Hawaii, where the State considers removing 3 Pali crosswalks. On the other hand, there's good news on the legislative front in New York, where a New law protecting pedestrians named for Elle Vandenberghe. And just in time for bad weather in Michigan, a Proposed Ordinance Would Keep Sidewalks Safe in Winter.

Things are less rosy in Arizona, where an Advocate fears loss of funding for N. Phoenix pedestrian bridge, even worse in Nashville, where a Spike In Pedestrian Accidents Prompts Changes, and downright nasty in Minnesota, where a Sinkhole swallows pedestrian in St. Paul (don't worry, he survived).

With all the dangers out there, it's no wonder that San Clemente is asking you to Share your thoughts on bike, pedestrian safety as part of their Pedestrian and Bicycle master planning.

And there's definitely some bright spots in the world of walkers. Up in Canada, Vancouver Tour Guys' business takes off when they begin offering free walking tours of the city. See, walkability sells.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Upcoming Walking Events

Designing for Pedestrian Safety FHWA and PBIC Free Webinar Series

This 8-part series on pedestrian design continues this month here. If you missed any of the previous sessions, past webinars are also archived at the site.

Part 4: Intersection Geometry
Presented by John LaPlante, Director of Traffic Engineering, T.Y. Lin International, Inc
and Keith Sinclair, Acting Assistant Division Administrator, FHWA Connecticut Division
Thursday, September 9 at 11:00 a.m. PST
Register at

Part 5: Signalized Intersections
Presented by Michael Moule, President, Livable Streets, Inc and Fred Ranck, FHWA Resource Center Safety Design Engineer
Monday, September 27 at 11:00 a.m. PST.
Register at

Part 6: Interchanges and Roundabouts
Presented by Fred Ranck, FHWA Resource Center Safety Design Engineer and Hillary Isebrands, FHWA Resource Center Safety Specialist
Tuesday, October 5 at 11:00 a.m. PST
Register at

Dates TBD:
Part 7: Pedestrians and Transit
Part 8: Road Diets
WalkSanDiego Luncheon Forum
September 17, 12:00-1:00 P.M.

A forum to exchange information and ideas on walkability in the San Diego Region. Guest Speakers: Cheryl Moder, Director of the San Diego Childhood Obesity Initiative and Supervisor Ron Roberts. Come enjoy a delicious lunch while discussing and learning about the struggles and solutions of childhood obesity in San Diego County. Location: 193 Horton Plaza, 1st Level (next to Victoria's Secret). Suggested Lunch Donation is $5.00 if you RSVP by September 13th; $7.00 at the door. Please RSVP to Cynthia Offenhauer.

Balboa Park II Walk 
September 18, 2010, 9:00 a.m.

Sponsored by WalkSanDiego. Meet at 6th Ave. and Laurel St., San Diego. This is the complimentary walk to the April 16 walk that discussed the 1915 Exposition; this walk will explore the legacy the 1935 Exposition had on Balboa Park and San Diego, with highlights of the buildings and activities the fair provided to San Diegans and visitors from around the world. As usual, some great historic photos from that time. A modest 4-mile walk on mostly flat terrain. The walks are open to everyone; they are free to WalkSanDiego members, with a suggested $5 donation for non-members. For further information, contact Dave Schumacher.
Pedestrians Count! Data, Modeling & Advocacy Workshop
October 3-5, Berkeley, CA

This workshop promotes pedestrian safety, public health, sustainable community modeling, and walking transportation with cutting edge research, latest best practices in pedestrian data collection and analysis, together with strategic advocacy planning. Statewide professionals, academic and community leaders will share their current and most promising work. California WALKS is a co-sponsor in this event. $50 Registration includes all three days. For registration and information go to
United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County (USOAC) Older Pedestrian Safety Workshops
October 21, 12:30 pm-3:45 pm,  North Oakland Senior Center

FREE wokshop focusing on pedestrian safety and walking for older adults. To RSVP or for more information, contact Sister Ansar through email or at (510) 729-0851

And don't forget that International Walk to School Day is coming up on October 6!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cool Ped Stuff # 9: Guerrilla Crosswalks

LA has DIY parking spaces and sharrows, Greece has Donkey Stickers, and as Treehugger reports Sao Paolo, Brazil now has its own band of guerrilla street improvers aimed at improving conditions for Brazilian pedestrians. Armed with white paint, they cleverly waited until no local traffic engineers would be paying attention (i.e. during World Cup games featuring Brazil) to paint crosswalks and "Slow Down" signs at dangerous intersections around the city.

I can almost feel the collective shudder as city attorneys simultaneously cringe at the liability issues this raises.

Photo courtesy Treehugger/Urban repair squad @ Apocalipse motorizado

Friday, September 3, 2010

Worldwide Walking: Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala

I won't pretend that Latin America doesn't get a lot wrong when it comes to its pedestrian environment, but one thing I do appreciate about the region is its abundance of mixed-use streets. Unlike the here in the US, where we've spent decades working hard to ensure that pedestrians stay in their proper place (preferably, within a car) and vehicles have the road to themselves, pedestrians still have a valid place on many South and Central American streets. When done correctly (i.e., with an eye towards ensuring pedestrian safety), this can lead to a lively, jubiliant street atmosphere. I'll start with one of my all-time favorite pictures of pedestrians taking the street for themselves:

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Worldwide Walking: Brazil and El Salvador

A good streetscape doesn't just provide a pleasant place for a pedestrian to walk, it also helps contribute to a community's identity. It's one thing to walk down a nice street, it's another to walk down a nice street that also tells you something about the people who use it every day. Take these sidewalk treatments from Rio de Jainero. The patterns are so iconic that you don't need anything else to tell you what neighborhood you're in:

Then there's the small town of La Palma in El Salvador, made famous when the artist Ferrnando Llort made it his hub. Now there are dozens of factories in the village devoted to his style of art, which has spilled out onto the city's streets.