Sunday, June 6, 2010

This Week on Foot

Sparking nationwide debate over the intelligence of pedestrians, this week we learn that Woman sues Google over Utah walking directions. Plantiff Lauren Rosenberg blames faulty Google routing for directing her to a high-speed boulevard with no sidewalks in a trek across Park City, where she was hit and injured while crossing. Lost in scorn over Rosenberg's lack of common sense, the public appears to be missing some of the key issues this story raises, namely: why doesn't the four-lane boulevard have sidewalks? And, if the Park City could afford to clear the roadway of snow, why not the adjacent pedestrian path? If we're looking for people to blame here, it seems like Google isn't the only one at fault...

Pedestrians in Nagpur, India won't have to face the same challenges crossing the street that Rosenberg did, as Nagpur to get 22 foot-over-bridges soon. The real question, of course, is will people (and particularly the elderly and disabled) be able to make the climb to use them?

If Nagpur is looking for serious solutions to pedestrian problems, maybe it should look to British Columbia, where Vancouver judged Canada's most walkable city. I wonder if the folks over at the Victoria Transport Policy Institute are jealous?

Of course, it takes more than just footbridges to make a community walkable. In fact, according to one recent study of walkability Good neighborhoods have lots of intersections. Turns out that neighborhoods with short blocks arranged in a grid pattern have the most walkers. Speaking as a person living in an anti-grid neighborhood (seriously, there are so many twists and turns here that after three years I still get lost coming home from the grocery store sometimes), I agree with the results of the research.

One thing that doesn't seem to improve neighborhood walkability? Speeding ambulances, like this one in New York City where Pedestrian Struck By Volunteer Ambulance. As I explained in an earlier post, I believe that the tradeoffs we make in pedestrian safety by designing "ambulance-friendly" roads aren't always worth the improvements in response time, a topic that Tom Vanderbilt also explores in an interesting post here.

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