Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Worldwide Walking: Paris

Enough people extol the virtues of Europe's pedestrian environment that I don't think I need to go into too much detail, but I do have a few things to share. If you read my early post on the history of sidewalks you might recall that although London was the first to adopt sidewalks, but France was also quick to the pedestrian pathway game. Here are some pictures of Paris' early take on the sidewalk, covered shopping arcades:

Note that while they're certainly beautiful (and weather-proof), I suspect that they were--and continue to be--exclusively for the use of the middle/upper classes, which defeats some of the egalitarian purpose of the sidewalk space.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Worldwide Walking: Tokyo

Inspired by a recent webinar from the PBIC on pedestrian safety lessons from around the world, I wanted to share my own walking images from afar. This week I'll innundate you with some of my favorites from Asia, Europe, and (of course) Latin America, starting with my visit to Japan in 2008.

You might already have heard of their amazing bullet trains, but it turns out Tokyo outdoes us in just about all things transportation (and don't get me started on disaster preparedness). Some of my favorite pedestrian-friendly features were this series of pocket parks. What was surprising about them wasn't their diminutive size (given that space is at a premium in the city), but how much they could pack into a small space. Makes you think about what we might be able to do with the right-of-way if we cut down our oversized roadways.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

This week on foot

I had a little trouble this week finding stories that weren't along the lines of "Pedestrian Killed in Crosswalk," or "Pedestrian Dies After Being Struck by Bus"--but lest you think vehicles and trains are the only dangers pedestrians face, this week the New York Post warns us that Crews ignore 'dangerous' trees in Central Park. As if pedestrians don't have enough to worry about them without the threat of tree branches falling on their heads.

And pedestrians' troubles hardly end with trees. Even when they cross the street in the crosswalk during the walk signal, they might still be charged for a crime, as in the Los Angeles-area city where Baldwin Park police consider citing pedestrian who was hit by bus in crosswalk.

With all those dangers out there, it's nice to know that Purdue planning to hire crossing guards to help improve safety for pedestrians around campus.
Perhaps what we need is a major international sporting event around here. Maybe then we'll get our own World Cup legacy: more bids to get South Africans out of their cars and into pedestrian-only plazas like the Fan Walk that surrounded the Cape Town stadium.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Prius Stops Creeping Up on You

Toyota announced today that it will begin offering an engine-like sound system in newest Prius hybrids to help assuage concerns that the quiet vehicles pose greater risks to pedestrians than their noisier counterparts (a recent study showed hybrids were twice as likely as non-hybrids to be involved in pedestrian crashes at low speeds). The system is voluntary and (as of now) only offered in Japan, but Toyota is considering expanding the option to other countries/vehicle models.

Nice to know that pedestrians might soon face one less danger on the roads.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A new fix for local sidewalks

You may recall the hullaballoo that ensued earlier this year when the City of Los Angeles considered discontinuing its longstanding practice of paying for sidewalk repairs. Even though state law places the burden of sidewalk maintenance on adjacent property owners, LA took over responsibility in the early 70s after it received a hunk of federal funding for sidewalks. Now that the funding has run out, the City is looking to slither out of the sidewalk repair business.

Not only does this irritate property owners, who have gotten used to the City taking charge (however slowly) of sidewalk fixes, it raises issues related to accessibility under the Americans with Disabilites Act. The federal courts have ruled that ADA regulations, which stipulate equal access to the mobility-impaired, require local jurisdictions to maintain their sidewalks in good repair.

And how will cash-strapped cities like LA afford to do this? Donald Shoup (of The High Cost of Free Parking fame) offers one suggestion in the most recent issue of Access: point-of-sale sidewalk repairs.

Friday, August 20, 2010

This week on foot

This week brings more news about HAWK lights to help reduce pedestrian deaths in metro Phoenix. The High-Intensity Activated Crosswalks have been installed at a number of ped=heavy locations throughout the city to help improve pedestrian safety at midblock crossings.

Not so ped-friendly is the a Wall in White Flint endangers pedestrians. The wall forces pedestrians to travel far out of their way to access a bus stop, and creates some visibility issues for motorists.

Los Angeles seems to be doing just as poorly in providing good pedestrian access to transit stops, as one LA blogger discovered when Blogger Walk Scores Metro Rail Stops, Finds L.A. has Long Way to Go in Walkability

In San Francisco, pedestrians are taking matters into their own hands. Walk San Francisco was part of a group Appeal filed against downtown mall for failing to adequately evaluate the impact that designing the mall without regard to walkability would have on the environment. 

And across the world, EMBARQ is taking a look at the impact that another mode of transportation is having on pedestrians. Are India’s Auto-Rickshaws Safe for Pedestrians and Cyclists? Maybe not, but they sure aren't as bad as other types of motor vehicles...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Walk Score Gets Even More Awesome

This week your friendly neighborhood walkability evaluator Walk Score launched some great new features to help you evaluate where you live (or where you might want to live). The new Transit Score ranks a location based on transit availability, considering stop locations, frequency, and type of service. So far the service is only available in a few dozen cities, but will hopefully expand as more transit date becomes available from local agencies.

Walk Score has also integrated info from Google Maps to help you evaluate your commute options with the new Commute Report tool, which lists travel times between locations by foot, bike, car, and transit (where available). There's even a handy elevation map for those of us who like to know just what kind of walk/bike commute we're getting ourselves into.

The Commute Report also uses Center for Neighborhood Technology's Housing + Transportation Affordability Index to estimate combined housing and transportation costs for your location, which is important because transportation costs can put a serious dent in the affordability of neighborhood. Not that anyone was thinking Woodland Hills was affordable, but it was discouraging to see that on average transportation costs in my area are 11 percent higher than the average for the region.

You can get more details from the Walk Score Blog.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

NYC Releases Ped Report

The NY Times and NYC Streetsblog are buzzing over a report released Aug 16 by the NY DOT. The The New York City Pedestrian Safety Study & Action Plan evaluated crash data from about 7,000 severe and fatal pedestrian crashes to better understand the facors that impede pedestrian safety in the city--and help to address them. The report includes some pretty interesting/depressing info about the impact of pedestrian fatalities on the city (e.g. pedestrian crashes are the number 2 killer of children in NYC and pedestrian crashes cost the city $1.38 million per year). Some more key findings:
  • Pedestrians are 10 times more likely to die than a motor vehicle occupant in the event of a crash.
  • Pedestrians accounted for 52% of traffic fatalities from 2005-2009.  
  • Driver inattention was cited in nearly 36% of crashes resulting in pedestrians killed or seriously injured.  
  • 27% of fatal pedestrian crashes involved driver failure to yield.
  • 80% of crashes that kill or seriously injure pedestrians involve male drivers.
  • 79% of crashes that kill or seriously injure pedestrians involve private vehicles, not taxis, trucks and buses.
Happily in all this negativity there was at least one encouraging statistic:
  • Traffic fatalities in 2009 were down by 35% from 2001. 
 Way to go Janette Sadik-Khan. Now will you move to LA?
Read the full report here

Monday, August 16, 2010

6 principles for safer walking

I'm such a list person, so naturally I was excited when I found this list from a recent webinar  presented by Charlie Zegeer, director of the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center.  In one succinct slide, he sums up the best ways to create safe pedestrian streets:
  • Keep it simple
  • Shorten crossing distances
  • Carefully select crossing locations and marked crosswalks
  • Create visible crossings
  • Proper traffic control (signs, signals, guards)
  • Slow down traffic speeds
I've read my share of tomes on improving pedestrian safety, but sometimes short and sweet is easier to digest. Like a cookie.

Friday, August 13, 2010

This week on foot

This week's rundown begins with a slap in the face for Ohio pedestrians, where BG police pass out tickets to pedestrians in construction zone. Some of the 70 people who received the $125 tickets claim there were not signs in place indicating that the sidewalk in question was closed. Of course I don't think pedestrians should be walking through construction zones, but that means that contractors and cities need to provide adequate "alternative routing" during construction. It is not enough--as I experienced this very morning on Victoria Ave at Telephone, if any Ventura officials are reading this-- to just slap up a "sidewalk closed" sign and leave it to pedestrians to figure out how to get past the construction (and Ventura, giving pedestrians the "choice" of walking through a gas station parking lot or walking in the vehicle travel lanes doesn't cut it).

And in a similar attempt to distract our attention from the real problem, the AA slams 'iPod zombie' pedestrians for walking while listening to their music devices. Ummm AA, how many "distracted pedestrians" have killed another person lately?
At least there's a little good news. In Georgia GDOT Gives DeKalb Pedestrians Green Light, and in Deleware and elsewhere New traffic signals make it safer for pedestrians. Even notoriously pedestrian unfriendly Beverly Hills searches for some Instant Karma: Beverly Hills Cops Nab Drivers Failing to Yield.

And in my favorite story of the week--maybe even the year-- an Anonymous donor gives funds for crosswalks to a city in New Jersey. I don't know who you are, but can you come live in my city?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Safe Routes to School News

I was inspired during today's Southern California Safe Routes to School network conference call by some of the interesting projects happening throughout the region  (if you'd like info on how to join in the monthly calls, contact the CA policy manager Jessica Meaney). Here's the scoop on what's happening with SRTS in:

Los Angeles
The City has received nearly $500,000 in funding to work with six schools in the west LA area on outreach and education to increase active transportation to school. The educational campaign has included public service announcements on spanish and english TV (starring kids from the target schools), lawn signs, educational brochures, billboards, radio spots, and ads on buses and at bus shelters. Along with the media blitz the schools have held assemblies, given out prizes like bikes and pedometers, and worked with parents to address perceived safety concerns. The results have been a 19 percent increase in kids walking to school. You can learn  more about the City's activities at the Watch the Road website.

A committee of dedicated parents in Glendale have been working for the last two years to improve safety around local school sites. Their first step was to address the hazardous conditions created by parents' poor driving habits. The committee created a valet system for the AM drop-off period, staffed by student, faculty, and parent volunteers (and the occasional school board member), then took a stab at the PM pick-up period by piloting a "no drive zone" around the school: parents who drove to pick up their kids were required to park several blocks away (a local grocery store generously let the parents use their parking lot), then walk to get their children.

Burbank has been focusing on bikes lately in its SRTS efforts, setting up a bike education program with assemblies on bike safety and special courses for parents and kids. The city has also set up a bike coop program, where kids learn to fix and maintain donated bikes--and then get to keep them for their own. Next year the City plans to set up a citywide committee to address SRTS on a bigger scale, taking a look at areas where pedestrian improvements could help get more kids walking.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Walking in Mexico

Every time I hit the pavement in Latin America, I'm reminded of its penchant for pedestrian contrasts. On one hand you have narrow, cracked sidewalks that trip up even the most able-bodied person out there, a complete dearth of street furniture, choking diesel fumes, and a general disregard for the rights of those on foot--not to mention a nearly complete lack of marked crossings.

But then one block over you have lovely landscaping, narrow streets, relatively wide sidewalks:

Pleasant plazas accessed by pedestrian-only streets, with lots of engaging public space:

Or even really cool things like parks built on top of parking lots:

And crossing guards at the main downtown intersections:

So I just can't ever decide if Mexico does pedestrian design worse or better than us in the U.S.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

This Week on Boat

I'm off on the high seas this week, hopefully returning next week with some photos of walking conditions in Mexico...

 image courtest of matty!