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 thiscatsabroad.blogspot.com

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.