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.