Thursday, January 28, 2010

This Week on Foot

This week the Toronto community continues to stew over a recent uptick in pedestrian deaths. A myriad of potential solutions, theories, and general ranting abound, with Officers out in force to warn, ticket pedestrians, while CBC offers an idea of How pedestrians, cyclists and drivers can get along a little better. One author looks at How Poisson would explain pedestrian deaths, while another just laments the Shell shock and paralysis the whole situation has caused.

Perhaps Toronto can look to Latvia, where Slesers suggests make pedestrian mall in Latvian capital’s downtown, or even the small Washington town of Cheney, where Railroad crossing improvements OK'd: Cheney council approves better pedestrian access

Just as long as they don't follow New York's example. In that city Besides pedestrians, New York City streets are safer for drivers, passengers and bicyclists

Or, it would seem, Ohio: Lottery winner dies after being struck by car

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Road Rage Rapper Defends Himself

As reported today in the LA Times, Swedish rapper David Jassy continues to insist that his November 2008 killing of a pedestrian in Hollywood was motivated by "fear." The confrontation with John Osnes began when Osnes banged the front of Jassy's SUV after Jassy nearly hit him while he was crossing (in a crosswalk) the Sunset Strip.

It ended when, after a tussle between the two men, Jassy ran over Osnes with his vehicle. Jassy explained, "I was in fear for my life. I didn't know if he had a gun, a knife. I know L.A. is way more dangerous than Sweden is."

Apparently so.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

This Week on Foot

This weeks brings some interesting innovations in pedestrian safety.

In New York City Coming Soon: Ped-Friendly “Urban Umbrellas” for NYC Sidewalks will help protect pedestrians from falling debris during the construction without forcing them to walk through dark and unattractive sidewalk "sheds."

And then there's Mercedes Developing 'Auto-Swerve' For Pedestrian Safety. As expected from the catchy name, the new device would identify potential pedestrian conflicts and automatically swerve to avoid them.

We can try to improve vehicle safety, but it's going to be hard to fight mother nature. Can pedestrian deaths be blamed on warm weather? Officials in Toronto seem to think so.

Snow can also be a challenge, as we saw this week in New Hampshire where Snowplow driver in NH cited for hitting pedestrian

Or maybe it's just those dangerous pedestrians--like the one in Sweden, where a Swedish rapper argues self-defense in murder case.

It makes you wonder, Will pedestrians ever be safer on our mean streets?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

You know it's a big deal when Oprah gets involved

Yes, Lady O has joined the fight against distracted driving, as we learn here on her webpage--where you can even take the No Phone Zone Pledge along with her other fans.

The nice thing about Oprah's campaign is that there's none of this half-hearted, mixed-signal, we-know-you-can't-spend-20-minutes-out-of-touch-because-heaven-forbid-you-allow-yourself-time-to-think-so-here-have-a-bluetooth-device stuff to muddle things up. As one of her guests put it, "It's not where your hands are, it's where your head is."

Okay, so it's a clear message, and it's in the interest of pedestrian safety, and even the DOT is all over it...and boy is it hard. I spent my entire 55-minute drive home contemplating whether or not I could bring myself to cut the wireless phone cord. (Yes, I realize that it is only because I wasn't on the phone that I had 55 minutes to contemplate this.)

The thought of losing out on all that convenient chatting time seems horrid, and I'm only marginally moved by the example of people like Oprah and Ray LaHood who are probably driven everywhere by someone else and don't even have to deal with this issue.

Nonetheless, as a good pedestrian advocate I'm going to stop ignoring the clear evidence of the dangers of distracted driving and give it a try. I'll let you know how the experiment goes.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

This Week on Foot

The week has been mixed for walkers of the world. Here in Los Angeles we learned that a Stretch of Grand Avenue may be transformed into a park. Will this make Downtown LA: Totally Pedestrian Friendly ? Let's hope so.

Elsewhere in the country an SC woman receives 15 years for killing pedestrian . Perhaps the long sentence will send a message to the driver in San Jose, where a Crossing guard, pedestrian hit by VW near San Jose school

At least one city in Flordia seems to be getting the message: in Winter Park Road design has pedestrians in mind. Not so in Minnesota, where A pedestrian's tumble illustrates winter's hardships

Pedestrian problems also abound outside of the US. This week the Jordan Pioneers Content and Research Department released the results of a survey of four- to seven-year-olds showing Most Children in Jordan Unaware of Safe Pedestrian Behaviour. Perhaps Jordan should look to Europe, where Hungary's new traffic rules favour cyclists and pedestrians

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pedestrian-Oriented Parking

A new year, a new parking ordinance.

Okay, technically the ordinance became law in November. Still, I hope you’ll forgive me for dawdling on writing this up (and for tooting my own horn), because I couldn’t resist bragging about Ventura County's new parking ordinance.

This isn’t the same old motor-centric set of regulations that linger on in many jurisdictions’ codes; the purpose statement is full of phrases like “reduce the adverse effects of motor vehicle parking areas,” “create pleasant neighborhoods designed at a human-scale for human needs,” and even “encourage reduced driving.” Yes, this is a parking ordinance that wants you to drive less.

The ordinance works towards creating a more walkable environment in many different ways, but rather than subjecting you to all 30+ pages of code (available in legalese for the truly motivated here, Section 8108, --or in layman's terms in the companion Parking and Loading Design Guidelines), here are a few highlights:

Safe Pedestrian Access: the new code mandates that pedestrians have safe and convenient access from the street to building entrances. Among other things this means direct pathways to the front door, including pathways through parking lots where necessary, and no drive-through lanes or vehicles impeding the pedestrian path. This is particularly important because many pedestrian crashes actually happen within parking lots and not out on the roads.

Urban Design: the ordinance encourages sites designed with buildings in front and parking the back to create more pedestrian-friendly streets. When parking lots are located between the sidewalk and the building, extra landscaping is required to soften the impact of parking spaces.

Parking Space Reductions: new regulations allow reduced parking rates for uses that provide sidewalks, crosswalks, and other enhancements to the pedestrian environment. Considering how expensive even a single parking space is ($5,000 to $10,000 for a surface space, not including maintenance), this should motivate developers to substitute cheaper pedestrian amenities for pricey parking spaces.

Landscaping: updated landscaping requirements increase the amount of greenery required in parking lots, lessening the effect of all that asphalt on the streetscape. The code even allows some required parking spaces to be maintained in a landscaping “reserve” (kept as landscaping unless future demand warrants their conversion to parking). Result? More green space for pedestrians.

Since this is a pedestrian blog I won’t go into the new section on bicycle parking, but I assure the bike advocates out there that it’s equally extensive.

Let’s remember that we’re not talking downtown San Francisco here, where high densities and extensive transit systems provide ample opportunities to get creative with parking policy. This is unincorporated Ventura County, where a lot of serious regulatory issues revolve around roosters. If we can adopt (unanimously, I might add) an ordinance like this in Ventura, shouldn’t the rest of the region (yes LA, I’m talking to you) be able to follow suit?