Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cool Ped Stuff # 7: Photovoice

I love this project, sponsored by Safe Kids Worldwide, that handed cameras to kids in seven differnt countries and asked them to document the pedestrian environment in their neighborhood. Many of the problems that children identified in Photovoice: Children's Perspectives on Road Traffic Safety were addressed in subsequent roadway improvement projects, leading to safer walking for kids worldwide. What a great lesson for children about the power of pedestrian advocacy.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

This week on Foot

What is going on with the trains this week? An Amtrak train kills female pedestrian in Wash., a Train hits, kills pedestrian in Indy, a Second person fatally hit by Southern California train--yikes! No wonder the folks in south Los Angeles were concered after the Expo Line gets OK for street-level crossing next to Dorsey High.

Maybe we should all head over to Chicago, where an NU forum targets pedestrian-train accidents. Or perhaps we could learn something from the folks across the Atlantic, where trains and walkers are both more prevalent. Of course, the Europeans have their own troubles. In Paris, the NY Times forecasts a Watery Future for the City of Light. A battle is brewing over the expressways bordering the River Seine, and it's not clear yet if the future belongs to cars or to pedestrians and bicycles.

Things are looking a little better for walkers in the UK, where London trials Pedestrian Countdown technology. And back on this side of the ocean, the folks who brought you WalkScore ponder the idea of Measuring neighborhood diversity and liveliness with ‘JaneScore’ (named for planner extraordinaire Jane Jacobs). Hmm. My neighborhood has a high WalkScore, but I'm not so sure it would do as well by Jane's standards...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's PEATON MAN!

Yes, the Pedestrians' Super Hero ( "Peaton" is "pedestrian" in Spanish) has taken an extra long walk from Ecuador to Spain to help promote pedestrian rights in Sevilla, and our friends at Peatones de Sevilla (Sevilla Pedestrians) have put together this short film about his efforts. For the non-Spanish speakers, I've thrown in a translation after the jump.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Upcoming Walking Events

A SRTS webinar, a passel of community walks, and an opportunity (or seven) for you to shape the future of transportation policy in California...

Safe Routes to School Webinar Sponsored by America Walks
June 29th 10:00 am

Join us for a webinar to learn about three recent grant recipients of the National Center for Safe Routes to School mini-grant program. An overview of the program will be presented and representatives of the receipient schools will discuss how the mini-grant helped their programs. Register at http://www.americawalks.org/

Community Walks Sponsored by Walk San Diego
The walks are open to everyone; they are free to WalkSanDiego members, with a suggested $5 donation for non-members. For further information, contact Dave Schumacher or visit http://www.walksandiego.org/.

Saturday, June 26, 9:00 a.m - Kensington I Walk (meet in front of the Kensington Library, 4121 Adams Ave)

Join us for a two mile walk through the core area of Kensington, focusing on the commercial area and some of the surrounding residential neighborhoods, with highlights of its history and architecture. Walk will conclude by 10:20am in time for folks to attend the Kensington Clean Energy Festival taking place between 10:30am and 2:30pm. This is the first of two walks in Kensington.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

This Week on Foot

The week started out with sad news about a Pedestrian Killed in Cahuenga Pass Collision.

But, before we get too discouraged about the dismal state of walking out there, we can take heart at this news: Nissan LEAF equipped with warning sounds for pedestrians. At least there will be one less silent-but-deadly hybrid prowling the streets out there.

Still, no matter how noisy the vehicle, most drivers could still use a few lessons in Crossing Courtesy, as this article on dangerous pedestrian conditions in the Philippines points out.

Of course, teaching courtesy in the Phillippines might be easier than Trying to Breathe Life Into a Canyon of Concrete. Nonetheless, that's what the Alliance for Downtown New York are trying to do.

Perhaps they'll have better luck with the task than Michigan, where city planners wonder, Is Kalamazoo cool enough to hold onto its college graduates? Maybe, but only if they can lure then in by creating a vibrate, walkable city for them to call home.

And for those Kalamazoo grads trying to figure out just how walkable their potential new home might be, Real estate listings add 'walk scores' for neighborhood desirability. Just one more sign of how the pedestrian environment can influence housing choices.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Equal Footing Summit - September 16, 2010

Not only does it have a clever name, it's free! What's not to love?

2010 Equal Footing Summit

Equal Footing is a new project of America Walks. They will launch their campaign with a FREE SUMMIT on September 16 in Chattanooga, TN in order to achieve concrete outcomes such as:
  • Raise the profile of walking to an issue of national importance.
  • Build unity and energy so that we can speak with one voice for transforming walking and walkability in America.
  • Raise America Walks' capacity to lead the national walking movement.

 Go to http://www.americawalks.org/equal-footing for more details.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

DOT Webinar on Transportation and Greenhouse Gas Reduction

The folks over at the US DOT transportation and climate change clearinghouse are holding a webinar on June 16 from 1 to 2:30 pm (that's eastern time) to discuss findings from their recently released report Transportation's Role in Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The report isn't for the fainthearted--Volume I is a hefty 605 pages-- but it does have some telling info on the federal government's expectations for the future of transportation and fossil fuels.

According to the report, the most effective strategies for reducing GHGs from transportation are fuel taxes (ha, tell that to the politicians). Implementing a carbon cap and trade program is also expected to have a significant effect, along with (drum roll please) targeting urban growth in dense, walkable communities. Glad the feds are starting to pay attention to the power of the pedestrian.

Less effective would be a fee imposed on people for vehicle miles traveled. Note the implication of this finding: Americans might be willing to change the type of fuel they put in their vehicles or buy more fuel-efficient cars in order to pay lower gas taxes, but they aren't going to stop driving. Well, you can't win them all...

If this brief post hasn't satisfied your inner transpo geek, you can register for a full hour and a half of webinar fun here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

This week on foot

As the summer sun heats up this week, so does the controversy over New Jersey's new pedestrian law that requires motorists to come to a complete stop when peds are in the crosswalk. A Long Beach Island businessman seeks repeal of N.J. pedestrian law, but Spot checks show motorists frequently ignore new crosswalk law at New Jersey shore.

Undeterred by the tepid acceptance of ped friendly laws in New Jersey, Streetsblog New York reports on a new law that is making its way through the NY state legislature. Hayley and Diego’s Law Clears State Assembly this week, and if passed it will make "careless driving" (i.e. running over vulnerable road users) a punishable offence.

It looks like Minnesota could use a similar law, where Kid Hit by Car at Pedestrian Crosswalk, but Police Don't Ticket Driver.

Of course, conflicts with vehicles aren't the only danger for walkers. In New York City, Pedestrians, Bicyclists Spar for Space in NYC's New No-Car Zones. Part of the City's efforts to reduce congestion, improve the environment, and encourage the use of alternative transportation, the zones have also had the unintended consequence of making travel difficult for bike messengers and other cyclists. Hopefully the hundreds of miles of new bike lanes proposed for the city will help alleviate the problem.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pedestrian Advocacy in the Developing World

And now, after cleverly peaking your interest in pedestrian advocacy through this series of posts (part 1, part 2, part 3), I can finally crow about my own research on the subject. Truly motivated readers can check out the full article in the latest issue of Transportation: Theory and Application, but for the rest here's a quick summary:

Last year, after scouring the internet for every ped advocacy group I could find, I spent some time reading the websites and surveying the leaders of seven pedestrian advocacy organizations in low- and middle-income countries (thank goodness Google translate does Bulgarian). Some of the interesting findings:
  • Not surprisingly, pedestrian advocacy is a relatively new phenomenon in the developing world; most groups were only formed in the last five years.
  • Safety is the top concern for most groups, but issues of social justice/equity, health, and traffic congestion are also important
  • Most groups are funded entirely by private donations, unlike those in the US and Europe that supplement private funding with government monies, corporate grants, and even consulting fees
  • Technology plays a big role in the groups' outreach efforts; many have blogs, websites, email lists, and online forums. While a great (and cheap) source way to promote walking, these sources might not reach the poorest walkers, who likely don't have computer access.
  • Many group members serve as technical "experts" on government transportation projects. On one hand, this a great way for the groups to make their voices heard. On the other, that local governments don't have any internal pedestrian experts does suggest that walking isn't the government's top priority...
If you'd like to learn more about these groups or their work you can check out their websites on the Pedesrian Advocacy page.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Enjoying the Walk Through Texas

A few months ago I introduced you to intrepid walker George Throop, who is walking across the country in an effort to inspire Americans to walk at least 20 minutes each day. When we left him George was just starting his trek through Los Angeles. Since then, he's made it through the rest of California, Arizona, and part of Texas, where he's paused for a summer hiatus in order to avoid serious desert walking in serious heat (smart call, George). Here's a few of his observations from the trek, but you can follow the whole journey on his website here.

Interestingly, riding a bicycle on I-10 is legal, but walking is prohibited. This poses a significant challenge for anyone wishing to walk across America via the southern route. Though I'm for walking on city or frontage roads as much as possible, occasionally the freeway is the best option, despite the dangers. Arizona Highway Patrol booted me from I-10 just a few miles short of Benson. They told me I could continue on the freeway till Benson, but that from there, I'd have to find another way. I did find alternatives through the rest of the state. I walked some miles on I-10 once I reached New Mexico.

From El Paso, I'll be heading back into NM, to Alamogordo and then across on Hwy 82. This will take me through some mountains-- so it's better that I'm doing this now and not in the winter.

The desert part of the walk has been challenging-- especially given that it's now heating up considerably. That said-- I'm happy it hasn't reached 100 degrees yet. (93 in El Paso tomorrow.) I've loved it though-- what a fantastic first-time-in-the-SW-desert experience it's been!

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.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pedestrian Advocacy Part 3: Building Momentum

Here's the final installment of my series on the history of pedestrian advocacy. As we learned in part 2, pedestrian advocacy gained steam during the 1920s and 30s, as advocates concerned about pedestrian safety fought for measures such as vehicle speed limits, traffic signals, and sidewalks. However, as vehicle ownership rates grew and cars became the primary mode of transportation for more and more people, pedestrian advocacy gradually fell by the wayside. For a time, the UK's Pedestrians Association was the only voice for walkers around the world.