Tuesday, September 28, 2010

One Less Trip, Five More Glasses of Water

Remember that time when I promised that in honor of Carfree Week I would attempt to abide by One Less Trip rule over the weekend and replace one trip that I would normally take by car with an alternative mode? That was before I found out that we were in for a late-September heat wave, complete with 100+ temperatures. So I hope you all really appreciate the fact that I refused to let myself off the hook and managed to actually abide by my rule. A few lessons from my alternative mode travels:

Day 1: Street Trees
I don't know why we have no street trees in my neighborhood. Heck, we're called Woodland Hills. Maybe the City of LA is like Ventura County, and cuts down all its street trees because it can't afford to maintain them. Maybe there never were any trees along Ventura Boulevard to begin with. At any rate, I would have appreciated a few for Friday's two-mile walk to the hair salon/Target. Granted the heat hadn't really hit yet, and it was merely a balmy 95 degrees on the sidewalk. Still, my neighborhood is consistently one of the hottest in the valley, and you've got to assume that the lack of greenery is one cause.

Day 2: Missed Opportunities
For Saturday's alternative mode trip I broke out the bicycle and headed to the farmer's market (leaving especially early to beat the heat--and so that I wouldn't miss my favorite cinnamon rolls from the french pastry stand). Riding alongside the freeway gave me ample opporunity to contemplate the absurdity that is Caltrans' fenced-off right-of-way (see below). Not only is there no sidewalk on this side of the road (though I saw plenty of people walking in the dirt next to the curb), the chain link fence deprives this neighborhood of what otherwise has the makings of a really cool linear park. Not that I expect that kind of creative thinking from the people who brought us the 110, but in a city known for its lack of park space this is a real waste.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Streets for Feet

Kudos to the Hollywood Community Studio (and especially my friends Jessica and Kristen) on the success for their Streets for Feet park project. A lovely way to celebrate this month's carfree activities (Park(ing) Day, International Carfree Week, etc), the project shut down two blocks of Hudson Avenue in Hollywood and turned it into a pedestrians-only space complete with cafe tables, plants, sidewalk art--and of course, hula hoops. With land for park space at a premium, creative projects like this can use existing resources to give Angelenos the parks they deserve (and of course improve neighborhood walkability.

As Jessica Cowley explains:

I think the demonstration project was a great way to start a dialogue with community members about open space, and get folks to think about how we might be able to make our streets into spaces for more than just cars....everyone I spoke to had positive things to say about the project, from residents of the Hillview (the big pink apartment building that fronts one side of Hudson) to visitors from Denmark, who were pleasantly surprised to find a pedestrian plaza in what they see as a very car-centric city.

You can get the full wrap-up of the project, including results of the community survey and (more) photos from the HCS website.

Friday, September 24, 2010

This Week on Foot

As one by one universities across the country start a new school year, many of them are looking to improve walkability for their students. 'Pedestrians, pay attention,' new USF campaign urges, while Mashable.com explains How Universities Can Win Big with Location-Based Apps that point out the walkable features of their campuses.

In New York, the World Reacts to Union Square Pedestrian Plaza, Bike Lane while jealous Albert Street stakeholders push for pedestrian mall of their own. Georgia follows New York's good example where a City to install hawk lights at bike trail intersections, while in Missouri Independence Starts New Road Harassment Law.

Elsewhere, things are not so good. Here in California a Vehicle strikes and kills pedestrian on PCH, while in Hong Kong Police target jaywalkers in road safety blitz. And I'm not sure if I should be encouraged or horrified that Bentley to recall cars over fears 'Flying B' could impale pedestrians.

But on a happy note, our walking friends up north have had a good week, where Walk SF goes pro as pedestrians get priority. Congratulations Walk San Francisco!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Celebrate World Carfree Day

Sandwiched between last Friday's Park(ing) Day and the upcoming International Walk to School Day (October 6) is World Carfree Day. For a summary of some of the events worldwide, check out The City Fix.

Since I have a notoriously UN-carfree commute (trust me, I've tried to find alternatives to driving), I'm brainstorming ways to cut down my car trips this weekend. My "One Less Trip" philosophy, which I just now made up, suggests that you challenge yourself to reduce your vehicle miles traveled by replacing just one trip a day that you would normally make by car with an alternative mode. Since I already try to make a lot of my non-work trips on foot, this may involving me braving LA's streets on a bike. I'll report back on Monday...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Designing for Pedestrian Safety

Want to learn more about how to design roads to keep pedestrians safe?

For those in the LA area, Metro invites you to participate in a 2-day Designing for Pedestrian Safety Workshop funded by the Federal Highway Administration. The workshop will include a walking field trip to a problem area to help participants understand and identify obstacles to walking. All workshop sessions will cover the same content and will be held at:

Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90012
8:30am – 4:30pm.

Dates include:

Monday, November 15 & Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Wednesday, November 17 & Thursday, November 18, 2010
Monday, December 13 & Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Wednesday, December 15 & Thursday, December 16, 2010
Monday, January 10 &Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Wednesday, January 12 & Thursday, January 13, 2011

To register for the workshop, please email Metro and include your name, organization, department, job title, phone number, and email/mailing address. Or contact Adela Felix at (213) 922-4333 or Julie Leung at (213) 922-4373.

Also, don't forget about the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center's ongoing webinar series on designing for pedestrian safety. There are still a few webinars left in the eight-part series, and you can always watch previous sessions online. For more information and to register click here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

This week on foot

This week started with some good news for folks down under, where Sydney to get pedestrian-friendly CBD. Of course, not everyone is excited about the idea of pedestrian improvements like countdown signals and shared roadways. Some believe that Businesses will suffer under CBD plan, arguing that lower speed limits and fewer parking spaces will lead to fewer customers. (You all know that research on this subject has shown otherwise, right?)

Elsewhere, pedestrians are getting blamed for other problems. In Michigan, Bike thefts up at CMU; police cite pedestrian-friendly campus as cause. I guess there are some down sides to improving walkability?

Happily, folks across the country are facing these dangers bravely, and boldly installing pedestrian improvements in their communities. In New York we learna about the DOT Installing Countdown Pedestrian Signals In Brooklyn and how the Park Smoking Ban Outlaws Butts on Pedestrian Plazas, Too, while Va. Beach OKs Shore Drive safety improvements and in Canada Bridge, trail make getting around lake safer ("It's amazing what a difference 125 feet of concrete can make").

Still, it's not all bright and sunny out there. On Thursday an 80-year-old pedestrian fatally struck crossing Glendale street. Perhaps it's no wonder that LAist asks, Do L.A. City Councilmembers Really Care About Pedestrian Safety?

Happy Park(ing) Day!

Today we celebrate the many ways that parking spaces can be used--besides for parking cars. Check out the Park(ing) Day LA website for a map of all this year's spaces-turned-parks.

And for those who can't  make it to their favorite spot on Friday, the Hollywood Community Studio will be shutting down Hudson Avenue at Hollywood Boulevard for a "Pavement-to-Plaza" demonstration project full of fun performances and activities. Here's the schedule it you'd like to take a peek.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Habitat for People

Over at my real job (no, in case you were wondering this is not my real job, just a time-consuming hobby) I've been working lately on a habitat evaluation project. We're looking at a new method of habitat analysis that considers hundreds of factors (type of trees, location of boulders, number of downed logs), then assigns a value to the habitat based on all those factors. The method draws on about 100,000 studies of wildlife habitat.

Want to guess how many studies there are of pedestrian habitat?

Okay, it's hard to say precisely. BUT one recent count puts the number of studies related to travel and the built environment at about 200. So even if you factor in a few studies related to pedestrians safety, maybe a handful about walking and health, or walking and economics, I'd guess the number is less than 1,000.

Not that I begrude the critters their share of attention, but it's curious how little interest we show in learning about ourselves and our human environment. We talk big about wanting to be "green" and encourage the use of alternative transportation, but we don't seem to be willing to put forward the effort (much less the funding) to really understand how to build cities that will acheive those goals. Seems like we should try to fix that...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sidewalk Redefined

In this compelling recent article, Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris and Reina Ehrenfeucht describe the downfall of sidewalks in the US, and suggest how planners might bring them back to life. They identify five essential purposes of sidewalks:

Movement This one's pretty self-explanatory. Sidewalks are how pedestrians move from one place to another.

Encounter Sidewalks are the places where you meet people: people you know, people you don't know, and people you might not want to know. And sometimes, this purpose of the sidewalk trumps the "movement" purpose, as in when a street fair temporarily closes a pathway to normal traffic. As the article describes, sidewalks are where, "Spontaneous and planned festivities break the rhythm of everyday life and give collective expression to people’s joy, sorrow or aspirations."

Confrontation Not every activity that takes place on a sidewalk is comfortable. Rallies and protests, sit-ins, or even talking loudly might be distruptive or violate social norms. Still, the authors' believe that these activities should be accomodated on "democratic" sidewalks.  

Survival We don't always like to dwell on it, but for some people the sidewalk is "home," and the only place where they can carry out the ordinary activities of daily life (eating, sleeping) that the rest of us more commonly do indoors. Sidewalks are also, often controversially, the places where some people like street vendors or day laborers go to earn a living.

Friday, September 10, 2010

This week on foot

This week starts with more fun techie news, as we learn that a Vehicle Camera Watches the Road for Stray Pedestrians and a Car applies brake for pedestrians.

Now if only we can get policymakers to behave as intelligently as the vehicles they drive. It doesn't seem to be happening in Hawaii, where the State considers removing 3 Pali crosswalks. On the other hand, there's good news on the legislative front in New York, where a New law protecting pedestrians named for Elle Vandenberghe. And just in time for bad weather in Michigan, a Proposed Ordinance Would Keep Sidewalks Safe in Winter.

Things are less rosy in Arizona, where an Advocate fears loss of funding for N. Phoenix pedestrian bridge, even worse in Nashville, where a Spike In Pedestrian Accidents Prompts Changes, and downright nasty in Minnesota, where a Sinkhole swallows pedestrian in St. Paul (don't worry, he survived).

With all the dangers out there, it's no wonder that San Clemente is asking you to Share your thoughts on bike, pedestrian safety as part of their Pedestrian and Bicycle master planning.

And there's definitely some bright spots in the world of walkers. Up in Canada, Vancouver Tour Guys' business takes off when they begin offering free walking tours of the city. See, walkability sells.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Upcoming Walking Events

Designing for Pedestrian Safety FHWA and PBIC Free Webinar Series

This 8-part series on pedestrian design continues this month here. If you missed any of the previous sessions, past webinars are also archived at the site.

Part 4: Intersection Geometry
Presented by John LaPlante, Director of Traffic Engineering, T.Y. Lin International, Inc
and Keith Sinclair, Acting Assistant Division Administrator, FHWA Connecticut Division
Thursday, September 9 at 11:00 a.m. PST
Register at www2.gotomeeting.com/register/479167939

Part 5: Signalized Intersections
Presented by Michael Moule, President, Livable Streets, Inc and Fred Ranck, FHWA Resource Center Safety Design Engineer
Monday, September 27 at 11:00 a.m. PST.
Register at www2.gotomeeting.com/register/619931450

Part 6: Interchanges and Roundabouts
Presented by Fred Ranck, FHWA Resource Center Safety Design Engineer and Hillary Isebrands, FHWA Resource Center Safety Specialist
Tuesday, October 5 at 11:00 a.m. PST
Register at www2.gotomeeting.com/register/460531066

Dates TBD:
Part 7: Pedestrians and Transit
Part 8: Road Diets
WalkSanDiego Luncheon Forum
September 17, 12:00-1:00 P.M.

A forum to exchange information and ideas on walkability in the San Diego Region. Guest Speakers: Cheryl Moder, Director of the San Diego Childhood Obesity Initiative and Supervisor Ron Roberts. Come enjoy a delicious lunch while discussing and learning about the struggles and solutions of childhood obesity in San Diego County. Location: 193 Horton Plaza, 1st Level (next to Victoria's Secret). Suggested Lunch Donation is $5.00 if you RSVP by September 13th; $7.00 at the door. Please RSVP to Cynthia Offenhauer.

Balboa Park II Walk 
September 18, 2010, 9:00 a.m.

Sponsored by WalkSanDiego. Meet at 6th Ave. and Laurel St., San Diego. This is the complimentary walk to the April 16 walk that discussed the 1915 Exposition; this walk will explore the legacy the 1935 Exposition had on Balboa Park and San Diego, with highlights of the buildings and activities the fair provided to San Diegans and visitors from around the world. As usual, some great historic photos from that time. A modest 4-mile walk on mostly flat terrain. 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.
Pedestrians Count! Data, Modeling & Advocacy Workshop
October 3-5, Berkeley, CA

This workshop promotes pedestrian safety, public health, sustainable community modeling, and walking transportation with cutting edge research, latest best practices in pedestrian data collection and analysis, together with strategic advocacy planning. Statewide professionals, academic and community leaders will share their current and most promising work. California WALKS is a co-sponsor in this event. $50 Registration includes all three days. For registration and information go to pedestrianscount.eventbrite.com.
United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County (USOAC) Older Pedestrian Safety Workshops
October 21, 12:30 pm-3:45 pm,  North Oakland Senior Center

FREE wokshop focusing on pedestrian safety and walking for older adults. To RSVP or for more information, contact Sister Ansar through email or at (510) 729-0851

And don't forget that International Walk to School Day is coming up on October 6!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cool Ped Stuff # 9: Guerrilla Crosswalks

LA has DIY parking spaces and sharrows, Greece has Donkey Stickers, and as Treehugger reports Sao Paolo, Brazil now has its own band of guerrilla street improvers aimed at improving conditions for Brazilian pedestrians. Armed with white paint, they cleverly waited until no local traffic engineers would be paying attention (i.e. during World Cup games featuring Brazil) to paint crosswalks and "Slow Down" signs at dangerous intersections around the city.

I can almost feel the collective shudder as city attorneys simultaneously cringe at the liability issues this raises.

Photo courtesy Treehugger/Urban repair squad @ Apocalipse motorizado

Friday, September 3, 2010

Worldwide Walking: Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala

I won't pretend that Latin America doesn't get a lot wrong when it comes to its pedestrian environment, but one thing I do appreciate about the region is its abundance of mixed-use streets. Unlike the here in the US, where we've spent decades working hard to ensure that pedestrians stay in their proper place (preferably, within a car) and vehicles have the road to themselves, pedestrians still have a valid place on many South and Central American streets. When done correctly (i.e., with an eye towards ensuring pedestrian safety), this can lead to a lively, jubiliant street atmosphere. I'll start with one of my all-time favorite pictures of pedestrians taking the street for themselves:

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Worldwide Walking: Brazil and El Salvador

A good streetscape doesn't just provide a pleasant place for a pedestrian to walk, it also helps contribute to a community's identity. It's one thing to walk down a nice street, it's another to walk down a nice street that also tells you something about the people who use it every day. Take these sidewalk treatments from Rio de Jainero. The patterns are so iconic that you don't need anything else to tell you what neighborhood you're in:

Then there's the small town of La Palma in El Salvador, made famous when the artist Ferrnando Llort made it his hub. Now there are dozens of factories in the village devoted to his style of art, which has spilled out onto the city's streets.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Worldwide Walking: Peru

You may have heard of Bogota's crossing mimes, but did you know that Lima had some too? Here they are helping pedestrians cross a street in the heart of the city:

Not that they're always essential, since Lima has some great pedestrian-only streets...