Friday, October 29, 2010

This Week on Foot

The big pedestrian story this week in Los Angeles is that of 3 youths held in Eastside school bus crash that killed a pedestrian and injured numerous students--but sadly Ventura County is holding its own with pedestrian mishaps, where Boy, 11, hit by car, critically injured in Oxnard and Pedestrian identified in apparent T.O. hit-and-run death.

All these crashes got SoapBox LA thinking about The Politics of Crosswalks , while across the internet Infrastructurists ponders The Rise of the Walkable City.

Perhaps the real fix for the (lack of) pedestrian safety is self-driving vehicles. Not to be outdone by Google's recent efforts, in China 4 vans travel 8,000 miles without drivers and with few incidents (they weren't quite able to handle Moscow's traffic jams, which doesn't bode well for LA).

Meanwhile, one US court rules four-year-old cyclist can be sued after colliding with pedestrian, while another Judge blocks Venice boardwalk permit system, agreeing with the argument that the system violates free speech rights. But it's pedestrian rights that folks in India are worred about, where sidewalk Encroachments spell doom on roads.

With all the battling over who gets to use the public space, is it any wonder that in New York a Pedestrian-Only Ramp Proposed For Ferry Terminal?

Finally, as the holiday weekend nears, transportation authorities across the country are warning folks of the pedestrian safety risks associated with trick-or-treating. The Tennessee Highway Patrol notes that Halloween most dangerous day of year for pedestrian injuries, deaths among young children  and the Ohio DOT points out that  Pedestrian-Vehicle Crashes Double Before Halloween.

Here in California things are relatively safer, as the Number of Californians Hit by Cars Jumps 25% On Halloween, but if you ask me that's still a pretty scary statistic. If you're hunting for the safest spots for candy gathering, you might start with the top-ranked neighborhoods on Zillows Trick or Treating Index (see yesterday's post). But no matter what you get up to on foot this weekend, be careful. Remember, It's always a walk on the wild side for pedestrians.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Best LA Neighborhoods for Trick-or-Treating

Real estate website extraordinaire Zillow has released it's list of the top five neighborhoods for gleaning candy from strangers this year. Neighborhoods were ranked using the semi-scientific
Zillow Trick-or-Treat Housing Index, which considers the Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI), population density, Walk Score and local crime data for each locale.

Zillow weights each variable equally, so an area's walk score only counts for 25 percent of the total index--which probably explains how Beverly Hills made this list (try strolling down the BH stretch of Sunset and tell me that neighborhood is safe for walking). Still, I'm glad to see a site like Zillow recognizing the importance of walking, even if it's only for one night a year.

And without further ado, top neighborhoods are:
1. Beverly Hills
2. Venice
3. Hancock Park
4. Studio City
5. Westchester

So what do you think? Are other places in LA are better haunts for little ghouls and goblins?

Oh, and in case you're out of town for the holiday, you can check out the Zillow blog for the best trick-or-treating spots in all of its Top 20 Trick or Treat Cities.

There's irony in here somewhere...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cool Ped Stuff #10: Bloggers

And you thought I was the only one crazy enough to spend my spare time writing about pedestrians. No indeed, there's quite a confederation of us out there. I've listed some of these in my blogroll, but I think all of them are worth checking out (with the help of google translate, if necessary).

In English:
TBD on Foot (Washington, DC)
Pedestrianist (San Francisco, CA)
Twin City Sidewalks (Minneapolis/St. Paul. MN)
Walk Around Portland (Portland, ME)
Coeur d'Alene Pedestrian & Bicycle Blog (Coeur d'Alene, ID)
WalkBikeJersey Blog

In Spanish:
Pedestre "Pedestrian" (Mexico City, Mexico)
Diario de un Peaton "Everday Life of a Pedestrian" (Madrid, Spain)

Monday, October 25, 2010

SCAG Ped Planning Goes 2.0

For those of you who dream of writing a Regional Transportation Plan (or is that just me?), SCAG has finally given you a chance with its new Bike Ped Wiki. Just create a user profile, sign in, and you're free to add your own thoughts, edits, pictures, and any other content you can come up with to the wiki, which will ultimately be incorporated into the official plan next summer. The kind folks at SCAG have populated the pages with some content to get you started, but the rest is up to you.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

This Week on Foot

This week began with sad news as 2 teenagers' lives intersect with tragic results in Sherman Oaks. The death of 16-year-old Conor Lynch during a cross country practice led the LA Times to note that Cross-country runners face risk on L.A. streets. True. And so do the rest of us, like the Pedestrian hit by car in Bellflower hospitalized

And it's not just cars that are a problem. In Washington state Bikes, pedestrians clash on campus at Whitman College. Even parking lots can be dangerous, like this one in Richmond where a Pedestrian hit by car, pinned in parking lot mishap.

Fortunately, people around the world are working to address these dangers. In Palm Springs, Pedestrians to have easier time crossing streets due to the installation of some new, decorative crosswalks, while in San Francisco the Glen Park plans leave out cars, put focus on pedestrians
New York Officials eye more pedestrian-friendly city in order to keep residents happy (and stop them from leaving town). Even El Paso Project Promises To Bring Different Downtown Concept

Our friends in India continue to be successful in their efforts to improve pedestrian safety in that country. In Bangalore, Pedestrian-operated lights soon at 30 junctions. Meanwhile, in Canada Worsley students focus on walkability, and get to hang out with Colombia's pedestrian extraordinaire, Gil Penalosa.
And if you've been wondering where to do your Halloween-night walking, Zillow has released its second annual list of best places for trick-or-treating. In case you were wondering, LA ranks 14th, right behind San Diego.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Want to Avoid Dementia in Later Life? Take a Walk.

A longitudinal study of older adults (average age 78) released this month in the journal Neurology shows that walking at least 72 blocks a week, or six to nine miles, leads to greater volumes of grey matter--and less memory loss--over time. About 40 percent of study participants developed some form of dementia over the course of the study, but those who had more grey matter because of walking reduced their risk of cognitive impairment by two-fold.

So at least now we have some evidence that creating pedestrian-friendly environments is important for public health.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Will a Walkable Neighborhood Make Me Skinny?

Well, it's hard to say...but it will definitely make me skinny. That's because I live in a walkable neighborhood and I value walking. It's that last part that is the key to low Body Mass Index (BMI), according to this recently published study from the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. Living in a walkable community isn't enough. You also have to want to walk.

First, some background. It's clearly established that there is a relationship between walkable communities and walking. A pedestrian-friendly neighborhood has more pedestrians, plain and simple. What's less clear is why exactly this is so. Is there more walking in pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods because people who already like to walk a lot move into them? Or does walkable community design cause erstwhile couch potatoes to get up and move? A growing body of evidence suggests it's the former of these two possibilites that explain the high walking rates in pedestrian-friendly communities, and this study adds to that evidence.

Friday, October 15, 2010

This week on foot

People have been buzzing this week about how it appears Americans' love of suburban living is disappearing, and being replaced with a preference for homes in denser, walkable areas. Ecohome notices that Baby Boomers, Gen Y, and the Recession Shift Long-Held Housing Tastes and Trends, while the Wall Street Journal explains How SoHo Can Save the Suburbs.

Of course, for this trend to really take off we'll need to to better than Ontario, which this week brought us a remarkable Wilson Street Redevelopment Walkability Fail, and the greater Washington, D.C. area, where You're free to mow down pedestrians in Prince William. Even Hawaii's efforts to clear the sidewalk for pedestrians are a little questionable. Perhaps the Sidewalk tent ban approved by the Honolulu city council will make things easier for walkers, but what about the homeless people who use the sidewalks as living space?

At least Tennessee is heading the right direction, as Environment And Conservation Announces Walk With Me Tennessee Initiative. And in California one group took pedestrian justice into their own hands when Man who hit Marysville pedestrian followed by witnesses.

Meanwhile, in Bangalore folks are wondering, Will pedestrians get more time to cross roads? (Answer: maybe.)

Finally, Road Warrior reminds Pedestrians: Just push the ‘walk’ button once, because all those extra pushes won't make the signal change any faster. But as one commentor points out, sometimes they sure are satisfying.

Monday, October 11, 2010

CicLAvia Reviews

With apologies for my shameful lack of promotion for this event, a few recaps of Sunday's transformation of seven miles of downtown LA streets into a bike/ped paradise:

LA Times
For a few surreal hours Sunday, the car was stripped of its crown in Los Angeles and pavement was turned into playground.

Streetsblog LA
CicLAvia touched hundreds of thousands of people, even if it were just that they heard laughing on their streets instead of cars honking their horns.
While a majority of participants used the chance to cycle between East Hollywood and Boyle Heights via a variety of neighborhoods like downtown and MacArthur Park, others used it to dance, have a game of dodgeball or tennis, do yoga, make art, or go for a run.
Curbed LA
People were talking, waving, and smiling at each other. Families, hippies, hipsters, artists, activists, old people, kids, all sorts of religious people in their headgear....
I might have made it to the epic event, if it wasn't such an epic journey to LA proper from the Valley, but I've heard nothing by rave reviews and am hoping that this sparks some interest in a similar event in other places in the city (like, I don't know, Woodland Hills?).

Factors Involved in Distracted Driving

This recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Distracted Driving and Driver, Roadway, and Environmental Factors, got me thinking once again about my efforts to cut down on my own distracted driving. As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I decided about 10 months ago to give up talking on my cell phone while driving. So far it hasn't been as bad as I expected. I find that I use to the time to ponder work problems, plan my schedule for the week, or just muse on life issues (when I'm not bopping along to cheesy country music, that is).

Thus, it was with great relief that I learned from this report that "distraction from internal sources was more common than distraction due to non-driving cognitive activities"-- or in plain non-academic speak, more people are distracted by stuff (or people) inside their cars prior to a crash than by just thinking, like I do. Phew.

Interestingly, despite our recent focus on distraction from electronic devives, "Among 14 internal sources of distraction, conversing with a passenger was the most frequently recorded source -- 17 percent...." The report goes on to warn that this doesn't necessarily suggest that passenger conversation was the cause of the crash, just that it was happening prior to the crash occurrence. So you don't have give up talking in the car just yet. And of course, phones aren't blameless in all of this--they're the second-mosts common distraction recorded. Not surprisingly, cell phone use was higher among younger and middle-aged drivers, and women--which likely reflects patterns of cell phone usage overall. And, if there's any good news to come out of the statistics, "Drivers mostly conversed on phone when there was no traffic flow interruption." So I guess at least people are using at least a little judgment in their phone habits.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Happy International Walk to School Day

Grab a kid and hit the streets. There are hundreds of schools participating in this year's event, here's a rundown of some of the festivities in the Southern California region, courtesy of the International Walk to School Day site:

Beverly Hills
Horace Mann School
Horace Mann is kicking off their Walk to School Wednesdays with International Walk to School Day. There will be certificates for each family that participates. The PTA will be hosting breakfast bake sale.

Mariposa Elementary School
We'll have walking school buses along four routes. We'll also have a bike train.

Mckinley Elementary School
We will be using our Nutrition Advisory Council to promote the event starting two weeks ahead of time. We will top it off b providing a healthy breakfast upon return.

Culver City
Linwood E. Howe Elementary School
Our event started as "Walk to School with Ms. Anderson (the principal)" but is now..."Walk to School with the CCUSD Superintendent, CCUSD Director of Human Resources, Culver City Fire Chief, Culver City Police Chier, Culver City City Manager, and Ms. Anderson!" We are still awaiting responses from the mayor and city council members. Linwood Howe families are invited to join all of us in the front of Culver City City Hall on October 6th to walk to school, which is a few blocks away. This is the first time our school is participating in a walk-to-school event and we hope to be visible to the community by wearing our school spirit wear and holding signs which promote walking and wheeling to school.

R.D. White Elementary School
Last year we had close to 90% (over 600 kids) of our school walk on Walk-to-School Day! We had healthy snack and gift give-aways sponsored by local companies, a State Senator and local government officials present, and press coverage - it was a GREAT day!

Monterey Park
Repetto Elementary School
Beginning your day with breakfast and being active everyday are messages our school is promoting. In conjunction with Walk to School Week. Our school takes an active role in creating a healthy school environment and work at providing opportunities for our school community to learn about integrating healthy lifestyle habits; not just at school but at home. During walk to school week, we anticipate over 300 students, teachers, parents and community members to join us informing our walking school bus

San Diego
Sunset Hills Elementary School
Every year we have a theme for the event. Last year we did "Buzz on up to School" We painted the sidewalk with chalk drawings of bees and encouraging sayings for the children. We also collected old shoes for the needy. If you walked to school that day you received a toe token for your shoelace. Our school gives them out for running club so we purchased a special one for walk to school day. The kids seem to love the day and we usually have about 150 to 200 walkers each year.

Citrus Glen Elementary School
District personnel and parent volunteers will help us kick off a safe Walk to School Day. Students who participate will receive a bracelet.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Woodland Hills Gains Costco, Loses Walkability

Okay, I've done my best to embrace walking in my neighborhood, to ignore the fact that while we might have any number of walkable destinations, our every step is thwarted by urban design where the automobile doesn't so much "dominate" as "crush into oblivion." Sometimes literally.

So when I learned of the supposedly mixed-use "Village" project, announced with much fanfare by Westfield a few years back, I was cautiously hopeful. Granted, the sidewalks that a mall developer would produce were hardly likely to serve the five essential purposes touted by our friends Loukaitou-Sideris and Ehrenfeucht, but maybe we could get one or two of them. Like the one about beauty. Because nothing could possibly be uglier than an empty parking lot and some vacant buildings, right?

Except maybe Costco. And a gas station.

Best Policies for Bikes and Peds

We may not like to admit it, but it's true: planners are copycats. It's not that we don't like innovative ideas--we do. It's just that we like them so much better when someone else has already gone through the political hassle of implementing them for the first time.

So it's no surprise that in our quest to identify the best policies to improve pedestrian (and bicyle) safety and walkability, we spend a lot of time looking at what others have done. And (given our love affair with all things European), it's even less of a surprise that the when the FHWA sent its team of experts out to hunt down the most effective pedestrian policies for the Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety and Mobility International Scan it turned to Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Five key lessons/themes the group identified from its review:

1. No single “silver bullet” policy or action exists to make streets and roads safer and more conducive to pedestrians and bicyclists.

2. To achieve desired outcomes, pedestrian and bicyclist policies should clearly state a purpose and vision, as well as a way to measure progress toward the desired outcomes.

Friday, October 1, 2010

This week on Foot

There's been lots of good news in the international pedestrian world this week. In Islamabad Pedestrian bridges fixed to avert accidents, while Krakow's New Pedestrian Bridge Opens. In Tawain Fluorescent traffic signs help Taipei pedestrians, and over in Dubai Pedestrian fatalities hit record low over 9 years.

But don't get too excited, pedestrians are still on shaky ground out there. Not only do they have to contend with vehicular hazards, in New York an Air Conditioner Falls From Window, Injures Pedestrian. And just when you thought all those fancy new pedestrian detection devices were going to make things a little safer, Volvo Pedestrian Avoidance Test Goes Wrong, Company Blames Dummy.

I guess it's better than blaming the pedestrian?

Good thing that next week Walk to School Day encourages pedestrian safety...