Monday, January 10, 2011

Worldwide Walking: Vienna

Freshly back from two weeks in some of the world's most walkable cities, I'd like to share some observations and pictures about walkability done right.

First, Vienna. As you can see in this shot of the center of town, pedestrian zones abound throughout the city--but that isn't necessarily saying much in a city that developed pre-automobile. Does it represent forward, pedestrian-oriented thinking on the part of city leadership, or just a lack of funding to "modernize" the city? To answer that question, we need to look outside the city center:
This is one of the main arterials that rings the central part of the city. As you can see, there's quite a bit of pavement devoted to travel here--but unlike what you might find here in LA, most of is not given over to vehicles. In fact, when you add in the wide sidewalk and bike path on the opposite side of the street (not visible here), the majority of right-of-way is granted to non-motorized modes. I think this says a lot about the value placed on walking and biking in Vienna.

Finally, from the same location, one last note on crosswalk design. Here you can see a midblock crossing stretching across the frontage road. While I'm impressed by the attention to pedestrian safety (even though this is a narrow, low-volume road, engineers have still added extra safety measures including signs and an advance stop bar), what I like the most is the placement of the crossing.
See that low wall to the left? That's an entrance to the subway system. Even though it's located only about 100 feet from the main intersection, Vienna officials put a midblock crossing right at the entrance because they understood that pedestrians wouldn't walk 100 feet out of their way to cross at the intersection. I suspect that you would never see a similar set-up here in the US, because roadway designers would much rather make a pedestrian walk out of her way to cross a street than to deal with the challenges of midblock crossings. And if they did "jaywalk" and take the most direct route? Well in downtown LA that would be a $200 ticket...

Tomorrow: does Munich deserve to be called one of the world's most walkable cities?

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