Monday, February 28, 2011

Cool Ped Stuff # 12: Community Walking

I love this great program, sponsored by the City of Grand Haven, Michigan and various other local agencies, to encourage walking and physical activity. The brainchild of Mayor Roger Bergman and founding member Paul Bedient, Walkable Grand Haven encourages citizens to up their daily steps by taking advantage of the city's many trails, sidewalks and pathways. Participants register on the group's website, which allows them to track their mileage, set distance goals, and take part in various walking-related contests and promotions. Most recently the group has decided to walk around the world by March 31. So far they've made it to Newfoundland, Canada--good luck with the rest of the trek!

Friday, February 25, 2011

This Week on Foot

It's been a week of contrasts for pedestrians here in Southern California. First, the bad news. We started out the week learning that Metro Plans to Remove Adams Blvd. Sidewalks Near My Figueroa , replacing it with an unlikely-to-be-used pedestrian bridge. Then, Police investigate pedestrian death in Orange, a Pedestrian killed by commuter train in Watts, the list seems neverending...

But on the bright side, Council OKs $1M for school traffic safety in Glendale (nicely timed to coincide with the Glendale Bicycle and Pedestrian Count Report 2010 Released Today), and La Mesa offers Four workshops planned on getting kids walking.

Outside of the regiona a Minneapolis Pedestrian study paints complex picture of skyway foot traffic, Plans move forward for $1M Traverse City tunnel in Chicago, and
Wider lanes, pedestrian walkway; bike path all part of plan for new Goethals Bridge from S.I. in New York City.

Elsewhere in the world, pedestrians would surely love those types of infrastructure improvements--but would just settle for some better signal timing, as in Mysore, India, where Pedestrians need more time at zebra crossings.

Of course, pedestrian safety is about more than street design. Somtimes it takes behavioral changes also. Wayne State University in Michigan has focused on changing pedestrian behavior, but their Campaign to increase pedestrian safety sees mixed results . (Perhaps if they stopped blaming the pedestrians for crashes, and instead took a look at drivers in the area? Officials could probably learn something from one Bay Area Pedestrian Injured In Car Accident Speaks Out Distracted Drivers. 

And if you're feeling like starting your own pedestrian safety campaign, and you live in Clark County, Washington, now's your chance: Applicants sought for County bike-pedestrian group.

Or you could just focus on walking for fun (and the record books), like this Ventura man to walk 1,000 trails in 1,000 days.

Speaking of walking for fun, if anyone was plannig to attend this weekend's Walk San Diego community walk, it has been cancelled due to the pending deluge. I'll keep you posted when they reschedule.

March Walking Events

March 1, 2011 10:30 - noon
So Cal Safe Routes to School Regional Network - outreach meeting in Ventura County

Ventura County Air Pollution Control District offices
669 County Square Drive 2nd floor
All are welcome, RSVP by email here.

March 1, 11:00 am to 12:30 pm
FHWA Resources for Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals Webinar

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, along with the Federal Highway Administration, will provide an overview of tools available to communities to enhance walking and bicycling in their local area. In this presentation, Dan Nabors, Senior Transportation Planner with Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. and PBIC Director Charlie Zegeer will discuss Federal Highway Administration resources available to pedestrian and bicycle professionals. The Webinar will cover a range of available tools including the Resident’s Guide, the Pedestrian Road Safety Audit, How to Develop a Pedestrian Safety Action Plan and several others. Libby Thomas, will present on BikeSafe, the Bicycle Countermeasure Selection System (BIKESAFE) intended to provide practitioners with the latest information available for improving the safety and mobility of those who bicycle.

To register, click here.

March 19
Downtown La Mesa Community Walk, Sponsored by Walk San Diego

8:30-9:00 am – Meet your fellow walkers; 9:00 am – 10:30am – Walk
Meet at the La Mesa Blvd Trolley Station at the corner of La Mesa Blvd and Spring St. A walk through this very walkable downtown village where we’ll stroll among the shops, and explore its surprisingly long history dating back to the late 1800’s. Three mile walk on flat terrain.

Suggested $5 donation for non-members. No reservations needed.
For further information, contact Dave Schumacher

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Summer Internship with California WALKS

California WALKS is looking for intern(s) to work on legal policy issues, advocacy, youth mentoring and pedestrian safety projects.
Apply at

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Street Smart" Walk Score

This week I've been playing around with Walk Score's new "Street Smart" version, which is currently in beta testing mode. Some of the key changes proposed with the new version:
  • Replacing "as the crow flies" distances with actual walking routes
  • Including block length and number of intersections in the walk score calculation
  • A clearer breakdown of how different amenities (nearby restaurants, banks, etc.) factor into the score
Despite the fact that my score dropped five points with the new version, I'm still pleased with the upgrade. I appreciate that Walk Score ditched the whole "as the crow flies" approach. This type of analysis is more complicated to do, but infinitely more meaningful, since most of us don't do our walking on wing. I also really like that block length and number of intersections are included in the score now. One of my biggest beefs with my neighborhood is the absurdly long blocks that constantly force me to either a) risk my life by racing across a six-lane road or b) walk well of my way to find a safer crossing. Combined with the lack of intersections (the steep hills and unfortunately-placed 101 make for some serious disconnects), running a simple errand or walking to the coffee shop can take twice as long as it would in a more walkable neighborhood.

The added transparency in Walk Score's calculations of amenity value is also helpful, although it emphasizes some oddities in the algorithm. Example: in my neighborhood Walk Score only picks up the small Jewish market down the street as a "grocery store," somehow missing the two major chains across the street. Also, does anyone really think The Tux Place deserves much recognition as a walkable shopping outlet?

Others have questioned the high value assigned to nearby coffee shops (Walk Score's creators are from Seattle after all) and books, not necessarily amenities that everyone enjoys walking to. Personally, I would advise wrapping those categories into shopping and restaurants, while creating a new category for "services" that covers pharmacies, hair and nail salons, yoga studios, optometrists, and post offices--all of which I walk to in my neighborhood.

Friday, February 18, 2011

This Week on Foot

This week started out with tragedy when 25 hurt as taxi hits crowd outside San Diego nightclub, proving yet again that pedestrians are never safe, even when they're standing on the sidewalk.

Yet somehow that doesn't stop everyone from blaming them for crashes. This week we continue to see rants about The dangers of distracted pedestrians, studies showing how New Yorkers Diagnosed With Pedestrian Aggressiveness, and just general Sidewalk Rage.

Yet statistics show that it's clearly the distracted drivers that cause more problems, such as the Chicago Driver Who Killed Pedestrian Was Updating Facebook Status, Lawsuit Claims . Fortunately at least one government agency recognizes this, as the CHP in Orange County cracks down on drivers violating hands-free cellphone law.

With all the hubub, it's probably a good thing that places like New York City will finally collect crash data on cyclists, pedestrians. Perhaps better data will help us put the debate over pedestrian culpability to rest.

In the meantime, pedestrians are still having trouble--even when they try to stay out of the way of traffic. In Silver Spring construction shuts sidewalks, violating policy, while due to Unshoveled sidewalks: Syracuse flunks the 'walkability' test.

But it's not all bad news out there. This week we also learn about Projects to make Oakley roads more pedestrian-, driver-friendly, a Sidewalk Inventory Study Helps Resolve Safety, Walkability, And Development Issues For City Of Rancho Cucamonga, $22 million committed to complete big four pedestrian bridge, and how Pedestrians 'put first' in Edinburgh city centre plan. Even better, Pedestrian-involved collisions down 25 percent in San Francisco.
Maybe SF also got a Bumper crop of pedestrian safety vests?

Monday, February 14, 2011

An Un-Valentine to South Lake Tahoe

I spent last weekend in Lake Tahoe, and while the primary purpose of the trip was skiing, I took advantage of a non-ski day to visit the shopping center about a mile from house where we were staying. Although friends dropped me off at the center, as a self-respecting pedestrian advocate I insisted I could manage the walk back along highway 50, the only route connecting the center and the nearby residential neighborhoods.

And that was my first mistake.

I snapped some pictures so I could share the absurdity with you (and also publicly shame Lake Tahoe's transportation planners). Come along with my as I catalogue the UN-walkability of my journey.

Here's where things started:
So right away you see that there is neither a sidewalk, nor a decent shoulder in place on the road -- despite the fact that this is (again) the only road that pedestrians could travel to access the shopping center. So I guess we have to assume that everyone in this area has a car and can drive?? Also, note that vehicles here have four wide travel lanes--far more space than is necessary to keep up traffic flow in my opinion, as I have never seen congestion in this area even on a holiday weekend. Two travel lanes plus a two-way turn lane would be more than adequate, not to mention safer for everyone.

Undeterred, I continued my trek...until I reached this:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Upcoming Walking Events

February 15, 11-12 pm
Second webinar in the American Public Health Webinar Series:
What Healthy Communities Need from their Transportation Networks

This series explores the intersections between health and transportation, highlights innovative state and local programs that leverage opportunities in transportation that benefit health, and explains what the future may hold for the federal surface transportation authorization.

Register and get the full schedule here.

February 15, 2011: 2-3pm
SoCal Safe Routes to School Data Standards and Evaluation Working Group
Conference Call

Join in the kick off of this new working group. All welcome to join. Call (toll-free): 1-866-394-4146, 553816012# Mute option is *4, unmute is

Kindly RSVP by email here

February 16, 11:45 am - 1 pm

Complete Streets: State of the Practice Webinar
Offered by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals and WalkSanDiego
Location: WalkSanDiego, 740 13th Street, Suite 502, San Diego, CA 92101

More than 200 jurisdictions (state, region, county and city) have adopted Complete Streets policies, and the pace of passed policies is quickening. Join this APBP webinar to examine the current state of the practice for complete streets. Topics in this session will include:
  • How support for complete streets is strengthened as collaboration with public health, transit, and other partners increases
  • A comparison of existing policies and how they match up to guidelines from the National Complete Streets Coalition
  • Examples of best practice at the local and state level.
Registration required. Register by email here.

February 16, 11am-12pm
Southern California Safe Routes to School
Regional Network Monthly Meeting

Conference Call Number: (218) 862-1001
Access Code: 1009315#
*6 mute/unmute

February 22-24
Active Living Research Annual Conference
Hard Rock Hotel San Diego in downtown San Diego

The theme for the 2011 conference is Partnerships for Progress in Active Living: From Research to Action, which recognizes the importance of engaging experts from multiple disciplines to address critical public health issues, especially active living and obesity.

For more info and to register click here.

February 24, 2011: 9-10am
California SRTS State Network Monthly mtg

Call (toll-free): 1-866-394-4146, 553816012#
Mute option is *4, unmute is *4
February 26
Crest Canyon-Del Mar-San Dieguito Lagoon Community Walk
Sponsored by WalkSanDiego
8:30-9:00 am – Meet your fellow walkers; 9:00 am – 11:00am – Walk
Meet at northern entrance to Crest Canyon on Racetrack View Drive (Directions: from I-5, exit Via de la Valle, west on Via de la Valle, left at Jimmy Durante Blvd, go past Del Mar Fairgrounds, left on San Dieguito Rd, San Dieguito Rd becomes Racetrack View Drive)

This is a bit of a departure from our previous walks, and includes a beautiful short hike through little known Crest Canyon where we’ll see Torrey Pines and some native plants in bloom, a walk through some of Del Mar’s beautiful neighborhoods, and ending with a walk along San Dieguito Lagoon. Three walk options: 1-mile through Crest Canyon only; 2 ½ walk in canyon + Del Mar; full 4-mile round-trip walk. Gentle uphill through Crest Canyon, then mostly flat terrain and some downhill sections.

The walks are open to everyone; they are free to WalkSanDiego members, suggested $5 donation for non-members. No reservations needed.

For further information, contact Dave Schumacher

Thursday, February 10, 2011

This week on Foot

This week the Tri-State Transportation Campaign released its annual survey of the region's most menacing streets, so we learned that Broadway, Atlantic Ave Deadliest Roads for Pedestrians in NYC, while Ranking of N.J.'s most dangerous roads for pedestrians is topped by Route 130

Thankfully, NYC at least has some laws in place to try to address the issue of pedestrian safety, and this week NYPD Use New Law in Pedestrian Death on Madison Avenue . Less encouraging is a proposed New York law intended to make it illegal for pedestrians to use electronic devices while crossing the street, and it's making lots of people mad. As Streetsblog reports, Victim’s Mother Shames CBS2 for Using Traffic Death to Bolster Carl Kruger (the media coverage takes the all-too-typically "blame the pedestrian" stance...while failing to mention that the driver in this particular incident was the one breaking the law).

Meanwhile, over on this coast we've had our share of pedestrian deaths this week. In Escondido: Police seek help in pedestrian hit-and-run,  while a Pedestrian killed by vehicle outside Camarillo identified. Makes you kind of glad that Falling Costs Push Pedestrian Detection to a $17 Billion Market and Mean Greater Safety, According to ABI Research.

Elsewhere folks are doing better on the pedestrian safety front. In the tiny town of Chelan, WA a new Sign: Good for pedestrians, bad for Nixon businesses, while in Hawaii an Online program teaches students traffic safety . In North Carolina Planners, Engineers Tour Charlotte As Example Of Walkable City. Perhaps they're learning that Creating the Perfect City Is About Illusions, Such as Shorter Blocks . Just as long as the crosswalks aren't illusions...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Why is Caltrans encouraging distracted driving?

Am I the only one who's been noticing these signs around lately?

It seems like every time Caltrans has nothing better to throw up on its digital message boards, this is what appears. I admit this isn't, strictly speaking, a pedestrian issue -- hopefully none of you are spending much time walking along the freeway. But still, it disturbs me that Caltrans thinks it is a good idea to prod drivers into hopping on their cell phones mid-commute. Sure they could dial using their bluetooth devices...but as we all know, just because your hands are free doesn't mean your brain is.

I do understand that the idea behind the 511 system is to make more efficient use of our roadways by keeping drivers well informed about traffic conditions, and to some extent I applaud our transportation officials for trying to improve congestion without building more roads.


This message board demonstrates the subtle way that we (or at least, the people in charge of highway signs) favor efficiency over safety in transportation. Doesn't it seem a little odd that the Secretary of Transportation devotes loads of publicity to the dangers of distracted driving, while at the same time every few miles on the freeway we have signs encouraging us to get on the phone in the name of reducing traffic? So in other words, we would really, really like you to stop gabbing on your cell phone while driving because it's super dangerous--unless of course talking on your phone can help get our freeways moving, in which case by all means put your life and the lives of those around you at risk.

I'm not saying that all intelligent transportation systems are a bad idea, because more efficient traffic movement means less incentive to ditch sidewalks for travel lanes. But we need to be very careful about where we place our priorities. Sure it's great to have less congestion, but at the expense of people's lives? I don't think so.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

This Week on Foot

This week distracted pedestrians are still claiming the headlines, despite clear evidence (see post earlier this week) that they pose a relatively low risk to themselves and others. That hasn't stop the media from warning Danger, distracted pedestrians ahead , or for otherwise innocent walkers to give their Confessions of a distracted pedestrian.

But here in California it's still drivers who are causing major problems, such as when Pedestrians targeted by drive-by paintball attacks in Burbank, or when a driver killed a 66-year-old man in a crosswalk, leading A crosswalk widow asks for safer streets in Santa Monica.

Of course, in other parts of the country pedestrian problems are often caused by weather at this time of year. In one City walkability goal hits an icy patch, while the Toronto Sun wanrs that Storm means more caution for pedestrians. It's natural disasters like these that remind us of The importance of walkable destinations in an emergency.

Elsewhere in the world, India suggests we Hail the pedestrian, widen footpath, not roads, while Discovery news explains how Parallel parking better for pedestrian health

And finally, the folks at WalkBikeJersey remind us that Pedestrian deaths are always more than just statistics