Wednesday, March 30, 2011

April Walking Events

April 6
LISC Webinar
Complete The Streets: Making Roads and Streets an Integral Component of Sustainable Communities

While we know that streets are the vital link between homes, jobs, amenities, and retail corridors, the challenge is often to create road patterns and streetscapes that ensure safe, attractive, pedestrian-friendly environments for neighborhood residents. Join this webcast to learn more about how communities can incorporate streets into community planning processes and develop transportation options that enhance quality of life. National experts and local practitioners will look at how to complete the streets - integrate citiziens into decisions, advocate for place-based government policies, design efffective streetscapes, and implement effective strategies. Discussion will include both transit and transportation and provide opportunities for interative participation.

11:00 am - 1:30 pm
Register to attend here.

April 10

April 13
Caltrans Webinar
Rethinking Infrastructure: How Do We Make Urban Arterials Safer and More Comfortable for Pedestrians?

Elizabeth Macdonald — University of California Transportation Center
Details here.
April 16
South Park-Burlingame Community Walk, Sponsored by WalkSanDiego

8:30-9:00 am – Meet your fellow walkers; 9:00 am – 10:30am – Walk
Meet at the corner of 30th Street and Juniper Street. Let’s explore this beautiful old neighborhood famous for its pink-concrete sidewalks. We’ll stroll through several neighborhoods areas with well-known historic homes that showcase a number of San Diego architects/architectural styles. Three mile walk on flat terrain.

Suggested $5 donation for non-members. No reservations needed.
For further information, contact Dave Schumacher
April 20-22
OTS Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Training

California WALKS and UCB SafeTREC will facilitate community pedestrian safety Toward Zero Deaths engagement training at the California Office of Traffic Safety's April 20-22 statewide seminar in San Diego. Learn how-tos for pedestrian count and travel prediction, Health Assessments, crash data GIS-mapping, new MUTCD signals/signs, SRTS, pedestrian law enforcement, federal Liveability funding and more. Limited scholarships are available--contact Jill Cooper, Associate Director, SafeTREC

Click here for flyer and to register.

Upcoming Conferences

Registration is now open for two upcoming pedestrian-friendly conferences:

Safe Routes to School 2011 - Minneapolis, MN
August 16-18
More info and registration here.

Congress for New Urbanism 19 - Growing Local
June 1-4
More info and registration here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Advocate for Safe Routes to School

Our favorite local Safe Routes to School advocate Jessica Meaney needs support for the Los Angeles Citywide Safe Routes to School proposal, which will be heard before the full city council this Friday.

From Ms. Meaney:
"The proposed Strategic City-Wide Safe Routes to School Plan funded by the Measure R local return pedestrian set-aside for $1.2M. LADOT staff is recommending using collision data to prioritize the city’s efforts and develop a meaningful approach to making communities in the city more walkable and bikable for kids and parents on their way to school (see staff proposal here). Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition and the Safe Routes to National Partnership are recommending that the City also use socio-economic data in the prioritization as we know that children and their families in low-income communities suffer a disproportionate burden of disease and injury.

A citywide strategic Safe Routes to School plan will allow the City to prioritize and methodically address making it safer for students to walk and/or bike to school, as well as ensure Safe Routes to School funds succeed in Los Angeles, leverage additional resources, and address and improve transportation policies."

Attend the hearing yourself, or sign on to the letters of support using the links here.

Overcoming opposition to narrow streets

Recently the Strong Towns Blog published an amazing post laying out the key arguments for narrower streets--and how to make them in a language public safety officials will understand. Here's an excerpt:

1. Public safety, including fire protection, is very important.

We acknowledge this is a critical issue. People want to and need to feel safe in their homes. We also acknowledge that we sometimes actually undervalue fire protection, at least until it is our house on fire. Providing a high-level of protection, including reducing response times, is a community priority.

2. As budgets are tightened, we are forced to make choices in how we provided local services.

Unfortunately, the state of our public budgets is forcing us to make some very difficult choices. And we can see, in communities across the country, that many are opting to reduce fire fighting capabilities, including force reductions and extending the life of equipment further than it should be. These are dangerous precedents to set in what are likely early rounds in a long, multi-year budget crisis.

3. If we stick with the current approach, we may have wide streets, but we won't be able to afford to maintain them, or even pay for the fire department to drive on them.

The amount we spend on our fire department is dwarfed by the amount we spend on maintaining our roads and streets -- or would be spending if we were actually maintaining them. This is the elephant in the room, the thing we never talk about. We have chosen to invest in a pattern of development that is prohibitively expensive to maintain, and it is crowding our the other parts of our budget.

Pretty great, huh? You can read the full post at the Strong Towns Blog here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

This week on foot

The week has not been good for LA-area pedestrians. First we learned the horrible story of a Tustin woman dragged for blocks after being struck by motorist, then just yesterday an Elderly pedestrian stuck twice in fatal hit and run. In both cases the pedestrians in question were over 70, an age when risk for serious injury or death from pedestrian crashes is significantly higher than the risk for younger people. This is in part because older pedestrians just don't cross the street as quickly as their younger counterparts, so their exposure to vehicle traffic is greater, and in part because when they are hit their bodies are less able to easily recover.

Across the country things are pretty bleak as well. In New Jersey Kennedy Boulevard named fifth most dangerous road in New Jersey for pedestrians , in Florida a Bicyclist Arrested In Attack On 69-Year-Old Pedestrian who didn't get out of his way quickly enough, and in Texas Regional funding crunch pits pedestrians vs. vehicles. Closer to home, just as Momentum builds for pedestrian safety in San Francisco, Streetsblog reports that San Francisco Pedestrian Safety Efforts Mired in City Bureaucracy .

But take heart. Advocacy efforts continue across the world, like in Red Bank, New Jersey, where Advocates urge adoption of bicycle/pedestrian plan, and sometimes they even appear to be having some success, like in Missouri where Nixon to Announce Bicycle, Pedestrian Trail Projects in Ozarks, or Maryland where a new Laurel database monitors pedestrian, bike safety.

And there's more good news out there. A S. Ind. mayor wants to create 'bicycle boulevard', and in Jacksonville, Florida, a Workshop seeks to improve elder walkability, while locally in Ventura 4-H All Stars hope to add Ormond Beach walking path.   Even as far away as South Africa a Pedestrian bridge makes life easier. Let's hope this is sign that life is going to get easier for pedestrians everywhere.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Discovering the City, One Staircase at a Time

In the modern American city stairways have largely fallen out of use for public access, in part because of the challenges they pose to the disabled community and in part because most of us are, well, just too lazy to take the stairs. For some, however, public stairways offer a great excuse to walk through the city and experience street life in a neighborhood you might not otherwise visit.

Photo courtesy of Seattle Stairway Walks

At first I thought this was just an LA phenomenon, spearheaded by author Charles Fleming, who penned Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles after chronic back problems led him to seek relief through walking--which in turn sparked his curiosity about the city's nearly 400 stairways. He's walked up and down nearly 300 of them, and has been known to lead tours for the equally intrigued.

But Fleming isn't the only one. Health-related circumstances turned into a similar quest for one Seattle couple, who made it their goal to climb all 500 stairways in the city. (You can check out the cool Google Map they made here, so you can follow in their stairsteps). And then there's the runner they met along the way, who actually ran up all those stairs. And West Seattle residents Jake and Cathy with their blog Seattle Stairway Walks. And finally, the mother of all stair walking sites:, with maps to stair walks in dozens of cities across the world.

I'm sure for some stair climbers it's the physical challenge that draws them up the staircase, but for me stair walks highlight one of the great joys of pedestrian travel: they let you experience places that you'll just never see from the seat of a car--or even a bike. Well, unless you're a lot braver than me...

Friday, March 18, 2011

This week on foot

The week has been surprisingly positive here on the pedestrian front. First, our friends at Streetsblog introduced us to  A New "Cultural Tourist Agency" Teaches Angelenos How to Walk in the City, while further south in San Diego the new Harbor Drive Pedestrian Bridge opens and in Sacramento Citrus Heights improves pedestrian safety on Greenback Lane.

And it doesn't end there. In Alexandria there's Help in sight for walkers, bicyclists in area now that funding for some new bike and ped projects is on its way, and St. Louis Gets $550,000 in Aid for Bike and Pedestrian Trails.

Meanwhile, folks everywhere are taking a fresh look at what walkability and pedestrian improvements can do for them. There's Support for turning Auckland's Queen St into a pedestrian mall and pressure from Googlites, who say: Trying to Lure Google? Better Have Mixed-Use, Walkable Development . Even in places not known for walkability, they're starting to ask questions.  Would a pedestrian zone work for Dallas? , Is Long Island Ready for Walkable Suburbs? How can we Save our pedestrian bridge?

And some of those places really need it. Consider how officials in Texas are Sapping Street Life in Dallas, Ordinance by Ordinance , or how, in this ranking of The 32 Most and Least Sustainable March Madness Contenders a college town like Durham is number 32. Even outside the US there are problems, like in Costa Rica where Traffic Fines To Pedestrians On The Increase. And we can never forget that no matter where you live, there's always danger from people who are Driving While Human.

And also from people who are unicycling while human-- and insist that their single wheel exempts them from bike prohibitions on city sidewalks. Fortunately, in New York at least, the City Lawyer Scoffs At $3 Million Unicycle Lawsuit.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cool Ped Stuff #13: Humor

For anyone else having a tough time getting moving on the first Monday after daylight savings time began, some pedestrian-oriented hilarity to kick-start your morning. First from the folks at Neatorama:

And if that doesn't get you going, try this from the always satirical Colbert Report.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

WalkSanDiego Events This Week

FREE Webinar:'Understanding the Highway Safety Manual'
Offered by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals

740 13th Street Suite 502, San Diego, CA 92101 US

Date: Wednesday, March 16th
Time: 12:00-1:00 p.m. Pacific Time

Registration required, email here.

Luncheon Series: “Health Equity by Design: Reducing community health disparities through healthy design policies and projects, a case study in City Heights”

Kathleen Ferrier, WalkSanDiego
Sakara Tear, City Heights CDC
Norali Martinez, Proyecto de Casas Saludables

Date: March 18, 2011
Time: 12:00-1:00 P.M.

Location: 193 Horton Plaza,
1st level, (Next to Victoria’s Secret)

Suggested Lunch Donation: $5.00 if RSVP is by March 15th, $7.00 at the door
Please RSVP: Cynthia Offenhauer

Friday, March 11, 2011

This Week on Foot

This week the city of Glendale here in the LA region has been making a lot of effort to improve safety for pedestrians. Not only did Police crack down on drivers who refuse to stop for pedestrians, there was a Crack-down hits distracted drivers. And Glendale wasn't the only place working on the distracted driving issue. Here in Ventura the CHP warns of dangers of inattentive driving. Let's hope other cities in the area follow their example (the cracking down, that is, not the distracted driving).

But some cities prefer to focus their attention on the pedestrians, not the drivers, who cause safety problems. While I understand the motivation, I don't like enforcement efforts that imply the roadway is only a place for vehicles. One other reason these sorts of enforcement efforts aren't a good idea? A new study shows that Preventing jaywalking costly for cities.
But it isn't vehicles that are causing all the problems this week. In New York, 6 Out of 6 Local Pedestrians Agree: The PPW Bike Lane Stinks, while across the world in Australia Pedestrians call for cycle ban . While they're often grouped together, it's important to remember that pedestrians and bikes have very different safety and infrastructure needs.

Of course, so do pedestrians and vehicles--and sometimes improving things for one of those modes can have some scary effects for the other, as in the State DOT “Improvements” Imperil Pedestrians in Florida. Happily, here in California we're spending our money on more pedestrian-oriented improvements, like the Money coming to Imperial Beach aimed at more walkable streets, or the San Francisco Task Force Begins Meeting to Develop Pedestrian Action Plan.

And it's a good thing, too, because the week continues to bring pedestrian deaths far and wide. Here in the Southern California region there was a Person struck, killed by Amtrak train near Union Station, and
CHP officials arrest woman for fatal hit and run . Deaths like these are tragic, and continue to haunt surviving family members for years, like this LA Man seeks justice for twin brother killed by car in 1959.
Meanwhile, new studies continue to improve our understanding of the dangers that pedestrians face. One, out of Israel, shows that Elderly drivers more hazardous for pedestrians. In Canada, however, they're more worried about those pedestrian countdown timers encouraging drivers to speed through almost-red lights, and suggest that Pedestrian Timers Not Suitable for Red Light Camera Intersections. You know it's tough out there when even supposed pedestrian safety improvements have unintended consequences on pedestrian safety...

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Smorgasbord of Technical Studies

For all the transpo geeks out there (admit it, statistics make you drool), a rundown of the latest in pedestrian design and research:

Accessible Pedestrian Signals: A Guide to Best Practices
A 300-page tome that outlines everything you ever wanted to know about designing pedestrian signals for folks who are blind or have low vision. This guide clearly describes the many different types of accessible signals (e.g. tonal signals, messages, vibrotactile), explains design considerations, discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each, and (this I find especially helpful) explains how a blind or sight-impaired person would actually use the accessible signal in their everyday travel.

Best Practices in Traffic Operations and Safety: Phase II: Zig-zag Pavement Markings
After touring the world in search of effective safety measures not found in the US, highway officials came back with a dozen or so promising ideas to test out. One of these, installing "zig-zag" pavement markings on roadways with significant bicycle and pedestrian traffic, is intended to raise motorist awareness of vulnerable users, reduce roadway speeds, and decrease pedestrian and bicycle crashes. This study tests out the technology at two Virginia locations where the multi-use Washington and Old Dominion trail crosses a major roadway. The study showed that the markings were associated with lower driver speeds and a higher tendencies for drivers to yield to other users, although the unfamiliar markings did cause some confusion among roadway users, who weren't entirely sure of their intent.

Friday, March 4, 2011

This Week on Foot

This week begins with a series of bizarre pedestrian injuries. First there was the 5-year-old hit by CHP vehicle, injured on Mt. Pinos, then in the Oakland area Teens in car knocked Ferndale pedestrian down “for fun,” police say.

And the discouraging news continues, as Raise the Hammer points out, with a Dundurn Plaza Walkability Fail and a Main Street Walkability Fail. But those weren't the only fails this week. New York City Drops Plan for 34th St. Pedestrian Plaza, while further north in New York folks battle Syracuse in winter: Forget 'walkability'. Even cities with less snow have the troubles, as Walkable Dallas-Fort Worth says downtown Dallas' tunnels crippled city center.

And just when we think it can't get worse, an Amtrak train fatally strikes pedestrian in Oakland (I should point out, this wasn't the only train death this week--but I didn't want to get you too depressed).

But take heart fellow walkers. Planners, engineers, and policy-makers everywhere are doing their best to combat these problems. For instance, a Pedestrian warning system now operating at Metra station in Chicago might help with some of those train issues, and in Portland TriMet Puts "Pedestrian Warning System" on Buses to deal with the other transit mode. And if things are slippery in Syracuse, at least in Buffalo Sidewalk snow policy on clearing is tightened .

And that's not all. Twin Cities Streets for People share with us a video describing the Pedestrianization of Mercaderes Street, in Arequipa, Peru , and Springfield Weighs Options To Improve Pedestrian Safety On National Avenue At MSU (although that Pedestrian crossing sparks discussion). Perhaps best of all, in San Diego Billions proposed for bike lanes, pedestrian-friendly streets (and Streetsblog takes SCAG to task for not doing as well as SANDAG with the ped/bike funding).

Still, dangers remain. New technologies like in-vehicle Facebook and Twitter take distracted driving to a whole new level, prompting one NY Times columnist to wonder Have You Driven a Smartphone Lately?

But sometimes, technology can make the pedestrian experience even more interesting (if expensive), as in a new gizmo that lets you  Point, click, buy: The device that allows pedestrians to buy from a shop window without stepping into the store. Just look both ways if you want to buy something from that store across the street.