Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Upcoming Webinar

Wednesday, March 7, 2012
10:00 a.m. — 12:30 p.m. PDT
Pedestrian Safety and Accessibility Considerations at Modern Roundabouts

This webinar will explore considerations for pedestrian safety and pedestrian accessibility at modern roundabout intersections. Modern roundabouts are one of FHWA’s proven safety countermeasures due to their clear and documented reductions in vehicle injury and fatal crashes compared to signalized intersections. However, the safety performance of roundabouts to pedestrians is less clear, and a lot of research in recent years has pointed to significant concerns about the accessibility of roundabouts to pedestrians who are blind.

Register here.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Walk Raleigh gets America moving

Image courtesy Walk Raleigh

The pedestrian advocacy world has been buzzing over one graduate student's efforts to promote walking in North Carolina ever since the BBC featured the campaign in one of its Altered States segments this month. Working with a couple friends, Matt Tomasulo tagged utility poles around Raleigh with wayfinding signs touting walk times to popular destinations. The idea is that the signs will not only help visitors find their way around, but also remind everyone who hits the city streets how quick it can be to walk to a nearby destination instead of driving.

Sadly, city regulations prohibit unsanctioned signs like these, so the signs were removed a few days ago--but Tomasulo remains positive, calling the campaign a "tremendous experience" and promising "more is yet to come." Raleigh seems to agree, and has asked Tomasulo to attend its next Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission meeting so that members can discuss ways to incorporate the Walk Raleigh signs into the city's official pedestrian planning efforts.

Friday, February 24, 2012

This week on foot

Is it just me, or has it been busier than normal out there in pedestrian land? The most pressing topic of the day continues to be the transportation bill renewal, and this week we learn from Transportation for America that The more they see, the less they like: 10 reasons why opposition to the House transportation bill is growing. Fortunately some in Congress are on board with that sentiment, like Oregon's Blumenauer: Don’t Let American Streets Remain Unsafe Routes to School. Too bad more folks in Congress don't seem to understand that good Transportation laws can affect health , on top of all their other benefits.

And it's not just in the US that Pedestrians not welcome on roads--as we've often discussed, India has its problems as well. Meanwhile over in Australia, one blogger wonders Is “eyes on the street” straining it? 

Back in this country, a National Walkability Expert to Address Value of Trails in Indiana, while In NYC, Florida, Asking Police to Step Up for Pedestrian and Cyclist Safety , Denver is urged to hit the sidewalks and there's a $6.8M project to improve bicycle, pedestrian trails that will link Camden, Philadelphia.

Here in LA one blog offers a Sneak Peek: East Cahuenga Pedestrian Alley Opens Tomorrow (er, yesterday), and There Will Be Polka Dots: Silver Lake Gets Adorable Pedestrian Plaza --but in the Valley, Northridge residents can't get city to fix buckled sidewalk.

Sacramento pedestrians have their troubles as well, where Amtrak riders must walk two-block distance to catch trains downtown. And while Texas Cities May Be Turning the Corner on Pedestrian Safety, in Canada Traffic countdown signal not helping, study finds

Oh, and in case you were wondering, That pedestrian crossing sign does NOT mean "run them over"--like in this case where a Pedestrian Gets Hit in Crosswalk by Car | Driver Says He Didn't See the Person at Night.  Of course it's not always darkness that's a problem--often it's those pesky devices that we seem to be so fond of using while driving. Fortunately this week the DOT Issues Voluntary Guidelines for Driver-Distracting Electronics Systems. With these, maybe soon we won't have to keep asking How did the pedestrian cross the street?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

More on Winter Walking

A few months ago I wrote about the challenges pedestrians in snowy cities face each winter, and what some cities are trying to do about them. It might be springtime already here in LA, but there are still plenty of places struggling with the white stuff. Chicago recently launched the City of Big Shovels campaign to try to encourage sidewalk shoveling through public praise or, well, humiliation. According to the site:

"City of Big Shovels is a grassroots campaign to improve the City’s winter walkability by highlighting the importance of the well-shoveled sidewalk. Taking its cue from the famously effective Don’t Mess With Texas anti-litter campaign, City of Big Shovels puts a wry spin on the issue by appealing to Chicagoans’ rough and ready spirit and latent winter pride."

The site features photos (submitted by the public) of "snow angels"--who keep their sidewalks snow-free and safe for pedestrians-- and "snow flakes"--who don't.

Elsewhere in the country, Safe Routes to School are still going strong despite cold weather. If you'd like to learn how they do it, the Safe Routes Coaching Action Network will be presenting a webinar on February 28 at 10 am PST about Making the Cold Cool: Keeping Your SRTS Program Going During the Winter. From SRTS:

In this sixty minute webinar, Taylor Lonsdale the State SRTS Coordinator  for Montana, will provide an overview of the issues associated with winter walking and cycling and discuss why it is important to keep your SRTS program running through the  coldest months.   Jenna Zdunek, Health and Wellness Director for the Marquette, (MI)  YMCA,  will then explain how the Sandy Knoll Elementary School SRTS Program was able to overcome the administration's fears associated with winter walking.   She will also discuss how the School is addressing the problem of snowy sidewalks with their "School Shoveling Project."  And finally, Kerry Ott, the Manistique Community Coordinator - Strategic Alliance for Health, Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, will provide three  specific examples of how to make the challenges of winter walking fun and positive through the use of creative programs like  their "Golden Shovel Award," the "Scoop and Sculpt," and snow removal flash mobs.

Register here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Upcoming Walking Events

March 2
UCLA Complete Streets for California 2012 Conference

Featuring sessions on redfining street performance metrics, equity considerations, pollution control, a keynote speech by Gil Penalosa, and much more. More information and registration here.

March 6, 11:00 PST
Creating Healthy Communities Through Design: Improving Parks and Active Recreation Opportunities

Creating neighborhoods with great parks, open space, and active recreation opportunities encourages people to be active and fit, helping to prevent obesity and related chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Improving parks, trails, sports fields, and other recreation infrastructure also creates more sustainable, livable, and desirable places to live and work. 

 This webinar will focus on creative ways that cities across the country are creating new opportunities for park and recreation spaces, as well as how communities are encouraging more physical activity in - and improving access to - existing park and recreation facilities. Information about the health, economic, and sustainability benefits of parks and active recreation opportunities will also be presented.

Register here.

March 16, 2012
Walk San Diego Visioning San Diego Lunch Forum
Join WSD for a presentation by renowned transportation engineer (I can vouch for him, he used to be my boss) Rock Miller as he talks about the status of walking and biking in California. The talk will be held at the Downtown Information Center located at 193 Horton Plaza.

Tickets are $5 in advance and $7 at the door.
Make a reservation by e-mail here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cool Ped Stuff # 20: Awards Season

Here in LA, it's hard to miss the fact that the Oscars are upon us (what, you mean your town hasn't been inundated with billboards pleading for Academy votes?). The stars might be celebrating by being driven around in shiny black limos, but Carbusters is shining the spotlight on movies that don't feature automobile travel. In its first ever No-Car Oscars, the site rates the nine Best Picture nominees for their portrayal of transportation modes. And the winner is...Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (hard to beat a  movie set in a city as walkable and rich in public transportation as New York).
Check out the Carbusters site for more info or click on the links below to see the scorecards for each movie.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (20.5)See Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Max von Sydow and child actor Thomas Horn all use alternative

War Horse (10.5)
When a motorized vehicle shows up, it’s usually bad news.

Tree of Life (8.5)
Recreates a neighborhood where kids play in the street without fear of being hit by a car.

The Descendants (8)
Includes the memorable scene of George Clooney leaving his Honda at home and running through his suburban neighborhood to get to his friends’ house.

Hugo (7.5)
Celebrates the social interactions and intersections at a train station.

Midnight in Paris (3.5)
A writer revels in walking the streets of Paris while his fiancée and her parents view walking as suspicious behavior.

The Artist (2.0)When you’re a star you’re chauffeured in a car. When you’ve given up all hope, you give away your car.
The Help (0.5)The white heroine drives a convertible; the black domestic help ride the bus.
Moneyball (- 10)
From watching this movie you’d never know the San Francisco area is rich with public transportation.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Driverless Cars, or Why I'm Moving to Nevada

Maybe I've mentioned my ongoing bet with husband: he's convinced we won't see mainstream adoption of driverless cars in our lifetime, and I'm certain we will. This week I'm just a little closer to winning that bet, as Nevada finalizes rules allowing driving permits for robotic cars.

In a state known for gambling, this isn't as big of a risk as you might think. As one of folks involved in Google's driverless car experiment pointed out recently, “Our computers drive our cars better than you do when you’re drunk. That’s our starting point.”

They also don't text, or fall asleep at the wheel, or participate in many of the other behaviors that are so dangerous for pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers. But these vehicles don't just drive better than a human on their best day--they driver better than a human. That's because they can "see" things that a person simply can't:

"We were driving behind an 18-wheeler and we saw the vehicles in front of the 18-wheeler — vehicles we could not see with our eye — because the signal bounced off the pavement ... at a glancing angle underneath the 18-wheeler. And so no human will ever have the amount of information that these cars have when they are driving."

Of course, we're still years away (note to husband: experts are talking about mainstream adoption in terms of "years," not "decades") from being able to purchase our own driving robot. In the meantime, there are other technologies out there that promise increased roadway safety while we wait. For example, Volvo is working on vehicles that can connect to "platoons" on highways led by professional drivers. While the "engine" of these road-trains would be driven by a human, once wirelessly connected to the train, the rest of the drivers would just site back and enjoy the ride. Volvo suggests that their trains may be on the road in Europe as soon as 2020.

Excuse me, while I go collect my $50.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

This Week on Foot

This week the top news continues to be that the proposed federal Transportation bill jeopardizes fate of bike, pedestrian programs. It's frustrating that our national government doesn't appear to understand the importance of pedestrian and bike funding, given that the public does: Survey says ... most Americans like smart growth! And also, Most Americans Want a Walkable Neighborhood, Not a Big House. But unless things change quickly on Capitol Hill, Pedestrians must step cautiously in Nebraska...and everywhere else in the country.

Like in Colorado, where they're not Treading safely: Pedestrian crashes more than double between 2007-2010, Kansas where Pedestrian, motorists struggle for right-of-way on local streets, or Chicago where Pedestrian dangers on trial 6 years after child's hit-and-run death.

And as if crashes aren't enough of a problem, U.S. Cities Are Losing 4 Million Trees a Year as our cities are developed with more and more impervious surfaces. Of course, sometimes trees are the problem, as in LA where this week we're shown Proof that ficus trees are bad for the sidewalks.

But it's snow on the sidewalks that's causing problems in Denver, where Homeowners And City Face Off Over Snowy Sidewalk. Meanwhile in Lawrence city sidewalk ordinance ruled unconstitutional, and across the world Jakarta’s sidewalks offer more than just pedestrians. You can see why sidewalks might become an area of interested for UCLA professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris: In Athens, Greece, the Traffic is Worse!, but the sidewalks get a lot more use than they do in LA.

Elsewhere in the country, Quincy starts new pedestrian safety program, a Woman who killed pedestrian sentenced to four years in prison, and Floridians are wondering Is an elevated roadway on Pensacola Beach worth $25M?

Finally, a few words on Active-adult living: Walkability in Manassas’ Gatherings is a key focus, but For Healthy Cities, Government and Business Need to Reverse Roles according to one blogger. What do you think? 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Feeling the HEAT

For those of you who looking for a way to quantify the health benefits of walking or cycling (probably many of you, given the growing push for "measurable" results from new programs or projects), the WHO's online tool HEAT (the Health Economic Assessment Tool) can help you "conduct an economic assessment of the health benefits of walking or cycling by estimating the value of reduced mortality that results from specified amounts of walking or cycling."

HEAT is available here. To use it you'll need to provide:
  • An estimate of how many people are walking or cycling. 
  • An estimate of the average duration spent walking or cycling in the study population
  • Mortality rate
  • Value of a statistical life
  • Time period over which you wish average benefits to be calculated
  • A discount rate, if desired
While HEAT was primarily developed for European use, you can take a look at how some researchers in the US modified it for their use in this study.

Friday, February 3, 2012

This Week on Foot

This week has been all about sidewalks--funding them, that is. Or more exactly, NOT funding them. At the federal level, the Funding mandate for bike, pedestrian projects defeated in the House, and in LA everyone is buzzing about a Sidewalk study: How will L.A. pay for estimated $1.5B in improvements.

No matter how they do it, we Need to enhance facilities for pedestrians, say experts.Some cities are doing that, like Columbus, Dublin Working To Make Crosswalks Safer, and London where they're showing the rest of the world how to Walk this way. It's nice to see that folks in some places understand The importance of hitting the pavement.

Unfortunately, in Arizona it's the pedestrians getting hit--but at least they're getting restitution as
Prescott pays $45K to pedestrian hit by police car. It's not as easy in the Chicago area, where a  Joliet man fighting for rights of pedestrians amid local obstacles.

But they're removing obstacles to walkability in Silver Lake, where Pedestrians and bikes to rule the road on this Silver Lake street, and in Charlotte they're hoping to make things easier on pedestrians as the City brings bicycle/pedestrian coordinator onboard.

It's likely the new coordinator will want to work on street design like there are in Oklahoma, where 'Complete Streets' aims at creating a pedestrian-friendly Tulsa. They're thinking about the same thing in Washington, but wonder Will Spokane’s Streets Become More Vibrant? They could if the city follows Toronto's lead, where Kensington Market’s Pedestrian Sundays to be More Frequent.

Finally this week, check out this set of pedestrian eye candy in A gallery of walkability.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ped/Bike funding, Safe Routes to School in Jeopardy

It wasn't unexpected, but it's still discouraging to see the House version of the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act squelch so many ped and bike programs. Of particular concern is the total elimination of the important Safe Routes to School program. Apparently the federal government's concern for k-12 education only extends to the perimeters of the school property; if kids never make it to school because they get hit by a bus on the way there, well that's a problem for someone else to solve.

Our friends at the Safe Routes to School Partnership have made it easy for you to contact your representative and complain. Please take a few minutes to urge Congress to restore pedestrian and bicycle funding to the bill. Thanks!