Monday, June 18, 2012

Pedestrian Research

The latest pedestrian research includes a few great pieces about kids and walking.

 Community Design and Policies for Free-Range Children: Creating Environments That Support Routine Physical Activity
Executive Summary: Growing concern over childhood obesity has prompted a focus on underlying epidemics of physical inactivity and poor nutrition. Regarding the former, there is increasing understanding that behavior change promotion alone has not increased population physical activity levels and that an ecological approach is necessary. Therefore, the public health profession has moved beyond traditional behavior change campaigns toward a growing focus on altering policies and the built environment to create settings that support increases in routine, not just exercise or leisure time, physical activity among children.

A survey of the literature suggests four broad factors that define settings where routine physical activity, especially active transportation, is more likely to occur:
  • a compact variety of land uses, with a mix of destinations in close proximity;
  • a comprehensive network of bicycle, pedestrian, and transit facilities;
  • inviting and functional site designs for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users;
  • safety and access for users of all ages, incomes, abilities and disabilities.
Although these principles are increasingly accepted as beneficial, not just to health but to a community’s economic, environmental, and social well-being, many contemporary ordinances and development practices undermine these outcomes. Therefore, five specific policy and intervention approaches are recommended to guide communities to these outcomes:
  1. zoning and development policies to protect open space, contain sprawl, and focus investment toward thriving, mixed downtowns and village centers;
  2. Complete Streets policies, which require roadways that are safe and functional for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users, as well as motor vehicles;
  3. a transportation- (not just recreation-) oriented trail network;
  4. creation of bicycle- and transit-friendly infrastructure and incentive policies;
  5. development of policy-based Safe Routes to School interventions.
This proposed intervention framework requires evaluation both of effectiveness in increasing childhood physical activity and of the most promising means of getting policies implemented.

Get Fit or Get Hit!
This research evaluates the role that fitness plays in childhood street crossing abilities. Previous studies show that increased physical activity and aerobic fitness during childhood are associated with superior brain health, and that children with higher aerobic fitness levels show improved academic achievement and cognitive abilities, coupled with larger brain structures and more efficient brain function.

Do these performance benefits for higher-fit children extend to a realistic multitask challenge such as street To evaluate this question, researchers had children simulate a street crossing under various circumstances. The children attempted to cross the street while undistracted, as well as while conversing on a cellular phone or listening to music on an iPod. The results showed that higher-fit children maintained street crossing performance across all levels of distraction. Lower-fit children showed decreased crossing success rates when conversing on the phone, relative to the undistracted and music task conditions.

The results suggest that higher levels of aerobic fitness may play a role in attenuating the impairment typically associated with multitasking in real-world tasks, such as street crossing. Further, the results do not suggest that the performance differences were a result of higher-fit children being speedier on the treadmill. Higher-fit children did not walk faster than lower-fit students. Thus, cognitive benefits in higher-fit children, rather than street crossing speed, may have contributed to differences in success rates on the street crossing paradigm.

Smartphone use while driving: a simulator study
Previous research has shown that use of a mobile phone while driving impairs driving performance. With ‘smartphones’ now becoming common in the commercial marketplace, more and more drivers are able to engage in a broad range of possible activities on their phone. This study set out to investigate whether there was an effect of social networking using a smartphone on driving performance. Twenty-eight young male and female participants took part in the study and drove a driving simulator through the same test scenario twice: once while using a smartphone to interact with a social networking site, and once without this distraction. The results of the experiment clearly show that participants’ driving performance was impaired by the concurrent smartphone task, and the smartphone task was also affected by driving.

Guidance on Pedestrian Crossing Safety at or Near Passenger Stations
FRA has intended this guidance primarily for both passenger railroads and freight railroads that operate trains over trackage that also supports passenger operations. The presence of pedestrians within station areas and moving toward or across tracks to access station platforms can create numerous potential conflict areas where pedestrian movement must be restricted once an approaching train is detected.

This guidance is also intended to provide railroads, as well as State and local agencies and other stakeholders, with strategies and methods that can help them to prevent pedestrian incidents and fatalities specifically in areas within or near passenger stations.

Measures that will assist in providing audible warning of approaching trains to the pedestrians at railroad passenger stations will need to maximize message accuracy, brevity, clarity, and timeliness.

Visual warning of approaching trains can be communicated to pedestrians at or near passenger stations using a combination of signs, signals, or other visual devices. Infrastructure at pedestrian crossings, as well as along approaches to desired crossing points, should be carefully selected and installed to improve the safety of pedestrians crossing railroad tracks. Installing fences and other barrier materials, such as landscape plantings, can be very effective in prohibiting access to railroad tracks, while funneling passengers away from potential hazards and toward desired crossing points that are equipped with appropriate warning devices.

Child crashes:An Unequal Burden
Reckless driving behaviors such as speeding and failure to yield account for 60 percent of fatal pedestrian and bicycle crashes in New York City.This report from New York's Transportation Alternatives evaluates child crashes on Manhattan's East Side.  Of the East Side’s top ten intersections for motor vehicle crashes that kill or injure child pedestrians and bicyclists, nine are located in close proximity to public housing developments in East Harlem and the Lower East Side.

More detailed health and neighborhood research is needed to uncover the specific behaviors behind this disproportionate impact on low-income communities. Factors may include:
  • Disproportionate driver speeding on arterial streets next to public housing
  • Increased mid-block crossing behavior due to superblock layout of developments
  • Greater density of children in public housing developments

Community Design and the Incidence of Crashes Involving Pedestrians and Motorists Aged 75 and Older
Abstract: Contemporary community design practice has focused on strategies intended to make communities safe for families with children. Comparatively little attention has been given to its effects on older adults. This study employs a series of negative binomial regression models to understand how urban form may affect the incidence of total and killed-or-severely-injured (KSI) crashes involving older drivers and pedestrians. Intersections, strip commercial uses, big-box stores, and arterial thoroughfares pose crash hazards for older motorists, while big-box stores and arterials are problematic for older pedestrians. A network of lower-speed streets was found to be associated with reductions in crashes involving older motorists and pedestrians.

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