Friday, August 31, 2012

This Week on Foot

This week people are talking about Affordable Housing and a Pedestrian Plaza in New York, a
Pedestrian bridge linking downtown, Cultural District dedicated in Fort Worth, and New D.C. traffic cameras to monitor stop signs, pedestrian crosswalks.

But here in LA, it's still all about sidewalks, where Cracks Appear in L.A.’s Grand Transportation Plan, making it no surprise that L.A. councilmen concerned about length, cost of sidewalk survey, and suggest that maybe some of those "thousands" of community activists" can step in.

Pardon me while I get editorial here.
  1. We'd all like the survey to go quickly, but seriously LA--you can't find money to pay for professionals to do this job? It's such a low funding priority that you have to get volunteers to do the work? I'd like to see you try that with roadways.
  2. And speaking of roadways, are you saying that whole "transportation infrastructure creates jobs" argument only apply to building roads?
  3. Finally, please point me towards the thousands of activists advocating for pedestrian issues in LA. We could use their help with some things.
Moving on to other frustrating stories, here's one that notes Most pedestrian accidents happen within sight of crosswalks, (not so) subtly blaming the pedestrian, who obviously must be too lazy to walk out of their way to a crosswalk. Meanwhile here's another that points out that the Driver's seat safer than sidewalk for older adults, a creative variation on the old "driving drunk is safer than walking drunk" argument. And while we're blaming pedestrians for things, how about this Report: 'Distracted walking' endangers teens. Umm, no, I think it's more the vehicles that endanger teens.

But let's not get totally discouraged. This week in ESCONDIDO: Students take to street to fight for health, and Garmin/Navigon announce new pedestrian and public transportation features, while pedestrian-friendly Blue Zones gearing up for official unveiling.

Elsewhere, one lawyer ponders Improving Pedestrian Safety By Reviewing Primary Types Of Incidents, in Florida they insist on No more Frogger for pedestrians, and Israel considers the idea of Pedestrian protectors.

Read more here:

Finally, all those distracted teenagers and young adults roll their eyes at their elders and say, Cars? Not For Us: The Cheapest Generation Explains 'the Freedom of Not Owning' 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

No Pedestrian Walking Allowed

A friend from work, and avid long-distance runner, recently brought my attention to the intersection of Santa Clara Avenue and Los Angeles Avenue (Highway 118). Located in unincorporated Ventura County and surrounded by agricultural fields, the road isn't likely to be popular with pedestrians--unless you're an intrepid jogger...or a farm worker who needs to park on the street and walk to your job site. Either way, good luck--because the roadway's designers clearly don't want you there.

So vehement are they in their sentiments that they posted a no-pedestrian crossing sign on every leg of the intersection. Yes, that's right, every one. Meaning if for some crazy reason you need to cross the street, you'll have to walk a mile or so out of your way to find another intersection, or race across the road when you see a break in traffic. Good to know there's a "safe" option.


Monday, August 27, 2012

LA finally gets serious about fixing its sidewalks

Angelenos have heard the statistics many times over the past few years: nearly half of LA's sidewalks are cracked, crumbling, or...whatever term you'd like to use to refer to the mess above. It will take an estimated $1.5 billion to return them to pristine--or at least usable--condition. In the last few years spending on sidewalk repair has been less than one percent of that figure. The city spends about the same on the 2,500 trip and fall claims it receives each year.

But now, the LA Times reports that the city is pondering the first step in a comprehensive program to bring its sidewalks up to snuff: a survey of all 10,000+ miles of sidewalks to document the condition of curbs and gutters, street trees, soils, and other details, and the development of a software program to compile the results. The survey could take three years and cost more than $10 million.

Actual "sidewalk" in Woodland Hills
Why go to all that effort? It would provide justification for the City to place a bond measure on the ballot (possibly in 2017) to fund sidewalk repairs.

Is this the fix Los Angeles' pedestrians have been waiting for? It would move the responsibility for sidewalk repair from adjacent property owners to the City, a move that's sure to please those property owners. It would also demonstrate, if subtly, that the City values pedestrians enough to pay for repairs to their infrastructure too--just like it has always done for drivers.

Those seem like good reasons to move forward with the plan to me, but I'm just one voter. If the bond measure is approved for the ballot in 2017, the City would still have a lot of voters to convince--something it wasn't too successful at in 1998, when a similar measure was rejected by 60 percent. Let's hope Angelenos have come to their senses by now--or that they've really gotten tired of tripping on broken sidewalks.

You can read more details about the survey and possible bond measure here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

This Week on Foot

This week starts with good news for LA, where the City Council Poised to Approve Four More Parklets. while in Long Beach: Finding Ways to Get More People Walk is a priority for officials in that city. In fact, cities across the country are looking for ways to improve walkability. The Lansing council considers millage for sidewalk improvements, a Group hopes to make Westboro bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly, Citizens support village sidewalk policies, and Travel is no travail in pedestrian-friendly Wilmette.

So with all this good news, Why are Pedestrian Deaths Rising? Perhaps in part because
Older pedestrians at greatest risk of being struck, and our population is aging. And while we're asking questions, Can we have real crosswalks in New York City? Hard to say, but at least Prospect Park boosters hope to solve a hot-button issue between pedestrians and cyclists.

Elsewhere in the country Pedestrians Keep Dying on Georgia Roads, while Police get cross about crosswalks in Robbinsdale and in TRENTON: National expert says city’s walkability good, bad and needs redesign. In the world of research 7 streets in New Orleans working to revitalize neighborhoods are part of UNO student's research and there's a new Study to evaluate zoning code reforms and physical activity. Perhaps it will explain why Somehow We're Walking More and Walking Less At the Same Time.

Meanwhile, people are explaining the difference between Roads, streets, STROADS and park roads, why a Pedestrian bridge is good for community, and that for Pedestrian signals: Faster than never is better than nothing.

Finally this week, Volunteers needed to rate the walkability of their neighborhoods in San Diego, and we learn how a Huntsville pedestrian's plan for being hit by car may have saved his life. Just don't forget: Pedestrians are always right.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New Pedestrian Research

The latest in pedestrian and transportation geekery:

Transport and Health Resource: Delivering Healthy Local Transport Plans
The Transport and Health resource was jointly commissioned by the Department of Health (DH) and Department for Transport (DfT) to support the development and delivery of health conscious Local Transport Plans throughout England.

Local Transport Plans (LTPs) are required to be assessed through Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) (European Directive 2001/42/EC) as an integral part of developing, appraising and later, delivering LTPs. Addressing human health is a key requirement of the SEA directive, and health impacts are also covered in the statutory duty to assess for the Impact on Equality, which will need to be carried out for all LTPs.

The Colorado Mile Markers: Recommendations for Measuring Active Transportation

The Project The goal of this project is to help decision-makers (leaders and practitioners) make informed actions regarding active transportation facilities and programs–and to monitor the results of such actions. There are many data collection approaches and indicators in use; there also remain substantial gaps in existing data and lack of standards. This report offers a recommendation for a robust monitoring system to provide decision makers with the information they currently lack and to make it comparable across geographic boundaries.

Smartphone-Based Travel Experience Sampling and Behavior Intervention among Young Adults

This research project aims to develop a data collection application that enables real-time tracking and reporting of the health-related impacts of travel behavior. Using computing, communication, and sensing capabilities of smartphones, an Android phone application was developed to collect real-time travel-related physical activity and psychological well-being data from phone users. The application was tested on multiple Android phones, among which Nexus S and HTC Magic were found to produce comparable physical activity outputs with the commercially available accelerometer. The application was further tested in a three-week field study for its viability for real-time data collection and behavior intervention against unhealthy travel behavior. Twenty-three young adults were recruited and randomized into intervention and control groups. Both groups were asked to install UbiActive on their phone and wear their phone on their right hip during all waking hours for three consecutive weeks. The intervention group was provided information on impacts of their travel behavior on physical activity and psychological well-being. No information was provided to the control group. After the field study, all participants were asked to complete a web-based exit survey that was comprised of questions about their general participation experience and specific concerns about the study design, application, compliance requirements, and privacy issues. Findings from the field study show that UbiActive has high potential in collecting travel-related physical activity and psychological experience data, but limited effectiveness in behavior intervention. Findings from the exit survey provide useful insights into potential improvement areas of the study and the UbiActive application.

The Safe Routes to School Program in California: An Update
Despite efforts to combat increasing rates of childhood obesity, the problem is worsening. Safe Routes to School (SRTS), an international movement motivated by the childhood obesity epidemic, seeks to increase the number of children actively commuting (walking or biking) to school by funding projects that remove barriers preventing them from doing so. We summarize the evaluation of the first phase of an ongoing SRTS program in California and discuss ways to enhance data collection.
Effect of North Carolina's restriction on teenage driver cell phone use two years after implementation
A majority of states now restrict teenagers from using a mobile communication device while driving. The effect of these restrictions is largely unknown. In a previous study, we found North Carolina's teenage driver cell phone restriction had little influence on young driver behavior four months after the law took effect (Foss et al., 2009). The goal of the present study was to examine the longer-term effect of North Carolina's cell phone restriction. It was expected that compliance with the restriction would increase, as awareness of the restriction grew over time. Teenagers were observed at high schools in North Carolina approximately two years after the law was implemented. Observations were also conducted in South Carolina, which did not have a cell phone restriction. In both states, there was a broad decrease in cell phone use. A logistic regression analysis showed the decrease in cell phone use did not significantly differ between the two states. Although hand-held cell phone use decreased, there was an increase in the likelihood that drivers in North Carolina were observed physically manipulating a phone. Finally, a mail survey of teenagers in North Carolina showed awareness for the cell phone restriction now stands at 78% among licensed teens. Overall, the findings suggest North Carolina's cell phone restriction has had no long-term effect on the behavior of teenage drivers. Moreover, it appears many teenage drivers may be shifting from talking on a phone to texting.

And even more!
Integrating Public Health and Transportation Planning: Perspectives for MPOs and COGs
Sharing the Road: Optimizing Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety and Vehicle Mobility
Promoting Active Communities in a Culture of Distracted Driving
Community-Based Participatory Research: A Strategy for Building Healthy Communitiesand Promoting Health through Policy Change

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Design Charrette with Los Angeles Walks

This Saturday (August 25) join the awesome folks from Los Angeles Walks for a design charrette co-sponsored by the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council. Here are the details from the site:

Saturday, August 25, 2012, 10 am – 1 pm
Silver Lake Library
Plaza and Community Room
2411 Glendale Blvd @ Silverlake Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90039

At 10:00 am we will gather in the Silver Lake Library plaza on Glendale with Silver Lake Neighborhood Council 2012 candidates for a “meet the candidates” and hear what they have to say about making our streets safer of people walking, biking, taking transit and driving.
Bagels, tea and coffee will be served. Then at 10:30 am, after meeting the candidates, we will enter the building for a Safer, Kinder Streets Design Presentation and Charrette hosted by Los Angeles Walks.
Pizzas will arrive at 1:00 pm, and by then we will have learned about interesting and dynamic best practices from across the world, which may be applicable in Silver Lake, identified dangerous streets in need of safer, kinder design and begun articulating the plan that will guide us in the years to come.
Representatives from LADOT and City Planning will be in attendance.
Click here for more info.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

And another creative solution...

This Big City reports on yet one more DIY effort to improve streets in Russia:

“Make the bureaucrat work!” is the slogan of a local campaign [ru] run by the regional Internet news agency, Their solution to the road problem is as simple as it is elegant: They simply spray-paint the portraits of local dignitaries around potholes, with quotes of their promises to fix the problem, and guess what – problem solved!

What has taken local politicians years not to do, is now done overnight. The embarrassment of having their portraits so concretely fixed to the potholes of their power, has seemingly made authorities run about like mad to pave over their portraits of impotence, filling the holes in streets and roads.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Battling the Bureaucracy to Create Better Streets

I'm a bureaucrat myself, so I'm allowed to say it: sometimes well-meaning regulations get in the way of really great stuff. Navigating the state and local rules that govern how we use our streets can be costly and intimidating for the professional, completely disheartening for the average "outsider" who wants to get creative with an otherwise boring streetscape. I'll share two very different approaches being taken in Denver and San Francisco, but first a couple tips from someone on the inside:
  1. Find an advocate. A savvy staff member or elected official can open doors that seem permanently sealed shut.
  2. Look for grey areas. There's more flexibility within the law than you might imagine, and it just might allow your wild street art scheme after all.
  3. Question authority. If a rule doesn't make sense to you, say so. Even better, offer a solution.

SF Better Streets
San Franciscans with bright ideas for streets can learn how to make their dreams reality by visiting a site put together by the City’s Planning Department, Department of Public Works, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency:

The site includes dozens of pages on information on permits, maintenance, codes and guidelines for each type of streetscape project. It also includes a friendly, easy-to navigate interface and welcoming look, important elements that can easily be forgotten in the world of rote government websites. As the web increasingly becomes the "front counter" of city departments, sites like this one can help engage the public and encourage the creative use of street space that transforms the pedestrian environment.

My favorite part? The way the city calls them street openings on their website, instead of the outmoded street closings. It's a small thing, but it represents a big change in thinking about which users should have priority on local roadways.
Better Blocks
Not every city is quite as open to innovation as San Francisco. As this story describes, sometimes you have to break the rules to get things done on the street:
In order to make his neighborhood more livable, Jason Roberts had to break the law. In fact, he and 1,500 other people didn't stop at just one city ordinance; they violated dozens of them, more than once, without getting caught. But their idea definitely caught on: Since April 2010, when they revolutionized their Oak Cliff block in Dallas, Roberts' Better Block initiative has spread to more than twenty blocks across the country.
From DIY crosswalks to yarnbombing, sometimes it takes a little insubordination to make your street into something everyone really wants.

I think this is great a way to demonstrate a street's potential, and raise awareness of problem regulations that prevent good streets from happening--but of course, the real solution is the (long and often tedious) process of changing those rules.