Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fire up your feet

Photo courtesy of Fire Up Your Feet
Parents and teachers looking for ways to promote physical activity at their school can check out this program from the Safe Routes to School Partnership, Fire Up Your Feet. The program website offers a variety of resources, including videos, printable handouts, webinars, and activity ideas to encourage students (and their families) to walk and bike more. There's also a fundraising component to the site that provides online tools to help schools set up walkathons and fun runs to raise money--a much healthier choice than the cookie sales I remember from my childhood.

Friday, November 15, 2013

This Week on Foot

Courtesy of NY Times
This week there's been much buzz about a recent story in the NY Times wondering Is It O.K. to Kill Cyclists? --which of course also gets people wondering about the same issue for pedestrians. When Pedestrians injured by cars: whose fault is it? The NYPD seems to think a share of the blame lies with those pesky pedestrians who refuse to take appropriate precautions.Not only should pedestrians wear reflective clothing, NYPD tells them to carry flashlights at night. Never mind that NYC Motorists Killed Three Pedestrians on City Sidewalks Today. Obviously flashlights would have solved that problem. Elsewhere in the country authorities aren't quite so forgiving of vehicles who harm pedestrians, like in Pennsylvania where a Bus driver who ran red light, hit pedestrian can't get jobless benefits, Pa. court says.

Meanwhile other regions are working hard on improving pedestrian safety SANBAG Wins Award for Transit Access Plan for Bicyclists and Pedestrians and Spring Hill hopes to land state grant for pedestrian paths. Unfortunately, as is often the case, it's only After teen's death, Berliners want safer pedestrian crossing

The week has also been full of stories that should be obvious by now. Bike, pedestrian plans should be integrated, official says, and Planning, design plays role in community walkability. And did you know that As people move closer, less need for roads and transit?

Finally this week, here in San Diego Mayoral Candidates Talk About Livable Streets, while elsewhere we contemplate Sesame Street and Children’s Perception of City Life and Suburbia and the American Dream. Hopefully the dream has sidewalks.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pedestrian and Bicycle Infrastructure Costs

"But how much will it cost?"

Even with broad support for creating pedestrian-friendly environments, finding funding to implement infrastructure improvements like sidewalks or median islands nearly always presents a challenge. This new report from the UNC Highway Research Center, Costs for Pedestrian and Bicyclist Infrastructure Improvements, is a key resource for the first step in the funding process: figuring out how much money you need.

Using data from projects across the country, as well as interviews with planners and engineers implementing the projects, the report provides a broad set of information about costs for a variety of improvements for pedestrians and cyclists, including signals, striping, signs, traffic calming measures, bicycle parking, and more.

The information is presented in a series of tables outlining the median, average, minimum and maximum cost for each type of infrastructure. Here's an example of one table showing the cost of installing a crosswalk.

Click to enlarge
This is the first time I've seen a such broad cost summary in one report--typically planners are forced to rely on their own (sometimes limited) experience to come up with cost estimates, or conduct a more limited version of research the report authors have included here. Having all of this information available in one report is a valuable resource for anyone working on pedestrian or bicycle projects.

Friday, November 8, 2013

This week on foot

Image courtesy of 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin
This week we wonder, Do Your City’s Streets Make Room for People Too? A Handy Visual Test helps answer that question.

Meanwhile, with the time change this week we're reminded that When the clocks go back, pedestrian-car accidents go up. Fortunately, across the country people are Taking steps to keep pedestrians safe--oh wait, that's not really an article about keeping pedestrians safe? Well, here's A Response to Today’s Blame the Victim Op/Ed in the Los Angeles Times. Speaking of blaming the victim, Portland Works to Combat 'Distracted Walking' (hopefully also distracted driving), and there were No Charges for Driver Who Was “Too Short” to See the Pedestrian He Killed this week. Not discouraged yet? Across the country MD highway planners to pedestrians: you’re on your own.Thanks.

But some places really are working on Pedestrian Safety: Delta is leading the way with high-tech crossings, the City Council Approves Road Diet in the City of Riverside and Pedestrian islands added to Rail Trai in Ukiah. And other parts of the country are also working on their pedestrian friendliness: Las Vegas Strip news racks could get the ax, and they're Walkin' in T-Town // The Makings of a Walkable City--because Walkability Is New Word For Development, didn't you know? Maybe you should read about Walkable Communities and the Future of American Cities.

Outside the US, we learned this week that Hamilton roads second most dangerous for pedestrians in Ont.. In response, City pledges safer streets for Hamilton pedestrians. Elsewhere in Canada, people have realized that Density inevitable; the issue is planning. Meanwhile in the UK there's a Landscaped pedestrian bridge to be built over the Thames, and in the Dubai 'Every resident is a pedestrian' - but can you park and walk? Let's hope so...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Most Walkable Cities 2014

Image courtesy of WalkScore
There's still two months left in 2013, but WalkScore is already looking ahead to a new year by releasing its 2014 list of the Most Walkable Cities in the US. To the surprise of no one, New York, San Francisco, and Boston top with list with neighborhoods like Little Italy and Chinatown (New York) and Haymarket and the North End (Boston) highlighted as the most walkable spots within already pedestrian-friendly cities.Here's the full list:

1. New York (Walk Score: 87.6) 
2. San Francisco (Walk Score: 83.9) 
3. Boston (Walk Score: 79.5) 
4. Philadelphia (Walk Score: 76.5) 
5. Miami (Walk Score: 75.6) 
6. Chicago (Walk Score: 74.8) 
7. Washington, D.C. (Walk Score: 74.1) 
8. Seattle (Walk Score: 70.8) 
9. Oakland (Walk Score: 68.5) 
10. Baltimore (Walk Score: 66.2)

You can find more information about the top cities and WalkScore's methodology on their website. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Cool Ped Stuff #28: Key to the Street

Ever dreamed about what your bland, pedestrian-unfriendly street might look like if you could spruce it up a bit? Key to the Street is a new design tool created by Jessica Lowry and Murali Allada that let's you use your phone as a starting point to transform any street. Not only does the app provide the ability to redesign your street with features like landscaping or bike lanes, it helps keep you up to date on potential improvements that are already in the works by linking to city projects in the area. You can even use the app to share your ideas with decisionmakers or other advocates.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Upcoming Webinars

November 6, 12 pm PST

NACTO's New Release: Urban Street Design Guide
National Association of City Transportation Officials

A well-illustrated, concrete vision for the future of city streets, NACTO's new "Urban Street Design Guide" charts the principles and practices of the nation’s foremost engineers, planners and designers working in cities today. This webinar will address how this resource will change the face of our nation's streets, the ways you can use it in your community, and how specific topics and elements in the document differ from conventional practice.
Register here.

November 7, 11 am PST

Shared Use: Is It In You? Engaging Key Stakeholders in Shared Use Strategies
Safe Routes to School National Partnership

Making use of school facilities that would not otherwise be used after school hours allows for a more efficient use of public space and money, and is a promising strategy to combat childhood obesity. This webinar will focus on providing tools to engage key stakeholders in the discussion around shared use agreements.
Register here

November 21, 11 am PST

Empowering Lower-income Communities to Take Advantage of MAP-21 Funds
Safe Routes to School National Partnership

More street scale projects can be built in lower-income communities and communities of color by training advocates nationwide on how to have successful meetings with local elected officials about existing funding for pedestrian and bicycle projects, including the new MAP-21 funds. This webinar will focus on the tools the National Partnership has created and the need to activate our National Active Transportation Diversity Task Force and other partners at the local and state level.

December 4. 11 am PST

Developing Effective Practices for Snow Removal: Why is it Worth all the Effort? 
Easter Seals Project Action 

Ensuring safe and independent travel for people with and without disabilities in the event of snow can be difficult. A national standard for effective snow removal for pedestrians does not currently exist. Join this webinar to look at snow removal issues and explore ideas for possible solutions to be considered at the local level. Presenters will discuss how snow effects the independent travel of people with disabilities as well as effective practices in snow removal for public transportation as well as for the broader community with a Complete Streets perspective.

Friday, November 1, 2013

This week on foot

Photo courtesy of YouTube
Even with Halloween just behind us, we continue to wonder this week Trick-or-Treat: Is Your Neighborhood Walkable Enough for Halloween? Our neighborhood was good by some measures, but without streetlights we had a little trouble finding our way from house to house. If only we had Starpath glow-in-the-dark spray coating will light up roads in the UK.

Meanwhile, this week we learn about Commuting’s Hidden Cost, and from a MIT Study: Benefits of Placemaking Go Deeper Than Better Places. There's definitely a Walkability Factor: New report shows neighborhood trend. But, Is a walkable neighborhood out of reach for you? Hopefully not, since the dangers of unwalkable neighborhoods are abundant, like in the UK where Mystery fatality raises pedestrian safety issues or in LA where a Pedestrian dies after being hit in Hollywood; Good Samaritan nabs driver.

Fortunately, even if your neighborhood isn't walkable, there are things you can do. Take the example of this Workshop aims to make Wilm. more pedestrian friendly--or you could put your street on a diet, like Flint’s Ingenious Plan to “Right-Size” Its Streets With Road Diets, or  7th Street in Downtown Los Angeles Goes on a Diet. And what's good for safety is good for housing values, as Homes within walking distance to shopping, dining, parks are more attractive in today's real estate market.

Elsewhere in the country, a Pedestrian signal on Fourth Avenue still confusing but doing its jobYpsilanti plans to construct pedestrian crossing with HAWK signal on Michigan Avenue and Broadway is the new face of complete streets in Seattle. Are you Thinking of a Ballot Measure Campaign for Active Transportation? Maybe you should, because Increasing pedestrian safety will take more than tougher laws. And if you're looking for inspiration, A Tour Along Historic Central Ave. is a Good Reminder that People are the Essence of Spaces.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

San Diego Regional Walk Scorecard Released

Photo courtesy of WalkSanDiego
WalkSanDiego has released its annual scorecard of the most and least walkable cities in the region. Using data from its BestWalk app, as well as information about pedestrian-friendly city policies, pedestrian collisions, and percentage of people commuting by foot, WalkSanDiego has ranked each of the 18 cities in the region for walkability.

 Leading the list this year is the City of La Mesa. According to WalkSanDiego,

"The city has (a) extensively cataloged local walking conditions, especially around transit stations and schools, (b) consistently upgraded intersections and other facilities to better alert drivers to the presence of pedestrians, (c) instituted a host of incentives to reward developers for designing buildings and neighborhoods with walking utmost in mind, especially in their downtown and transit station areas, and (d) instituted a robust program to educate students and families about pedestrian and bike safety and encourage them to walk and bike to school. In addition, La Mesa has protected its downtown grid network of streets, which allows for a mix of walkable destinations, including transit stops."
Also included in the top five are the cities of National City, Imperial Beach, Solana Beach, and Encinitas. In contrast, El Cajon and Santee fall at the bottom of the list.

You can read more about the scoring system, this year's rankings, and download the full report here.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pedestrian crossings: What we can be doing better

Photo courtesy of the Florida Times-Union
In writing this blog I come across a pretty horrifying number of news reports about people killed or injured while walking, but this story about a teenage girl and her mother hit last month in a Florida crosswalk has stuck in my mind ever since I first read it a few weeks ago.

Orly Ohayon and her mother Esther Benzohar Ohayon, both Orthodox Jews, were walking to services on the eve of Yom Kippur when they were struck by a car. As observant Jews, they were prohibited from using electronics--like the walk button that triggers a longer crossing time when pedestrians are present--during the holiday. Thus they had less than 20 seconds to cross an 8-lane road (quick math: based on industry standards they needed at least 30 seconds). Sadly, if predictably, they didn't make it to the other side safely: Orly was critically injured when hit, and her mother was killed. 

Aside from the obvious gut-wrenching aspects, I think this story has been hard to forget because it highlights three key weaknesses in the way we currently look at street design and pedestrian safety.

1. Culture matters, and one size doesn't fit all

Streets, sidewalks, public spaces: they mean different things and are used in different ways depending on the population they serve. It's important for planners and decisionmakers to acknowledge those differences, and tailor roadway designs accordingly. Following the Jacksonville crash there were a flood of suggestions about how to make crossings safer for observant Jews while respecting their religious practices, but this was a neighborhood that already had a large Jewish population--there should have been steps taken to address the issue before someone was killed.   

Monday, October 28, 2013

Trick-or-Treat, Walking Feet

With only a few nights remaining to plot their most lucrative candy-gathering strategies, children across the country are hunkering down, maps and empty plastic pumpkins in hand, to figure out their ideal routes. Parents hoping to sneak their share of the haul (definitely none of those in my house) might direct them to Zillow's annual list of the Top 20 Cities for Trick or Treating. Using an index that draws from data on population density, home values, and of course Walk Scores, Zillow ranks not only cities, but neighborhoods within cities, by their treat potential. Both LA and San Diego made the list this year, though it's clear that home value trumped walk score for some of the top neighborhoods (do they even let people trick or treat in Bel Air?).

All the walking that happens on Halloween night makes it one of the most dangerous for pedestrians, especially children, so take care out there! 

Friday, October 25, 2013

This Week on Foot

This week we learn How One D.C. Suburb Set A Gold Standard For Commuting, and transformed itself into a vibrant, walkable (if expensive) example for the rest of the world. Perhaps this is why DC’s New Parents Aren’t Fleeing to the Burbs, although Yes, Baby Boomers Are Moving Back to Cities. No, Not All of Them..

Elsewhere in the country, Metuchen asks residents how they feel about bright orange pedestrian flags in New Jersey, but De Blasio hedges on pedestrian malls in New York, and Commission plans new paths to make Bennington more ‘walkable'.They're thinking about Pedestrian safety in Ann Arbor: Council members propose citizens advisory committee, and the Region may consider pedestrian scramble in Waterloo. Even Disney is getting into the walkability game, as Pedestrian bridges added to Downtown Disney makeover.

Outside the US, they're trying to Walk this way: pedestrian road safety must be stepped up worldwide. Fortunately, in Canada a Students’s union calling for action on pedestrian safety on campus, but in other countries there is an An urgent need of more pedestrian bridges on main roads that isn't being met.

Closer to home, here are some Notes from Seattle: A very complete street--we all know about the Many benefits from Complete Streets, right? Like in Maine, where Woodbine Recognized As Complete Streets Community--but maybe not in New York, where NYS Passes Complete Streets Law, Then Slashes Funding for Pedestrian and Bicycle least These Pedestrian Maps Are a Feat of Design, Data and Diligence.

Finally, we're reminded that Distracted Driving Is Claiming the Lives of More Pedestrians and Cyclists (at least in Oregon there are TriMet's 'talking buses': Listen to new pedestrian warning), and of The Infrastructure of Inequality. Maybe it's time we moved Beyond “Level of Service” — New Methods for Evaluating Streets and bring the focus back to other users besides cars.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Watch: "The Walking Revolution"

If you're looking for a more exciting way to spend your lunch hour, check out this 30-minute documentary from the Everybody Walk campaign. The Walking Revolution demonstrates how walking regularly can create amazing change in your life--and in your neighborhood. In their words:

Take 30 minutes to watch the film then, take a 30 minute walk. It will be the best hour of the day.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

This Week on Foot

Photo courtesy of the Vancouver Sun

This week is full of high-tech solutions to pedestrian problems, as in Canada Victoria, Vancouver turn to cameras to monitor pedestrian movementToyota Making Car That Can Automatically Steer Away From Pedestrians, and in Japan the Transport ministry joins automakers to standardize pedestrian safety technology. But there are some concerns about some pedestrian technology, like the pedestrian countdown signals that some people say make Pedestrians race against clock.

Meanwhile, it's more low-tech crossings that are getting attention in other towns, like in Texas where a there's a Pedestrian crosswalk across Bagdad finally open, or the South Surrey crossings to get pedestrian-controlled traffic lights. Still, Pedestrian safety remains a concern despite push for crosswalk blinkers--and speaking of crossings, can you believe that the Lankershim Boulevard pedestrian bridge price tag tops $27 million

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Greatest Places in the Country

Photo courtesy of

Or at least, some of the greatest. The American Planning Association has released its 2013 list of Great Places in America, a mix of streets, neighborhoods, and public spaces that (in their words), "...offer better choices for where and how people work and live. They are enjoyable, safe, and desirable. They are places where people want to be — not only to visit, but to live and work every day." 

Grand Park (pictured above) is the only place in Southern California that made the cut this year, although there have been local designees in past years (the Hillcrest neighborhood in San Diego, Santa Monica Beach). 

You can take a look at the criteria for becoming an officially Great Place on the website. A brief glance at the guidelines for neighborhoods gives a you a sense of the just how much needs to come together to create a truly amazing space, from road design to runoff management to retailers--in other words, all those same little details that create walkability. (It also gives you a sense of how much us planners love our jargon, but that's another story.)

Not surprisingly for an award selected by an association of planners, the list of previously-nominated great places highlights the role that urban planning plays in creating, or more often preserving, beloved urban spaces. Turns out it takes an astonishing number of laws, guidelines, and crafty funding mechanisms to nurture the country's best places--few of which would be in place without the activists (pedestrian or otherwise) who agitate for those rules to be created...something to keep in mind the next time someone asks you to participate on a committee or send a letter to your senator.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

October 12 is Regional Walk Day!

Our family will be walking through the woods this weekend, but if yours in town check out one of these neighborhood walks sponsored by WalkSanDiego:

Chula Vista: 9:30 a.m., Meet at Rice Elementary School, SE corner of L Street 4th Avenue
El Cajon: 9:30 a.m., Meet at Lexington Elementary School, 533 S 1st Street
Encinitas: 3:00 p.m., Meet at San Dieguito Academy, back parking lot, at intersection of Nardo and Melba Escondido: 9:30 a.m., Meet at Maple Street Plaza
La Mesa: 9:00 a.m., Meet at Starbucks, 8138 La Mesa Blvd
Lemon Grove: 9:00 a.m., Meet at Firemen's Park, intersection of Central Avenue and School Lane
San Diego: Grant Hill neighborhood, 9:00 a.m., Meet at Market Street & 25th Street
San Diego: Mission Hills neighborhood, 9:30 a.m. Meet at Gelato Vero Caffe, 3753 India Street
San Diego: City Heights and Mid-City neighborhoods, 2:00 p.m., Meet at Park De La Cruz, 3901 Landis Street, in front of the restrooms
Vista: 9:30 a.m., Meet at the Avo Playhouse in Vista Village, 303 Main Street

Sign up and get more info here. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Today is International Walk to School Day

Check out this site for info about nearly 500 events at California schools. Don't see your school listed? There's information about how to start a program at your school on the website as well. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

San Diego Mayoral Candidate Speaker Series

It's back to square one in the search for a San Diego mayor, but hopefully not for pedestrians in our city. If you'd like to learn more about what some of the leading candidates have to say about walking, biking, and livable neighborhoods, check out one of these upcoming mayoral forums, many of them conveniently held at local breweries. Register here

Cool Ped Stuff #27: Walk [Your City]

You might remember last year's story about the graduate student in Raleigh who tried to promote walkability in his city by posting his own wayfinding signs in strategic locations. The City balked at the idea at first, arguing it violated sign regulations, but eventually recognized the importance of the idea and adopted the sign program as its own.

Following its success at home, WalkRaleigh used Kickstarter to fund Walk [Your City], a website that allows anyone to create wayfinding signs for their own neighborhood. I tried it out myself and created the sign above--the whole process was super easy and took me about five minutes to complete. Once you've made your signs, you can order them through the site for for about $25 each (including shipping, materials for mounting the sign, and associated web-based directions). 

Friday, October 4, 2013

This Week on Foot

Photo courtesy of Atlantic Cities

(Maybe that should be "This Last Four Months on Foot, but bear with me here).

Fall hasn't hit us here in Southern California so much, but nonetheless Fall weather is walking season, making October 'Pedestrian Safety Month--and just in time, as a Pedestrian fatally struck in Torrance is identified. Pedestrian Safety Efforts Should Be Aimed at Drivers

Meanwhile, we're wondering if it's The Beginning of the End for Level of Service? And while we're asking questions, Can Victoria wait 243 years for more bike lanes and pedestrian paths? And, How does Perth rate in the walkability stakes? One place that doesn't rate so high is Pakistan, where Extortion prevents Saddar from turning into pedestrian zone. And we think we have it bad here in the US...

Actually, there's a lot of positive new around the country this week. There's a Pedestrian & Bike Trail Proposed Linking Little Rock And Hot Springs, in Texas Dallas’ long-in-the-works Complete Streets manual is, at last, complete, and the City Of Dickinson Looks To Fix Pedestrian Problems. We've also learned How One Person Sparked a Complete Streets Movement in Cranford, and that 400 Missouri State Students To Help Assess Walkability Throughout Springfield.

Of course, the week wouldn't be complete without some more sobering news, like how a Walking tour of East Innes, Long streets reveals problems for pedestrians, or Montgomery County still a ways from ‘walkable,’ pedestrian safety data shows--but overall Americans are recognizing the importance of walkability, like in New York where Two-Thirds of New York City Voters Say They Want Better Bike and Pedestrian Infrastructure.

On the other hand, Americans View Walking as Good for Health But Many Aren't Walking Enough to Realize Health Benefits, and 40 percent of Americans believe their neighborhoods are not walkable. Fortunately, there's A New Walking Movement to Get America Back on Its FeetA new way to think about ‘walkability’ in the Valley, and we're even Learning from Las Vegas.

And on a final, lighter, note: this week we found out it's not just American people who love to walk--it's popular in the animal kingdom too, like with this Pedestrian pig hogs the spotlight.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Cool Ped Stuff #26 - Superheroes

Photo courtesy of Peatonito

If you've ever had to dash out into the street to get around a car parked across the sidewalk, you've probably wished for Superman strength so you could just pick that car up and toss it out of the way. If you lived in Mexico City, you might just get your wish. As reported in Atlantic Cities and elsewhere, Jorge Cáñez (aka Peatónito, or "Little Pedestrian" in Spanish) and his buddies regularly hit the streets in Lucha Libre attire, blocking cars, painting crosswalks, and generally fighting the dark forces that impinge on the city's walkability.

If you'd like to hear more about Peatónito and his exploits, you can check out his Facebook page here

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Curb Ramp Guidance from the Feds

Photo courtesy of the City of San Francisco

All cities know that their sidewalks need to comply with the the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but often they are less clear about how to address retrofits of existing sidewalks. Most existing sidewalks were built prior to adoption of ADA standards, and lack necessities like curb ramps. This new guidance from the FHWA clarifies when curb ramps should be installed as part of roadway repair projects. Here are some key excerpts:

Where must curb ramps be provided?Generally, curb ramps are needed wherever a sidewalk or other pedestrian walkway crosses a curb. Curb ramps must be located to ensure a person with a mobility disability can travel from a sidewalk on one side of the street, over or through any curbs or traffic islands, to the sidewalk on the other side of the street. However, the ADA does not require installation of ramps or curb ramps in the absence of a pedestrian walkway with a prepared surface for pedestrian use. Nor are curb ramps required in the absence of a curb, elevation, or other barrier between the street and the walkway.
When is resurfacing considered to be an alteration?Resurfacing is an alteration that triggers the requirement to add curb ramps if it involves work on a street or roadway spanning from one intersection to another, and includes overlays of additional material to the road surface, with or without milling. Examples include, but are not limited to the following treatments or their equivalents: addition of a new layer of asphalt, reconstruction, concrete pavement rehabilitation and reconstruction, open-graded surface course, micro-surfacing and thin lift overlays, cape seals, and in-place asphalt recycling.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Benefits of Landscaped Medians

Photo courtesy of

Medians--especially medians with trees--enhance the pedestrian environment by providing beauty, shade, and a refuge for people crossing busy streets. Yet car-oriented roadway design standards can sometimes conflict with pedestrian-friendly design goals, sacrificing pedestrian amenities in the name of "safety." This was the case in Washington state, where cities that wanted to create landscaped medians featuring trees were thwarted by Department of Transportation standards that forbid any fixed objects (like trees) in a roadway's "clear zone."

In order to allow a deviation from DOT standards in certain contexts, a series of studies were conducted to evaluate the impact of adding small trees to a road's median. The results, the entirety of which you can read in this report, show the adding small trees to a median doesn't significantly increase crash rates, crash severity, or injury crash rates.

From the study:
It appears that adding small trees to landscaped medians does not have a detrimental effect on safety. Installation of medians and access control as part of a more general increase in access control generally result in a decrease in midblock crashes, but an increase in crashes occurring at intersections where turning movements are allowed, in large part because turns are concentrated at those locations. These increases are a fraction of the midblock gains, resulting in improved safety overall. 
In other words, adding small trees to a median doesn't have an effect on roadway safety, but the median itself increases overall safety on the roadway--good news for both pedestrians and drivers. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

This Week on Foot

Photo courtesy of

This week we're excited about the possibility of Legislation Would Mandate Complete Streets Nationwide, but until then cities across the country are working on implementing complete streets on their own, like in Alexandria where Complete Streets program targets needs of walkers, drivers, in Ann Arbor where Planning Group Highlights Pedestrian Issues, a new Comprehensive Pedestrian Plan Aims to Develop “Walkable City” in Raleighor, or in the Complete Streets column: Bike, walkability of Nekoosa an advantage for future economic growth. Just remember, when it comes to Complete Streets: Burden of Proof on Opponents.

Speaking of burdens, this Tulsa Sidewalk Stories video series focuses on the city's poor walkability. Hopefully it will tell us more about Protecting the pedestrian without have to resort to Rare Pedestrian Bridge Considered In West Boca Where Girl Was Killed. And while some may say Distracted Walking Sending Pedestrians To The ER, we know it's actually cars that are sending them there. Looking for more about Solving pedestrian problems in a car culture? Check out this story about 'Accident' Or 'Collision': Why Don't Drivers Get Jailed For Killing Pedestrians?

New York is one place doing a lot to address its car culture, as we see from these Eyes on the Street: New Pedestrian Spaces Pop in Financial District. And if you're Lost? New York Pedestrian Maps Are Coming.

Finally this week, in a Housing Market Study: Idahoans Demanding Walkable Urbanism, and 8 – 80 Cities' Gil Penalosa promotes 'walkability' as key to successful public transit. And it's not just public transit that could benefit. According to Jeff Speck to City Leaders: Walkability May Save Us From Just About Everything.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Congratulations, George!

In 2010 we hosted George Throop for a night as he completed the west coast portion of his (walking) journey from Washington State to Washington, D.C. After nearly three years and thousands of miles on foot, George made it to his destination last weekend! Along the way he inspired hundreds of people to think about physical activity and walk a little more in their daily lives. You can read more about his amazing accomplishment on his website Enjoy the Walk.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Will Pedestrian Countdown Signals Suffer the Same Fate as Marked Crosswalks?

A recent study from University of Toronto PhD student Sacha Kapoor and Arvind Magesan evaluated the impact of installing pedestrian countdown timers at various intersections throughout Toronto over a four-year period. After much parsing of data, the study concluded that installing countdown signals resulted in a five-percent increase in crashes versus intersections without the special signals. But there are nuances to that conclusion:
"The data reveals starkly different effects for collisions involving pedestrians and those involving automobiles only. Although they reduce the number of pedestrians struck by automobiles, countdowns increased the number of collisions between automobiles. We show that countdowns cause fewer minor injuries among pedestrians for every pedestrian on the road and more rear ends among cars for every car on the road."
Further, while the the countdown signals increase crashes overall, at the most dangerous intersections the installation of countdown signals reduced crashes and made the intersections safer.

Unfortunately, nuances don't fit nicely into a soundbite. If you scroll through headlines of recent stories covering this study, you'll see two themes emerge:
  1. Pedestrian countdown timers cause more crashes
  2. Pedestrian countdown timers safer for pedestrians, hurt drivers
Neither of these statements is false, but they also don't tell the whole story about the effects of the signals. More importantly, if you're a policymaker faced with a decision about whether or not to install countdown signals, they could easily lead you to the wrong conclusion. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

This Week on Foot

We start out the week with the tepid announcement that Bike and pedestrian enhancements don’t necessarily hurt business--which is great, since so many cities are working on them this year, from Chicago, where a in the New Chicago Plan: Pedestrians Come First to Canada where the City of Montreal launches pedestrian safety campaign, while in Phoenix's Walkability Gamble Might Actually Pay Off, San Francisco rolling out plan to improve pedestrian safety, and a new Plan would make West Shore more pedestrian friendly. In other words Sidewalks -- now there's a vision.

At least, in some places...they're still Running Out of Sidewalk Near Lake Murrary, and Sherman Oaks Ranks Average in the Walkability Ratings. For that matter, Austin Ranks Low in Walkability Survey. At least Bellingham Stands Out On Walkability.

Other places, not so much--like in Encinitas, where a Pedestrian struck on Hwy 101 in Encinitas. Fortunately, across the country Police step up efforts to quell pedestrian- and cycling-related crashes, like in DELAWARE: Group formed to study rising pedestrian fatalities--and even in India, where
HC notice to State on plea to ensure pedestrian safety.

Speaking of efforts to improve pedestrian safety: Police Stings for Drivers Who Don't Yield in Crosswalks: Does It Really Work? And while we're on the topic, here's some Survey Results: Are San Diego Adults Driving Distracted? (I think that was a rhetorical question).

Finally, this week you can get a Sneak peek at the making of the island pedestrian walkway, or peruse ChoiceMaps: A New Way to Measure Neighborhoods from our friends at WalkScore.
courtesy of


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Stay Sober, or Get in a Car

Photo courtesy of Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK
Alaska might be different from the rest of the country in a lot of ways, but when it comes to blaming problems with pedestrian safety on pedestrian behavior, it's just the same as everywhere else. Last week the small city of Bethel, AK made headlines for its proposal to amend its public decency ordinance to prohibit walking on public streets while intoxicated.

According to one city council member, "Public streets and roads, ice roads or highways, are very dangerous areas. They have a lot of fast-moving, big vehicles. A lot of foot traffic as well. To have an intoxicated person in those particular areas makes for an exponentially greater risk of harm not only to the person who’s intoxicated, but anyone who’s traveling on those roadways..."

We've heard this argument before, perhaps most memorably from the guys at Freakonomics, who raised a lot of eyebrows by suggesting, 

"Truly, if you're faced exactly with two choices, walking drunk or driving drunk, you absolutely should drive drunk."

Statistically, that's true (if you only care about your own safety, that is)--but that doesn't make it good policy. As I've explained, there are external costs associated with encouraging driving at the expense of walking. If walking while intoxicated is dangerous, it's probably also dangerous while sober. Making a law to forbid walking drunk might seem like the easy solution, but it neglects the true problems that pedestrians face. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Cool Ped Stuff #26: The Stumblr

This week's Golden Footprint awards highlighted a ton of inspiring projects, from the Mike Gotch Memorial Bike and Pedestrian Bridge in my neighborhood, to the City of La Mesa's Safe Routes to School program that uses an often-overlooked resource (older adults) to help ensure student safety on the way to and from school.

Photo courtesy of The Stumblr
But as a blogger I had special appreciation for the electronic activism, and clever title, of The Stumblr, which received special recognition for providing a platform to "showcase" San Diego's worst sidewalks (and for generating some national buzz about the sad state of our most important piece of pedestrian infrastructure). Brainchild of Voice of San Diego writer Liam Dillon, the site allows anyone to submit a photo of their favorite pedestrian debacle, which Dillon will then display prominently on the page. Judging by the dismay of the city councilmembers present at the awards ceremony, it might just be enough to generate some sidewalk improvements.

I wonder if it would work on the LA City Council?

Yes, there really is a sidewalk under this creative landscaping in Woodland Hills. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

This Week on Foot

This week we learn that while Good health can be a walk in the park --not to mention The Link Between Kids Who Walk or Bike to School and Concentration--we still face The disturbing and sometimes tragic challenge of walking in America . Fortunately, all over the country people are working to address that challenge. In New Jersey Metuchen Announces New Program for Pedestrian Safety , while Pedestrian safety projects, funds in SF to shift to major streets . There's A pedestrian mall for The Triangle , a Pedestrian Wayfinding Initiative in Chinatown , and an Elaborate pedestrian tube proposed for Coronado Bay Bridge . In Florida Orlando to fund new pedestrian bridge at Universal , while in Santa Barbara COAST to Lead Eastside Walk of New Pedestrian Improvements on Milpas Street . Further south Complete Streets comes back to Texas Senate , and PB planners formulate aggressive project list for community’s future .

Still, there's plenty of danger out there. This week we consider what happens When cycling and pedestrian worlds collide . In Washington, DC the DDOT Releases Study of Bike and Pedestrian Crash Locations, and in Canada we find that Most vehicle-pedestrian collisions happen at intersections. Perhaps that's why a new Bill would ban pedestrian texting while crossing roads .

But eliminating distracted walking won't solve all pedestrian safety issues. We need to focus on the broader concept of walkability--which can be difficult because 'Walkability' factors of a city cover wide span . Still, Vibrant, Walkable Downtown Areas Make a Positive Difference in the Chicago Real Estate Market, Reports RE/MAX, so we need to keep trying. Towards that end, here's What We Can Learn About Walkability From Looking at Pictures .

Of course, walkability has it's naysayers: Living the walkability life is driving me crazy says one Canadian columnist. And elsewhere Eateries face $1m insurance for outdoor dining (which improves walkability), while AAA fights to keep unnecessary parking rules (which hurt walkability). Let's hope these folks are in the minority.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Have we lost all sense of "reason"?

 Photo courtesy of the San Diego Historical Society
Here in San Diego there's been much moaning and groaning over a recent court decision that effectively quashed plans to remove vehicles from the Plaza de Panama in the heart of Balboa Park. As you can see from the picture above, the Plaza de Panama was once an unobstructed square surrounded by exhibits and green space. The square is still in place today, but it's not quite the pedestrian haven it once was.
Photo courtesy of

After years of dodging cars to cross from one end of the park to the other, the civic-minded (and wealthy) founder of Qualcomm, Irwin Jacobs, decided enough was enough. He proposed a plan to remove vehicles from the Plaza, redirecting them to a parking lot on the park's periphery--and committed to funding it. While the project had the support of San Diego's mayor and city council, the historic preservationist group Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) was concerned that construction of a bypass route to the new parking lot would cause irrevocable damage to the historic Cabrillo Bridge. (Lest SOHO's claims sound too outlandish, consider the damage that previous forward-thinking planners did to the park when they replaced this bucolic pond beneath the bridge with a freeway.) They sued to stop the project, and earlier this month a judge ruled in SOHO's favor. Rather than continue the legal battle Jacobs admitted defeat and withdrew funding.
There's much to be said here about big money vs. small advocacy groups, effective community outreach, true "public interest," and winning the battle but losing the war--but what grates on me is the legal technicality that lost this lawsuit. You can geek out and read the whole ruling here. In summary, the City was unable to convince the judge that there would be "no reasonable beneficial use absent the alteration" to the park. Instead, the judge found that a roadway and parking lot, while perhaps not the most reasonable and beneficial use of park space, is not entirely unreasonable.

That's where I disagree with the ruling. I believe it is entirely unreasonable to sacrifice the safety, aesthetic, and connectivity of a civic institution for the convenience of park users who choose to drive there. I believe there isn't the slightest benefit to prioritizing (free!) parking over open space in a park that has ample parking elsewhere.  I believe that 100 years ago when this park was built, San Diegans would have thought it crazy to use the Plaza de Panama the way we do today. There was a time when we didn't find it reasonable to place the so-called "needs" of the automobile above all our other values. It's long past time for that sort of thinking to return to San Diego.