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 www.landscapeonline.com

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.