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.