Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Pacific Beach Street Mural, Times Two


Here's a quick video of the lovely street mural installed a few weeks ago at a key crossing for the local middle school, complimenting the mural on the other side of the school.

There are so many great things about this project, from the fact that it was designed by a student (who also happens to be our neighbor), to how it improves crossing conditions at a key route to and from school (and the local ice-cream shop), and that it brought together the community to create some nice public art for everyone to enjoy.


Of course, like all great things there are challenges. Here in PB, some of the less community-minded locals think it's fun to deface the street murals with tire marks. And for some cities, even getting something so outside-the-engineering-box installed is difficult, as there can be pushback from ever-cautious traffic engineers who worry that street mural crossings won't conform to state and federal design standards. (Note: it is important to consider how the crossings might confuse pedestrians with visual impairments, who rely on regular patterns in crosswalks to lead them in a safe path across the street).

Still, it's exciting to see our neighborhood becoming a little more safe and beautiful every day!

Friday, October 31, 2014

This Week on Foot


It's a week for creative design, as Flowerpots create a safer pedestrian crossing from Gallaudet to Union Market,  there's a Proposal to curb car traffic in Brunswick Street in favour of pedestrians, NY state gets $70M for bike, pedestrian paths, and Long Beach gets $1 million state grant for more pedestrian, bicycle access on Edwards Blvd. Yet Sidewalk audit shows walkability could be better in Bennington , and a Survey shows residents still crave walkability in downtown Alpharetta . Maybe we should look to Walkable, Bikable Dresden for more ideas, or consider The Airtight Case for Road Diets. Perhaps if we think about How Observing and Recording Pedestrian Activity Transformed a City Center we'll understand more about Why a Street Designed for Transit Is Also Great for People.

And we'd better get at it, because although on Day #089: Engaging streets might be the norm, we really have to ask ourselves today: Is the U.S. Ready for Seniors Who Want to Stop Driving?

Some places probably are. Seattle creates its first ‘Arts and Cultural District’ on Capitol Hill, and they're Making schools in Coquitlam more walkable. And even as we bring our best ideas to promote walkability abroad, like this trip by NACTO to Take Safer Street Designs to Developing World Cities, here at home we're still struggling with our own problems, like Are LA’s Walkable Neighborhoods and Bike Lanes Only for the Creative Class?

While we're asking the tough questions, how about this one: Which Calls for More Regulation, Sprawl or Smart Growth? I don't know if I can answer that one, but I do know that #StreetsR4Families: Walk/Bike to School Day Is Easy.

Finally this week, Trick-or-treaters beware: Pedestrian risk increases tonight, and like me I'm sure your City urges pedestrian safety on Halloween.



 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Happy Halloween


If you're heading out with kids this Friday, here's Zillow's annual ranking of the best cities to fill your bags with treats. Nice to see LA and San Diego moving up in the ranks! Check out this post for more detail about the neighborhoods to hit in each city (here in San Diego it's Del Mar Heights, Torrey Pines, Kensington, Loma Portal and Mission Hills).

Halloween is one of the most dangerous evenings of the year for pedestrians, so even though Zillow weights WalkScore evenly with other factors in developing its rankings, you might want to prioritize pedestrian safety when you choose your route. Take care out there!

Friday, October 24, 2014

This Week on Foot



With Halloween nearly upon us, this week we learned The Worst Places To Seek Refuge During The Zombie Apocalypse (turns out zombies like walkable cities, too).

Risk of attracting zombies aside, cities across the country are doing what they can this week to make their communities more pedestrian friendly. In Little Falls, the City Adopts Complete Streets Policy, a Road diet study rolls out in North Carolina, and there are Visions of Vibrancy: Center City Philadelphia, ICBC aims to curb pedestrian injuries in fall, winter with new campaign, and an App competition keeps pedestrian experience safe.

But not everyone agrees on what to do about pedestrian safety. While in New Jersey Kearny should be more bike- and pedestrian-friendly, state says and they agree It’s time for Amherst to create ‘pedestrian spaces’, in Georgia Officials split on pedestrian death solution and A simple sidewalk caused uproar in Tulsa's historic Maple Ridge. The Mayor nixed it.

And even though Swiss pedestrian safety takes turn for worse and there may be a Pedestrian-Cyclist Toll Coming To The Golden Gate Bridge, elsewhere in the country people are more excited about walking, as this Survey shows residents still crave walkability in downtown Alpharetta and in Detroit there's an Urgency of resurgence: Build on momentum with intentionality, opportunity, walkability.

If you're wondering what's New in the DOT Fast Lane --UTCs have a key role to play in bike-ped safety, and it should be interesting to see what happens to our favorite walkability ranking site now that Redfin buys Walk Score, marking first acquisition in company history.

Finally this week, These conservatives make the case for vibrant cities. Most of their friends ignore them. Maybe they should spend some time thinking about these 3 Ways To Close The 'Play Gap' Between Rich And Poor Kids (walkability is one!).
 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Walk to Get Your Groceries Challenge

Last week I took the Strong Towns Walk to Get Your Groceries Challenge, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: take a walk to get your groceries, then tell others about your experience. For me this isn't so much a challenge as something I do pretty much every week, but the folks over at Strong Towns recognize that for a lot of people walking to get groceries is a novel idea, and can really raise awareness about the issues that pedestrians face navigating a typical neighborhood to do a mundane task.

Since I was already out on my bike, I "cheated" and biked a route that I often walk for groceries. It's about a mile each way to this particular store, and although there's another market closer to me I often walk the longer distance to get some extra exercise in and to pick up some of the specialty products only available at the more distant store.

Here's a summary of the trip in photos:
Whether on bike or on foot, we often choose to cruise through our neighborhood via alleys because they have less traffic than the adjacent roads and are often easier to navigate with a stroller than the poorly-repaired and often narrow sidewalks (plus my daughter thinks they're interesting spaces).
You can see one of the main reasons we take to the alleys here: no curb cuts. Try getting stroller or bike with a kid on it down that curb, especially while balancing a sack of heavy groceries.

Friday, October 17, 2014

This week on foot

Source: ProtectedIntersection.com
This week we learn about 6 Intersection Designs That Actually Prioritize Pedestrians, which Syracuse could probably benefit from since 'I cannot walk anywhere': Correspondence on the sad state of 'walkability,' in greater Syracuse. Elsewhere in New York, they're contemplating Vision Zero and the Challenge of Culture Change at NYPD and a Walkability project discussed for Downtown Brooklyn, while Centerville buys into I-15 pedestrian bridge, Active Trans Launches a New Crusade Against Dangerous Intersections in Chicago, and After pedestrian deaths, Mountain View asks residents to suggest traffic fixes. After all that bad news, it's a good thing La Mesa gets grant for pedestrian, bicycle safety.

As we continue on The march to walkability, Nashville Mayoral Candidates Mull A More Walkable City and New Efforts Under Way To Improve Pedestrian Safety In Philly. Things aren't looking so great in LA, where Metro Moving Forward With Flawed Complete Streets Policy, or in Florida where according to one Engineer: State DOTs have ‘blood on their hands’ because lanes too wide. And it's not just roadways; Critics Say Railroads Should Do More To Prevent Pedestrian Deaths.

Outside the US Karachi needs to walk off its energy crisis and there are Calls for 20mph zone after pedestrian injured in crash. Clearly everyone needs lessons from Zurich: Where People Are Welcome and Cars Are Not

Closer to home we wonder Could Tulsa be the next Portland? If so, maybe they need someone like this Metal artist decorates pedestrian walkway. Looks good to me. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

October 22 Webinar on Nonmotorized Transportation

Learn more about how federal transportation funding has been helping pedestrians on 10/22 from 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM (PT).

Representatives from each of the four Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program pilot communities will discuss the strategies they used to promote bicycle and pedestrian projects and the lessons learned.  The Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program was established in SAFEATEA-LU Section 1807 and  provided over $25 million each to four communities (Columbia, MO; Marin County, CA; Minneapolis Area, MN; Sheboygan County, WI) to demonstrate how walking and bicycling infrastructure and programs can increase rates of walking and bicycling.   

Register here.

Friday, October 10, 2014

This Week on Foot


Photo courtesy of Hometown Life

This week Safe Kids encourages pedestrian safety during ‘Walktober’ and schools across the country participated in International Walk to School Day. As just a sampling, in Katonah students walk, bike to school and a Catonsville school holds Walk to School Day. But even with these efforts, Parents worry about children walking to school, seek crossing guards. Why can't we Make it safe for our kids to walk or bike to school?

They're trying to do that in Glendale, where Projects aim to improve pedestrian, traffic safety in Glendale, and New traffic light aims to improve pedestrian safety in College Park, while Gulch-to-SoBro pedestrian bridge takes big stepSigns make walking Chapel Hill easier and 12 Westchester towns, villages praised for traffic safety--but elsewhere DelDOT Report Shows Pedestrian Safety Problems and Pedestrian crosswalk vandals on the rise. Kind of makes you ask hard questions. Like How safe is Denver for pedestrians?
Safer than Detroit, apparently. This week Liberty Mutual releases pedestrian safety study showing Seattle top for pedestrian safety as Detroit comes in last. And New York has its challenges, too. Surviving a Walk in NYC Should Not Depend on Luck. Maybe they should learn What Old Transit Maps Can Teach Us About a City's Future, or take a look at our Capitol, where Progress on Parking Reform Could Make DC More Walkable and Affordable.

Here in San Diego, there are other ideas about how to achieve those goals. We're told we should 
Stop Talking About Density. Start Talking About Place. While we're at it, we should be Remembering the Human Scale in Walkable City Neighborhoods, although that leads us to wonder: Livable Streets or Tall Buildings? Cities Can Have Both.

But can it also have bikes? Chicago Trib Bikelash Writer is Confused About the Real Threat to Pedestrian Safety. Maybe we should be Putting 'Walkable City' to the test

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

It's International Walk to School Day!


Happy International Walk to School Day!

This year there are over 600 schools participating in California alone, encouraging students to walk and bike with fun incentives like prizes and music. Walk to School Day is a great way to get your school community excited about active transportation, increase physical activity for both parents and kids, and even address some of the traffic craziness that drop-off/pick-up entails. There are lots of good resources available here to help you plan an event.

If you didn't walk this morning (technically we biked, which is ok too), it's not too late to walk on the way home. Happy walking!

 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Cool Ped Stuff #30



The most fun you can having waiting for a light to change, and it might even discourage pedestrians from crossing against the light. (Or we could time signals so pedestrians don't have to wait so long, but that's another post).

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Mixed Bag for PB Pedestrians


Last weekend our neighborhood got a little more pedestrian-friendly, courtesy of this awesome new crosswalk art in front of the local middle school. Not only does the street painting add some loveliness to a distinctly boring stretch of roadway, it will hopefully improve visibility and crossing safety for students who use this route to walk to and from school (or at least to and from their parents' waiting cars). Kudos to beautifulPB for their work on this project.

But just when it looked like we might actually be starting to take active transportation seriously in Pacific Beach, this happens:


Those signs (they also block the bike lane on a nearby street) are in place as part of a festival at a local park on the beach. While no doubt there are locals who would be interested in walking or biking to the festival, they won't be doing it here, particularly not if they need to push a stroller or use a wheelchair.

The best part? In what surely wasn't intended to be an ironic move, the signs are there to inform drivers that they can't stop and block vehicle traffic. Yep, blocking the sidewalk and bike lanes is totally fine, but it's so critical that no one slows down cars (heavens!) that there has to be a sign every ten feet telling drivers to keep moving.

Friday, May 23, 2014

San Diego Waterfront Park Gets it Sort of Right

Yesterday we visited downtown San Diego's new Waterfront Park, highly touted for its futuristic playground equipment...

...not to mention its kid-friendly water feature (which I should point out is much more popular on a sunny day, though the clouds and cold--for us-- weather didn't deter my toddler).

Less kid-friendly are the pedestrian connections to the waterfront path that would otherwise connect the new park with existing parks and tourist attractions along North Harbor Drive. While the path is probably less than 100 feet from the edge of the park, here's how you're supposed to get there:


Welcoming to the pedestrian, isn't it? I especially appreciate that while you can almost make out the curb cut at the far end of the "crosswalk," you would have to navigate around three sets of raised curbs to get to it.

Oh, but first you also have to deal with this:


That would be a free right that encourages drivers to swoop through the crosswalk with little regard for a pedestrian hoping to get across the street. (Sure there's the nominal yield sign in place, but nothing about this design would lead a driver to actually yield--much less pay attention to--a pedestrian at the curb).


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Cool Ped Stuff #29 : Kids, Poop and CO2

With two kids under three years old, the unfortunate fact is that poop plays a disproportionate role in my life.

Happily, that's not the only reason that Worse Than Poop, a new film idea from mother-son collaborators Vanessa and Elliot Warheit, resonates with me. The movie is intended to teach kids about the pollution problems created by too much driving. Toward that end, it will use animation and a pretty gross (read: kid-friendly) metaphor to help viewers visualize the true output of carbon dioxide that we create when we drive. The film will also highlight all the other fun, cool ways to get around besides driving, which would make it a great tie-in to a Safe Routes to School program or other community efforts to get kids walking and biking more.



However, this is all contingent on the full 3-5 minute show actually being made. The Warheits have a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project that ends on May 31. They're about $6,000 short of their goal--totally reachable if you help contribute now. Read more about Worse Than Poop and see fun photos of Elliot's transportation exploits here.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

People (in cars): The truly deadliest animal

You can't fault the creativity behind Bill Gates' efforts to draw attention to the problem of malaria by designating this week Mosquito Week. The accompanying movie poster (Skeeternado!) and infographic--not to mention abundant press coverage--show just how much clever marketing and deep pockets can help promote a cause. Of course, if you're reading this blog it shouldn't take you long to spot the major error in the graphic:


As many of the comments on this blog post have noted, the latest figures from the World Health Organization show that last year 1.24 million people died in traffic crashes. Not only does that number trump malaria deaths, it's on par (or higher, depending on the year) with deaths from HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

A disproportionate number of those deaths are pedestrians. A disproportionate number of those pedestrians killed are vulnerable users like kids, adults, the poor. I've written before about how road safety--especially pedestrian safety--would benefit from a high-profile sponsor like the Gates Foundation. Any takers?

Friday, April 25, 2014

New Baby to Walk, Same Problems with Walking


We might live 100 miles further south and 12 miles closer to the beach, but the problems we have taking this baby for a stroll are the same we faced the first time around: poorly maintained, narrow sidewalks, obstacles blocking the pedestrian travel path, and inconsistent curb ramps all combine to make walking with a stroller an exercise in frustration. 

All those baby books that recommend taking your child for a soothing walk in the evening obviously never tried it in my neighborhood, where every five feet the sidewalk juts up with a Mt.Everest-like buckle. The next time my kid is awakened for 31st time as I bump her over another tree root, I'm planning to call the Mayor's office and just hold the phone over the stroller so he can enjoy her screams as much as I do. 


People who have never tried to heft a 50-pound load of baby, diaper bag, stroller, and three gallons of milk over a curb this high might be inclined to discount this problem as just another mommy-centric rant in a world that places undue importance on the comfort of children and their hovering parents. But as I said to my husband as we sweatily manhandled our stroller over yet another sidewalk obstacle, "Imagine doing this in a wheelchair." Cities have a legal, if not moral, obligation to provide sidewalks that allow all their citizens to travel with relative safety and ease, regardless of physical ability. What makes walking easier for someone with a stroller is also going to make it easier for someone in a wheelchair. Or someone with a cane. Or someone who just doesn't want to trip if they get caught up in scintillating conversation with the person walking next to them. 

And guess what? Improving walking conditions for parents can also help conditions for people who drive--even if they don't have kids. Moms (and dads, but mostly moms) make a lot of short trips in their cars that add significantly to local congestion. Things like taking the older kids to school, picking up some bread from the store, or filling a prescription could all be accomplished on foot, but unless walking is easier and safer that's not likely to happen and we'll continue to be plagued by traffic and the many problems that go along with it. 

Then of course there's the health piece--walking for exercise is pretty much the only thing new moms are allowed to do in the first weeks after having a baby, but it's not easy to get the full benefits of walking when you have to stop every few feet to maneuver around a parked car or shimmy between, say, a fire hydrant and a pole: 

I especially love the added insult of having a ADA curb ramp immediately adjacent to a sidewalk that someone in a wheelchair would never be able to use. San Diego, you can do better than this. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State (2013)

Here are a few good--or rather, bad-- stats on pedestrian fatalities by state. Want to take a guess which state has the most? Nope, it's not New York with uber-walkable NYC...


Worth noting, however, is that even though our fair state has the most pedestrian fatalities, we don't have the highest percentage of pedestrian deaths; that dubious distinction goes to New Jersey, followed closely by New York (the full table also includes Washington, D.C. with 47 percent, but it's hardly reasonable to compare state statistics with city statistics, so we'll set that aside).

 The real question is how these numbers compare with the number of people out there walking--we know that pedestrians are ove-represented when it comes to deaths/injuries, but are these percentages wildly disproportionate? Without good data on walking mode share, we can't really know--all the more reason to push for better pedestrian counts. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

CicloSDias Comes to PB

The latest incarnation of CicloSDias came to our neighborhood this weekend, providing a great excuse to walk and bike in what would otherwise be a pretty unfriendly stretch of Garnet Avenue and Cass Street. Here are some pictures of the festivities.




For the unfamiliar, the Ciclovia movement started in 1976 (!) in Bogota Colombia, but grew to international prominence under the leadership of mayor Enrique PeƱalosa in the 1990s. Since then cities across the world have followed suit with their own version of Ciclovias (sometimes know as Sunday Streets or Open Streets events), including several dozen cities in the US (more info in this nice write-up from Atlanta Streets Alive).

While Sunday's Pacific Beach event was populated primarily by cyclists in all shapes and sizes, there were also plenty of walkers, a handful of skaters, and (this being a beach town) any number of skateboarders enjoying the sunny weather and lack of cars. Despite the abundance of cyclists, I felt pretty comfortable walking the route with my two-week-old in her stroller; I didn't see anyone pedaling at an unsafe speed or being overly aggressive towards slower folks. While it would have been nice to have a few more booths or activities along the route, the adjacent businesses provided lots of excuses for pit stops.

From an anecdotal perspective, whether or not the event increased business traffic seemed to depend on the type of business. Some of the restaurants seemed slower than usual, and I doubt the auto-parts store was seeing much action, but the cafes and ice-cream shops seemed to be doing a brisk trade (they got our business, at least!).


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Trip and Fall Lawsuits vs. Sidewalk Repair


Reading through this article about how much the City of Helsinki spends on trip and fall compensation over the winter ($1.37 million) got me wondering about those same costs here in San Diego. Granted, conditions in Finland aren't exactly comparable to those here, but according to a study cited in the article Helsinki would save at least $10 for every $1 spent on road maintenance and planning. Would fixing our sidewalks before someone falls actually save us money in the long run?

On their face, the calculations here, suggest no--at least, not in legal fees. Repairing San Diego's sidewalks would cost at least $6 million each year, and it would take another $170 million to install sidewalks in all the place they're missing. But the City only pays out about $350,000 each year to resolve trip and fall lawsuits (yet another reason we're lucky not to have snow and ice, I guess). The situation is the same for our largest neighbor to the north. Los Angeles has a sidewalk repair backlog of $1.6 billion, while the city spends a "mere" $3 to $5 million on trip and fall suits each year.

But these numbers don't take into account the added value that well-kept sidewalks might contribute to their adjoining properties. There's little research how sidewalks specifically impact property values and sales, but one study suggests that walkability in general adds up to $34,000 to home values, and another shows rents in walkable shopping areas can be over 50 percent higher than those in their less-walkable counterparts. Retail sales in walkable areas are higher, too.

Since sidewalks (particularly those in good repair) are a critical piece of the walkability puzzle, they're obviously adding something to the mix, and cities are benefiting from those sidewalks in the form of higher revenues from sales and property taxes. Add that to the decreased legal fees from trip and fall lawsuits, and it's hard to understand why any city would hesitate to fix its sidewalks sooner rather than later. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

March Webinars

March 6, 10 am -12 pm (PST)
Innovative Transportation Stormwater Management: Green Infrastructure in Road Projects

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Wastewater Management and the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Project Development and Environmental Review are teaming up to co-sponsor the webcast “Innovative Transportation Stormwater Management: Green Infrastructure in Road Projects.” 

Roads can convey a variety of pollutants into our waterways and can increase the volume and velocity of stormwater generated. Green infrastructure techniques are one solution that can be used to reduce and treat stormwater runoff. This webcast will include brief overviews about green infrastructure from FHWA and USEPA and showcase two state transportation organizations committed to innovative initiatives to improve water quality and manage the quality and quantity of stormwater runoff from road surfaces. The speakers will highlight collaborative projects, policy recommendations to strategically incorporate green infrastructure into the roadway funding and approval process, and describe a programmatic approach to the design and construction of stormwater BMPs along with a chloride offset program.


March 14, 10 am- 11:30 am (PST)
Pedestrian Safety and the Highway Safety Improvement Program

This webinar will provide an overview of the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) and its applications for addressing pedestrian safety.

Karen Scurry (Federal Highway Administration Office of Safety) will provide an overview of the program and discuss the relationships between the different HSIP programs, eligibility requirements, resources for additional information, and examples of pedestrian focused projects that have used HSIP funds.

The webinar will also feature presentations from two states – Arizona and California – to focus on how HSIP is applied on the state and local levels.  Providing these presentations will be Kohinoor Kar (Arizona Department of Transportation) and David Cohen (FHWA California Division).
The presenters will also participate in a question and answer session to answer questions from the attendees.


March 20, 11 am - 12:30 pm (PST)
Keeping Pedestrians Safe in Urban and Suburban Settings

Pedestrian fatalities have been on the rise over the past couple of years. By attending this free webinar, you will find out more about how we can reverse this unsettling trend and make our urban and suburban communities safer for pedestrians. Walking is the mode of choice for some, and the only choice for many. It is imperative that pedestrian safety becomes a priority for and incorporated into all planning and design processes. 

This webinar, Walking Shouldn't Be Hazardous to Your Health, Part 1: Keeping Pedestrians Safe in Urban and Suburban Settings, will provide an overview of tools, campaigns and strategies you can use to work toward a positive impact on pedestrian safety and help reverse pedestrian fatalities and injuries. Our featured speakers, Noah Budnick and Michael King, are experts in the field of pedestrian safety and the built environment. They will walk you through addressing pedestrian safety in both urban and suburban settings, tackling these issues through campaigns and design.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Speed Reduction Case Studies: Portland, Seattle, Washington, DC

Three more case studies showing how cities across the country have used a variety of measures to reduce speeds and increase biking and walking.

Portland, Oregon: Neighborhood Greenway Initiative 
Portland, already known for its commitment to cycling and pedestrian mobility, created its Neighborhood Greenways plan to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety and further encourage biking and walking. The plan converted and expanded existing Bicycle Boulevards into a network of Neighborhood Greenways, residential streets designed to prioritize bicycles and pedestrians over automobile traffic. Typically, greenway speed limits are 20 mph and traffic volume is 250–1,000 cars per day.The Neighborhood Greenways initiative uses speed bumps to achieve the desired 20 mph operating speed.
Photo courtesy of HRIA
The City has already created a network of greenways that reaches a quarter of residents in Portland, and hopes to expand that number to 80 percent by 2015. Creation costs for each mile of greenway are about $150,000 per mile, in part because the city was able to use existing trail connections and routes with signals. Funding for Portland’s Neighborhood Greenways comes from a variety of sources, including general transportation revenue and transportation grant-funding, as well as Safe Routes to Schools grants. 



While there is not yet enough data to measure a reduction in injuries and fatalities associated with Neighborhood Greenways, bicycle volumes increased by approximately 6.4 percent between 2010 and 2011 and within the same timeframe, 61 percent more bicycles were counted at 11 locations on newly developed neighborhood greenways.


Seattle, Washington: A Multi-Faceted Approach To Speed Reduction
As part of its 2012 Road Safety Action Plan, the City of Seattle set a goal of zero traffic-related fatalities by 2030 and identified speed reduction as one of six priority areas to help achieve that goal. A key reason for this was to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety: while the number of collisions in Seattle dropped from 2000 to 2010, collisions involving pedestrians and cyclists did not.

Seattle addressed speeding in four broad ways: 



  1. Policy: Pending state legislation would allow the City of Seattle to reduce speed limits on low-volume, low-speed residential roads more easily.
  2. Education: The City promotes safe driving through its Be Super Safe campaign, which targets males ages 16-24.
  3. Environment: Seattle makes physical changes to the road, such as road diets and upgrading signage, to make drivers aware of speed limits and encourage reduced speeds. As part of the City's Arterial and Neighborhood Traffic Calming program, Seattle has implemented over 30 road diets and implemented an automated enforcement program
  4. Enforcement: The City increases police and automated enforcement of speed limits

The City allocated $200,000 from the General Fund in 2013 and 2014 with emphasis on speed reduction measures, as well as $2.1 million for pedestrian and bicycle enhancement and $1.5 million for pedestrian, bicycle, and greenway additions. The work is also funded through state grants. 



    Photo courtesy of HRIA
    In 2001, nearly 60 percent of traffic fatalities in Washington, DC were speed-related. Based on evidence that consistent enforcement of traffic laws effectively changed driver behavior, the City created a Photo Enforcement Program to address speeding problems. The program uses 
    stationary and portable photo radar cameras, cameras in vehicles, and intersection safety cameras to enforce speed limits. Currently there are 10 permanent sites and 15 portable sites within the city, in addition to up to 18 vehicles with photo enforcement deployed six days a week. 


    The City typically sees a 60 to 80 percent reduction in speeding violations within a few 
    months of cameras being deployed at a site. Overall, the number of traffic fatalities in DC has dropped from 68 in 2003 to 19 in 2012, average speeds among all vehicles in DC have been reduced, and the rate of speeding over 10 mph above the speed limit has dropped from one in three drivers to just one in 40.

    To build community support for the program, the City worked hard to communicate its goals and intended outcomes to the community by speaking at citizen meetings and soliciting input on where to place cameras. As a result, the program enjoys strong community support, with 76 percent of those surveyed favored speed cameras.

    Monday, February 17, 2014

    Speed Reduction Case Studies: Chicago, Columbia, New York

    As part of a new set of resources on neighborhood speed reduction, Health Resources in Action has provided six case studies describing what cities across the country are doing to lower speeds on their streets. Here is a brief summary of the first three:

    Chicago, Illinois: Child Safety Zones 
    In Chicago, speed was a significant factor in the 3,000 annual crashes between motor vehicles and pedestrians, with children ages 5–18 most likely to be involved in pedestrian crashes. In response, City leaders made a commitment to reduce serious pedestrian injuries by 50 percent every five years and eliminate pedestrian fatalities within 10 years.

    Photo courtesy of HRIA
    Key to this strategy was the Child Safety Zone Initiative, which designates the areas within 1/8 mile of all 1,500 schools and parks across the city as “safe zones.” Within these safe zones, the Chicago Department of Transportation used multiple measures to reduce vehicle speeds, including:

    • High-visibility crosswalks
    • Median “refuge islands” for pedestrians crossing streets
    • Curb extensions
    • Speed feedback signs 
    • Automated speed enforcement cameras
    • Speed limits reductions (speeds lowered from 30 mph to 20 mph between 7 am and 7 pm near schools)

    Columbia, Missouri: Lowering The Posted Speed Limit On Residential Streets 
    In Columbia, speeding on local roads was consistently a top issue for area residents. Based on the success of similar efforts in other Missouri cities, in 2009 Columbia ran a pilot program reducing the default speed limit on residential roads from 30 mph to 25 mph. In some neighborhoods, enhanced posted speed limit signs were placed at the entrances of the neighborhood, indicating the lowered speed limit of 25 mph. An educational campaign to promote the slower speeds was also included as part of the program.

    Speed data from both neighborhoods showed reductions in average speeds, reductions that ranged from roughly 1 mph to over 6 mph on roads where speed limits were changed from 30 mph to 25 mph. The new, kid-friendly signage and the educational campaign did not have a greater impact on lowering speeds than merely lowering the posted speed limit and replacing the standard sign, but residents in the neighborhood that received education reported feeling safer riding bikes and walking on their neighborhood streets than residents in the neighborhood without the educational outreach.

    The pilot study to evaluate the effect of the speed reduction cost $9,935, and the City used  used $128,000 of its traffic safety funds to cover the cost of installation equipment and temporary salaries for two staffers.

    New York City: Neighborhood Slow Zones
    Pedestrian crashes in New York City are a serious issue, with crashes the second-most common cause of injury deaths among children 5 to 14 years old and among adults over 45. Many of these crashes (21 percent in 2010) can be attributed to speeding. To address this problem, the City began the the pilot Neighborhood Slow Zones program to slow vehicle speeds on residential streets.
    Photo courtesy of HRIA
    Improvements in the Neighborhood Slow Zones include:

    • Blue “gateways,”including signs and markings at an intersection to announce the entrance to a Neighborhood Slow Zone
    • Signs and pavement markings to indicate a 20 mph speed limit (reduced from 30 mph) 
    • Additional safety measures such as speed bumps, street markings, and other traffic calming treatments

    The creation of Neighborhood Slow Zones is led by residents themselves, who must identify a 5-block area for the zone and gather community support in order to apply. While the City received over 100 applications for its first round of funding, requiring broad community support (though helps once application accepted) may hinder the creation of Slow Zones in neighborhoods without community associations or a strong consensus surrounding speeding.

    Thursday, February 13, 2014

    Resources to Reduce Traffic Speeds in Your Neighborhood


    Image courtesy of Health Resources in Action
    Health Resources in Action recently created a new webpage of community Speed Reduction resources with plenty of ideas for neighborhoods hoping to slow down traffic on their street.

    In addition to two brief fact sheets (Public Health Impact: Community Speed Reduction and Speed Reduction Fact Sheet: Opportunities to Improve Current Practice ), HRIA has put together a more lengthy technical report that provides a nice summary of the state of the practice and outlines key public health concerns related to speeding.

    Why is speeding a problem?
    Most advocates are aware that higher speeds lead to more severe injuries and fatalities, but the numbers bear repeating: the average risk of severe injury for a pedestrian struck by a vehicle is just 10 percent at an impact speed of 16 mph, but quickly reaches 50 percent at only 31 mph.
    There are real costs associated with speeding crashes as well. According to the technical report, the cost of speeding-related crashes is estimated at over $40 billion per year, and a single fatality costs $6 million. Moreover, vulnerable (low-income, minority) communities disproportionately affected, as are young, old, disabled--people less likely to be able to recover from the financial challenges created by a speeding fatality.

    What causes speeding?
    The report points to three key factors. First, road design: roads that are designed to be "forgiving" to drivers (wide lanes, no on-street parking, no landscaping or street furniture to run into) provide cues that encourage drivers to speed, often without even realizing it. These physical features are far more important to driver than incidental features like, oh, speed limit signs. As the report puts it, "...a road that is designed to be driven at high speeds will be driven at high speeds, despite posted speed limits."

    Land use may also play a role in speeding. The report highlighted one study that found that strip malls and big box retailers are major crash risk factors for bikes and pedestrians. On the other hand, commercial areas designed at a pedestrian scale lessen the risk of crashes.

    Finally, the report cites a culture of speeding as a major part of the problem. More than 70 percent of drivers speed--despite the fact that most people say they disapprove of speeding. This is particularly true for speeding in residential areas, where nearly 90 percent of people "frown upon" speeding but almost half admit to speeding themselves.

    What should we do about it?
    Fortunately, there are many ways to combat the problem of speeding. Health Resources in Action recommends four key strategies:

    1. Design and retrofit road networks to ensure safe speeds for all road users (motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians), using techniques such as traffic calming or slow zones.
    2. Use automated technologies to enforce speed limits.
    3. Set speed limits for the safety of all road users.
    4. Improve data collection
    They also provide six case studies of communities that are implementing these strategies. Over the next few days we'll review the findings from these studies to learn how you might apply them in your own neighborhood.

    Monday, February 10, 2014

    Uninspired Oahu Officials Miss a Crosswalk Opportunity

    Photo courtesy of KHON
    City officials in Oahu are up in arms over markings that have appeared in several local crosswalks in the last few months.Using white paint and a little creativity, someone has altered the city's standard zebra crossings to incorporate the message "Aloha" into the otherwise typical design.

    Non-standard crosswalk markings are hardly unique to Hawaii; cities all over the world use crosswalk design to shape community identity, draw extra attention to a pedestrian crossing, or just have a little fun, as in these new "hopscotch crosswalks" in Baltimore.

    Photo courtesy of NPR
    Nonetheless, Oahu officials insist they must remove these "acts of vandalism" in the name of public safety. According to the City's Facility Maintenance Director, "It can pose a danger to pedestrians because people that are approaching it and driving in vehicles unfamiliar with that area may think it’s a marking on the road and not a crosswalk.” 

    I would love to meet the driver who would mistake the above crosswalk for anything other than what it is...because I would immediately take away their driver's license. Someone that obtuse should not be allowed on the road. 

    Certainly there are no shortage of by-the-book officials who consistently mistake "innovation" for "danger"--that's one of the key reasons tactical urbanism exists, after all. But at least some cities (Raleigh, for example) are beginning to recognize that the guerrilla tactics of their citizens might actually lead to something good for everyone. 

    Many Oahu residents have said they like the new crosswalk design, and the City could choose to work with residents to officially sanction the Aloha crosswalks (and maybe add a little more charm to otherwise dull crossings). Instead, Oahu is choosing to spend $4,000 a pop to "fix" the problem. Sorry Hawaii pedestrians, you're not getting any aloha in your day anytime soon.

    Tuesday, February 4, 2014

    Video: The Rise of Open Streets

    This short video from Streetfilms has been getting almost as much attention as the Open Streets movement itself lately. Here's a little bit about the film from its creators:

    "The Rise of Open Streets" examines the open streets movement from myriad perspectives -- how it began, how events are run, how they shape people's perceptions of their streets, and how creating car-free space, even temporarily, benefits people's lives. And it looks not only at big cities like Los Angeles, but smaller ones like Fargo, Berkeley, and Lexington. We've interviewed some of the most important people in the movement, including former NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and former Chicago DOT Commissioner Gabe Klein, as well as former Bogota Parks Commissioner Gil Penalosa and Enrique Jacoby, from the Pan American Health Organization.

    Take a look!

    Monday, February 3, 2014

    User-Friendly Complete Streets


    Image courtesy of www.bostoncompletestreets.org

    As cities across the country jump on the Complete Streets bandwagon (it's public transportation, after all), they're on the hunt for good examples of Complete Streets documents: why reinvent the wheel, when it's hard enough trying to reinvent the street? One lovely model that any city would do well to emulate is Boston's Complete Streets website.

    The site, clearly designed by someone who knows how to do these things, includes a number of features that set it apart from typical municipal websites:

    • Interactive graphics, like the one pictured above, provide detailed information and pictures about complete streets concepts
    • Social media components are integrated into every aspect of the site, encouraging users to tweet, share, and subscribe to stay informed about Complete Streets projects
    • Contact information is easy to find--including direct phone numbers and emails of several staff members responsible for implementing Complete Streets policies, not just the generic (or non-existent) email addresses available on typical sites, that rarely provide an easy connection to an actual person
    • Definitions of key terms in the Complete Streets vision are provided up front, so users are less likely to get lost in a morass of planning jargon
    • A dedicated page highlights opportunities for public participation, and includes a "pitch" describing why users should get involved with Complete Streets issues

    Friday, January 31, 2014

    More on Snowy Sidewalks

    Photo courtesy of BBC News
    Snow seems to be on the minds of many this week (though not so much here in Southern California). Here are a few stories about how cities with colder weather than us are addressing the problems that come along with all that white stuff.

    Smart Growth America wonders, How do you shovel a bike lane? They offer some resources for folks looking to answer that question on their site:
    Focusing on clear and accessible pathways and transit stops for people with disabilities, a booklet from Easter Seals Project ACTION describes the ways snow and ice present significant barriers to travel, innovative practices and design solutions to clear the way, and the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements for sidewalk maintenance. Some of this material was covered in a recent webinar, which featured Russ Decker of Aspen, CO, Donna Smith of Easter Seals Project ACTION, and Roger Millar, Director of the National Complete Streets Coalition.
    Meanwhile, Grist's Ask Umbra offers some advice to a reader who wonders, What do I do about my treacherous sidewalks this winter? Hint: the best solution involves beet juice.

    Finally, this story from the BBC describes how people in snowy climes are using "sneckdowns" (snowy neckdowns) to test potential street redesigns that favor pedestrians, like the one in the picture above:

    After a winter storm, snow ploughed to the side of the road creates temporary neckdowns and demonstrates the principle in action.
    "When that snow piles up at a lot of intersections in neighbourhoods, you see that space where they could put a kerb extension," says Eckerson. "The cars still can make the turn, including trash trucks and school buses, but you see the slow, more deliberate turn around the corner instead of cutting it."
    It almost makes me wish we got snow around here...

    Monday, January 27, 2014

    Snowy sidewalks: Another reason to be happy about living in California

    ©Dan Wasserman, The Boston Globe
    We're lucky here in Southern California not to have to deal with the issue of snow-plowing--or rather, lack of snow-plowing--on pedestrian walkways, but it's a big problem in other cities, where roads are typically cleared of snow and ice far before sidewalks.

    However, in some parts of the world cities are starting to re-think how they address plowing, as this recent story from the Atlantic Cities blog describes. In Sweden, a few cities are revamping their snow clearance policies to prioritize roads near schools and transit stops, as well as those with bike lanes. The idea is that it is these roads, rather than the major ones to city centers, that serve the more vulnerable populations (women, families) who have more challenges dealing with snow. Plowing them first thus becomes an issue of gender equality, not just mobility. Given that those with lower incomes are more likely to walk or use transit, perhaps we need to apply similar thinking here in the US?