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?

Monday, January 20, 2014

How a School in Virginia Got Full Participation in a Walking School Bus

Photo courtesy of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership
This recent story from the Safe Routes to School National Partnership highlights how infrastructure improvements combined with strong leadership and outreach can have a big impact on how kids get to school.

Several years ago Keister Elementary in Harrisonburg, Virginia, received a federal Safe Routes to School grant to provide sidewalks, traffic calming, crosswalks, bike lanes and new signage around the school. With the new infrastructure in place, school leaders were eager to find ways to further encourage students to walk and bike to school. They started with a Walking Friday program where kids walked on a track for 20-30 minutes before school once a week, and then created a walking school bus to serve a nearby housing complex. Initially parents at the complex were concerned about the safety of the walking school bus, so school staff visited each family at home to explain the program and encourage parents to get involved. 

Today the walking school bus has 100 percent participation, and the school is looking into even more ways to incorporate walking and biking into students' daily lives. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Impact of Neighborhood Walkability on Walking Behavior

Photo courtesy of / Dan Burden 
Planners love to point out that people who live in walkable neighborhoods tend to walk more, but they're quick to admit that we don't entirely understand that relationship. A new paper from America Wallks seeks to address that by using survey data to answer some burning questions, namely things like:

  • How much more do people who live in pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods walk than people who live in neighborhoods that are not as conducive for walking? 
  • What about people who happen to live in walkable neighborhoods for whom “walkability” was not a decisive factor in choosing where to live? 
  • Do these people also walk more than others who live in less walkable neighborhoods?

To answer these questions, the survey queried respondents about both the type of walking they did in a typical week, including "utilitarian" (to get some place) and "health/relaxation" (exercise, walking a dog) walking. They were also asked several different types of questions intended to gauge the walkability of their neighborhoods. As the following table shows, people who live in neighborhoods they consider "walkable" are far more likely to walk more than 10 minutes per day than people who live in less walkable places.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

This Year's Pedestrian-Friendly Confereces

Courtesy of the ever-helpful John Z. Wetmore, a list of conferences that may interest you this year: 


7-10  International Disaster Conference / National Evacuation Conference;  New Orleans, LA
12-16  Transportation Research Board (TRB);  Washington, DC
16-17  Transforming Transportation (EMBARQ);  Washington, DC
17-18  Oklahoma Bike Summit;  Tulsa, OK
20-24  World Of Concrete;  Las Vegas, NV
22-24  Conference of Mayors;  Washington, DC
22-25  National Sheriffs Association Winter Conference; Washington, DC
24  Iowa Bicycle Summit; Des Moines, IA
27-28  ASTM F13 Pedestrian/Walkway Safety and Footwear; Houston, TX
28-30  Nat'l Conf on Science, Policy and the Environment: Building Climate Solutions; Washington, DC


4-7  Winter Road Congress;  Andorra
6-7  Media That Matters; Washington, DC
8  New Jersey Bike & Walk Summit; New Brunswick, NJ
9-11  National Conference of Regions; Washington, DC
10-11  Good Jobs, Green Jobs;  Washington, DC
10-11  Colorado Bike Summit; Denver, CO
11  Maryland Bike Symposium; Annapolis, MD
12-13  International Winter Cycling Conference;  Winnipeg, Canada
13-15  New Partners For Smart Growth;  Denver, CO
16-19  Conference on Play; Clemson, SC
16-24  Safer Roads by Design: Across Six Continents;  Orlando, FL
21-25  ATSSA - American Traffic Safety Services Assn. Convention and Traffic Expo; San Antonio, TX
22  Alumni Day; Princeton, NJ
23-27  Partners for Public Lands; Albuquerque, NM


1-5  NACO - National Association of Counties Legislative Conference; Washington, DC
3-4  Transportation/ Land Use Planning and Air Quality (TLUPAQ) Conference; Charlotte, NC
3-4  Smart and Sustainable Campuses; Baltimore, MD
3-5  National Bike Summit;  Washington, DC
8-12  Congressional City Conference; Washington, DC
9-11  American Public Transportation Assn. Legislative Conference (APTA); Washington, DC
9-12  Active Living Research;  San Diego, CA
9-12  Institute Of Transportation Engineers (ITE);  Miami, FL
11-15  Aging in America;  San Diego, CA
14-16  North American Handmade Bicycle Show;  Charlotte, NC
19-21  Design-Build in Transportation;  San Jose, CA
19-22  Urban Affairs Association;  San Antonio, TX
21  Delaware Walk & Bike Summit; Newark, DE
25-26  National Recreation and Parks Association Legislative Forum;  Washington, DC
26-28  Texas Trails and Active Transportation Conference; Fort Worth, TX
27-29  MT Bike Walk Summit; Billings, MT
30-4/5  Sustainable Trails Conference; Stonewall, WV

Monday, January 6, 2014

Parklets: Neighborhood Amenity or Waste of Parking Spaces?

LA's Spring Street parklets feature a variety of seating options, like these swing seats, as well as exercise bikes, tables, landscaping, and even a foosball table.
As more and more cities begin to question the value of flooding their urban areas with surface parking, new ideas for street space have begun to catch on. Parklets, made popular through events like Parking Day, transform on-street parking spaces into small public parks and represent a relatively cheap and easy way to increase park space in otherwise built-out neighborhoods.

San Francisco and New York have conducted limited evaluations of their parklets, and have found that they seem to increase pedestrian volumes while have a neutral to positive impact on local businesses. An Assessment of the Spring Street Parklets, a collaborative effort of the UCLA Complete Streets Initiative and Parklet Studies, includes a more detailed evaluation of two of Downtown Los Angeles' four new parklets. Using a combination of bicycle and pedestrian counts, activity mapping, and interviews with users and businesses owners, the report compares conditions in parklet neighborhoods before and after installation.

Volunteers mapped the location of parklet users at different times of day as part of the evaluation process.
The assessment results show increases in both bicycling and walking in the vicinity of the parklets after installation, though for both modes men are over-represented. In part this could be due to the continued perception of safety concerns for female walkers and bikers. At the same time, there was no noticeable change in parking occupancy in the parklet areas, suggesting that at least one common concern (the possibility of a parking shortage created by the removal of spaces for parklets) may not be as likely as many believe. Similarly, concerns about pet waste and panhandling in parklets were not supported by on-the-ground observations at the sites; instead, smoking was by far the most common "nuisance behavior" in the parklets.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

This Year, Resolve to Give Up Distracted Driving

Photo courtesy of ADS Logistics
With New Year's behind us, it's time for my annual plea for you to put giving up distracted driving at the top of your resolution list. Although we tend to think of distracted driving as involving texting or talking on the phone, any number of other behaviors can distract a driver from their main task (i.e. driving): eating, adjusting a radio, reading maps, even talking to other passengers. I've been working hard on eliminating the cell phone use from my drive over the past three years, but I admit that there are still other behaviors on this list I should be paying more attention to.

One of the key issues is that while most people seem to agree that distracted driving is a problem, their beliefs don't translate into behavior changes. According to one report by the AAA Foundation, "A percentage nearly identical (67.3%) to the proportion of drivers who disapprove of hand-held cell phone use admits to talking on the phone (of any kind) while  driving in the past 30 days ore than a third of licensed drivers (34.7%) admit to reading messages in the past 30 days (7.7% fairly often or regularly), and a quarter (25.8%) typed or sent them (5.5% fairly often or regularly)."

If you're reading this blog, I probably don't need to convince you that distracted driving is a big problem, but just in case, I've gathered some tidbits about the issue that should totally convince you (and maybe even your friends and family) to put down the phone...and hot dog, and hairbrush...

For pedestrian and bicyclist advocates
For young drivers
For people who think headsets are safe
For people who think it won't happen to them