Showing posts with label Advocacy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Advocacy. Show all posts

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?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Walk Raleigh gets America moving

Image courtesy Walk Raleigh

The pedestrian advocacy world has been buzzing over one graduate student's efforts to promote walking in North Carolina ever since the BBC featured the campaign in one of its Altered States segments this month. Working with a couple friends, Matt Tomasulo tagged utility poles around Raleigh with wayfinding signs touting walk times to popular destinations. The idea is that the signs will not only help visitors find their way around, but also remind everyone who hits the city streets how quick it can be to walk to a nearby destination instead of driving.

Sadly, city regulations prohibit unsanctioned signs like these, so the signs were removed a few days ago--but Tomasulo remains positive, calling the campaign a "tremendous experience" and promising "more is yet to come." Raleigh seems to agree, and has asked Tomasulo to attend its next Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission meeting so that members can discuss ways to incorporate the Walk Raleigh signs into the city's official pedestrian planning efforts.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sidewalk Hall of Shame

Inspired by KECT's recent request to submit photos of broken sidewalks in LA, I took a stroll around my neighborhood to "show off" some of the most absurd examples of what passes for a sidewalk in Woodland Hills--AND, since I'm a transpo geek that way, I came up with a point system to rate just how bad they are. Think of it as a sort of anti-WalkScore.
If you squint, it almost looks like modern art on Medina Rd near Baza Ave.
Disconnectivity (0-10)
One of the most critical elements of walkability, this criteria rates whether or not a sidewalk actually takes you anywhere. Like the roller skate without its mate, the lone sidewalk won't get you anywhere if it's not part of network. Sure, it's well and good to have a beautiful smooth sidewalk in front of your house, but if your neighbors aren't on board how far are you really going to be able to walk?
 A dead end at Campo Rd near Celes St.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Volunteers Needed for LA Bike and Ped Count

An urgent request from the LA Bicycle Coalition:

We are conducting our 2nd bike and pedestrian count in the City of Los Angeles next week over two days. Tuesday, Sept 13th from 7 to 9am and 4 to 6pm and on Saturday, Sept 17th from 11 to 1pm. We still have a ton of locations all across the City of Los Angeles that need your help and the help of your friends & neighbors.

If you could sign-up to volunteer, just for one of the count times it will make a tremendous impact towards the collecting this vital active transportation data. What isn't counted is not funded, and currently the City of Los Angeles and LA County in general are lagging in collecting data on bicycles and pedestrians.

This count is our opportunity to get out there and make sure we are counted. So whether you ride a bike or walk to transit, this count is being held to count YOU!

So please help us make this count possible by signing up to count today. More information can be found here. Login here and see the locations, dates and times available and sign-up today!!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Demand a Pardon for Raquel Nelson

Okay, I'm dipping a toe back into the world of blogging for just one quick moment, because I feel so passionately about this story and want to spread the word as much as possible. I hope you'll forgive me if I blatantly copy info from our friends at Transportation for America, rather than coming up with my own:

Raquel Nelson, a metro Atlanta mother, was crossing the street from a bus stop to her apartment complex with her three children after a long trip that included an hour plus wait between buses. Along with a handful of fellow passengers headed to the apartment complex, she unsurprisingly chose to cross the street at the bus stop rather than walk more than half a mile in the dark to the nearest traffic signal and back with her tired children.

They were struck by a hit-and-run driver, killing her youngest son.

Then the unbelievable happened: Cobb County charged this grieving mother, who did not even own a car at the time, with vehicular homicide and other charges, carrying a potential sentence of 36 months in jail. A jury of six – none of whom had ever taken a local bus – convicted her July 12. The judge sentenced her to 12 months’ probation, community service, and the burden of paying court costs. In the face of widespread outcry, she also offered her the option of a retrial, and Nelson intends to exercise that right to clear her name.

But we think she should never have been charged in the first place.

Please consider signing Transportation for America's petition to the Georgia Governor and the Cobb County Solicitor General requesting her immediate pardon or refusal to prosecute her again in a new trial.

You can find additional information about the case on the Transportatino for America blog here.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Action Alert from SRTS

A call to action from our friends at the Safe Routes to School National Partnership:

IMPORTANT – Key lawmakers acting to end dedicated funding for bicycling and walking!
Key Congressional leaders are attacking Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements and Recreational trails and are taking steps to cut off dedicated federal funding for bicycling and walking.  We need every single person who simply wants safe options to walk or bicycle to contact their Senators and Representative today!          

House Transportation Chairman John Mica (R-FL) announced today that his transportation bill will eliminate dedicated funding for bicycling and walking, including Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and the Recreational Trails Program, and discourage states from choosing to spend their dollars on these activities that are “not in the federal interest.”  Chairman Mica’s statement that these programs remain “eligible” for funding is worthless; without dedicated funding for these three programs, they are effectively eliminated.
Things on the Senate side are not much better. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the lead Republican negotiator on the transportation bill, declared that one of his TOP THREE priorities for the transportation bill is to eliminate ‘frivolous spending for bike trails.’  This is in direct conflict with Senator Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) commitment to maintain dedicated funding for biking and walking.  However, the Senate is working towards a bi-partisan solution, and Senator Inhofe’s comments mean funding for bicycle and pedestrian programs is at risk of total elimination. 
Help protect Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails. Contact your Members of Congress  , and tell them to reach out to Senators Inhofe, Boxer, and Congressman Mica to urge them to continue dedicated funding for these important bicycling and walking programs. 
Need some good facts to bolster your argument?  Read on:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Further delay on red light camera issue

In gridlock rivaling that on the 405, the LA City Council returned the red light camera program to the City's budget committee (chaired by RLC supporter Bernard Parks) for additional review after a wacky spell in front of the Council, rife with competing motions, seemingly-contradictory actions, and computer glitches. You can read the full story here in the LA Times, but I offer no promises that the story will clarify anything (except perhaps for the Times' oh-so-subtle implications that the cameras do nothing more than fill the coffers of private firms).

Councilmember Parks will return the program to the Council for debate after additional review, which gives you time to contact your councilmember to urge them to support the program.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

LA City Council Continues Red Light Camera Debate

We have a little more time to wait, but things aren't looking good for the future of red light cameras in LA. As reported in the LA Times,  the Council needs at least eight votes to take any action on the program. Currently, five councilmembers have voted in favor of continuing the cameras--at least long enough to do additional analysis of their effectiveness-- while seven councilmembers would like to end the program immediately. The debate will continue at today's meeting, and again until there are at least eight votes one way or the other.

Best quote of the hearing, from Councilmember Parks in response to the assertion that a $500 red-light ticket could devastate a low-income family, "What is even more devastating is if you lose a life or cripple someone for life because of a traffic accident."

Most discouraging assertion by the LA Times, "A Times investigation in 2008 found that some cities, including Los Angeles, get most of their photo enforcement money from citing slower, rolling-stop right turns, which many experts say cause fewer and less serious accidents." That might hold true for vehicle crashes, but I'd like to see the data for pedestrian crashes...  

Friday, June 17, 2011

Vote Delayed on Red Light Cameras

LA city councilmembers have delayed their vote on the City's red light camera program until next Tuesday to allow more of the council to attend the meeting and vote on the issue. While not a "win," this does indicate that the council is taking the issue seriously --and it gives you more time to contact your councilmember to encourage them to vote in support of the program. In partciular, Paul Koretz, Bill Rosendahl, and my own rep Dennis Zine have indicated their opposition to continuing the program. Tony Cardenas and Bernard C. Parks made the motion to extend the program while additional evaluation is performed.

You can sign a petition in support of the RLC program by clicking here (full disclosure: the petition is sponsored by the Traffic Safety Coaltion. While the coalation itself is a non-profit made up of a diverse group of traffic safety advocates, they do receive their funding from RLC companies.) Alternatively, you can contact your councilmember directly (info on the City's website here)--or even better, do both!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Red Light Cameras

Perhaps you've been following the debate over the City of Los Angeles' abrupt move to consider eliminating its red light photo enforcement program in the LA Times or Streetsblog. For reasons I'll discuss in a moment, I believe this is dangerous and shortsighted on the part of the City, and I hope you'll join me in speaking out in support of red light cameras ASAP (the City Council will take this issue up in the next few days).

The Traffic Safety Coalition has already put together a petition for you to sign in support of the cameras, conveniently saving me the effort of having to create one myself. Please take a moment to sign here--I promise it won't take more than a minute, and it will help us send the right message to the City Council before it's too late. Do it now, I'll wait.

Finished? Okay, let's talk a little more about the issue of red light cameras in LA. As you're surely aware, red light cameras (aka RLCs) spark some serious, and often misinformed, vitriol. Setting aside the more ludicrous arguments against the cameras (sorry, nothing in the US constitution protects your "right" to run a red light), there are legitimate questions regarding their effectiveness. Here are a few of the latest studies on the subject:
Each shows that there are indeed reductions in crashes at intersections where RLCs are installed, though the studies acknowledge that in some cases the total reduction is diminished due to increases in particular types of collisions.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Let Congress know that you support Complete Streets

The National Complete Streets Coalition is gathering support for H.R. 1780, the Safe and Complete Streets Act of 2011. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives on May 5 by Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Steven LaTourette (R-OH).  It directs state departments of transportation and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to write and adopt Complete Streets policies. H.R. 1780 supports the work of over 200 Complete Streets policies at the local, MPO and state level by ensuring a comprehensive approach across jurisdictions for safe streets for all, regardless of age, ability, or chosen mode of travel.

You can use this easy online tool to send a message to your representatives showing your support for HR 1780. It only takes a minute, I promise!

Monday, May 9, 2011

America Walks Wants Your Opinion

America Walks has created a survey to help gather better information about walking habits throughout the country. The survey is open until June 3--but why not do it now? Here are all the details from America Walks:

Help America Walks and its partner organizations learn more about who walks, and why we walk. This survey will take only 5 minutes to complete and results are anonymous.

The National Walking Survey will help walking advocates understand what motivates avid walkers and what prevents others from walking more. The difference between those who are "avid walkers" and the more "reluctant walkers" is not well studied. How effective is encouragement from relatives, health professionals, employers, others? What can we learn about the messages that actually get someone afoot and those that don't? When someone has a choice of walking or not, is a dog or human companion the motivator to take the trip on foot? How crucial are factors like destinations within walking distance, pleasant and safe surroundings? Or is the difference between those who walk more and less a matter of available time or other demographics? The National Walking Survey is a start in answering these crucial questions. Take the survey; share the National Walking Survey!

When the data is analyzed, America Walks will publish what we've learned so all walking advocates can be more targeted in their work to promote walking in America.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Your Very Own Crosswalk: Final Steps

First of all, many thanks to Grist and Planetizen for promoting this series, I hope it's helpful to my fellow crosswalk lovers out there.

In the previous step, I talked about gathering support from other groups and individuals who could help champion your cause. To finish up, let's move on to:

Step 8: How do I apply pressure?
Now that you've gathered the details you need to make your case, rallied your supporters, and identified the people you need to influence, you can begin the real work of advocacy. Successful advocacy strategies could make up an entire series in itself, so I'll only offer a few thoughts here.

First, publicize your case. This could mean anything from starting a facebook page, to contacting your local paper (Tip: you don't have to focus just on the big news outlets. Many communities have their own small, but influential, papers), to holding a rally or walk-in at your crosswalk location. The more outlets you use to raise awareness the better.

Second, use your contacts. Follow up regularly with the contacts you've met at the staff and elected level within your jurisdiction. By this I do not mean calling and/or emailing every hour, or even every day. You're looking for the happy medium between calling often enough that your contacts realize you're serious, and calling so much that they want to set fire to their phone whenever they hear your voice on the other end. This can be a fine line. However,  unless there's immediate urgency I suggest that a follow up call or email every few weeks to a month is sufficient.

Third, use your supporters. It's important to demonstrate to decision-makers that you are not the only one who cares about this crosswalk. Some options include asking your fellow advocates to sign a petition, having them contact their elected official to indicate their support (the simplest thing is for you to draft an email yourself, and provide it to others to copy and send out themselves), or asking them to testify at a public meetings.

That last one is particularly important, because one of the most critical things you can do as a crosswalk advocate is to attend meetings and testify. I will not sugarcoat this: public meetings are long, boring, and often occur at inconvenient times. However, they're the way things get done here in our fair country, and if you're serious about your crosswalk you're going to need to attend them.

You can start with meetings of your local community planning group (if you have one), but you'll also want to show up at meetings of your city council or county supervisors. Even if your crosswalk is not on the agenda, you can use the period at the start of the meeting (when the public is allowed a short time to provide testimony on off-agenda items) to promote your cause. I also suggest doing this for crosswalks on state roadways, as your local elected officials can help you pressure folks at the state level.

I don't have to remind you of my earlier warning to avoid costumes for these hearings, right? You might think that dressing in head-to-toe zebra print will really hammer home the advantages of installing a zebra crossing, but I promise you that it does not help your cause to be known as "Zebra Man" in your city's sacred halls. Ditto on any overly-aggressive speeches (yelling, name-calling, finger-pointing). Also, be aware of any time limits that are placed on public testimony, and draft your speech accordingly.

Finally, be patient. The public process is many things, but "fast" is not one of them. Continue to use your contacts, rally your supporters, and apply pressure to the appropriate decision-makers. Also, be aware that your jurisdiction may not have the ability to fund any new crosswalk projects in the current fiscal year. Because of this, even with the full support of staff and elected officials, you might still have to wait many months before action can be taken. (Towards that end, you may want to time your advocacy to the period when budget decisions are being made. Often this is in the early part of the year, a few months before the start of the new fiscal year in July.)

Step 9: Enjoy your crosswalk
If all goes well, your efforts will pay off and you'll soon be admiring the sparkle of bright white lines against asphalt. Congratulations!

And if not? The reality is, even the best advocacy doesn't guarantee results--particularly not in today's fiscally-crunched world. But even if your work doesn't result in the crosswalk of your dreams, don't let it go to waste. Continue to build relationships with the staff and elected officials you've met. Maintain contact with your supporters. You've managed to establish yourself as a smart leader who's serious about improving pedestrian conditions in your community, and you shouldn't waste that political capital. Instead, use it to continue to work towards enhancing your neighborhood's walkability--because there's always another crosswalk out there that could use some stripes.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Your Very Own Crosswalk: Followers of your Footsteps

Step 7: Who else can help me?
As I mentioned yesterday, elected officials respond well to angry mobs (well fine, I didn't exactly say it that way), as do the other folks you need to help you with your crosswalk quest, like planners and engineers. In other words, now is the time to seek out other members of your community who are just as excited about getting a crosswalk installed as you are. You could really start this step at any time, but I've put it here because by this point in the process you should have a pretty good idea of what you need to do to make your crosswalk a reality, and you can share those specific needs with your new supporters.

And who are these supporters? Well, you have a lot of possibilities. Sadly, the impetus to install a crosswalk is often a serious crash, so you may already have the injured person (or their friends and family) rallying behind you. But where else can you look for people to champion your cause? Here are some ideas:
  • Your local pedestrian advocacy group - For a list of groups in the US and elsewhere, check out the Pedestrian Advocacy Groups page
  • Your city's pedestrian coordinator - Not every jurisdiction has one of these, but more and more are devoting a full-time staff person to pedestrian and bike issues
  • Regional governments or Metropolitan Planning Organizations - Even if your city doesn't have a ped/bike coordinator, your regional government may have someone devoted to non-motorized transportation policy
  • Neighborhood planning committees - Many communities, especially in larger jurisdictions, have town councils, community planning groups, or similar organizations who deal with neighborhood-level planning issues. Your elected official or city staff person can help direct you to these groups, if they exist
  • Chambers of commerce and business improvement districts - Explain to these groups how walkability promotes economic development in the community
  • Your local Safe Routes to School coordinator - The Safe Routes to School National Partnership can point you towards a coordinator in your region
  • Your neighborhood school or PTA - Staff and parents are often eager to support pedestrian-improvement projects, particularly when they're along designated school walking routes
  • The health advocacy community - You know that walking is good for your health--and so do people who work in the health policy field. For example, here in California you can find groups of promotoras within the Latino community, community leaders who work as lay health advisors to promote walking and pedestrian improvements (among many other issues) 
  • Non-profit organizations - Your city may have an organization dedicated to promoting complete streets, alternative transportation modes, or "green" living. They've probably logged a lot of advocacy hours themselves, and may be able to provide you with contacts or advice that can help your cause
  • Your neighbors - This group should really be first on the list, as you're unlikely to get far if everyone else who lives in your neighborhood hates the idea of a new crosswalk. Spend a little time chatting with the boy or girl next door--even if you can't gain their support, you'll hopefully prevent local backlash
I'm sure there are others that could be added to this list, but at this time of night my brain has about run its course. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments section.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Your Very Own Crosswalk: Stepping Through the Politics

As promised, a continuation of last week's guide to gaining a marked crossing in your neighborhood.

Step 6: How do I cut the red tape?
Remember how I said you had other options if you weren't getting anywhere with the local bureaucrats? Here's where the politics come in.

An important thing to understand is that while theoretically government employees are there to serve members of the public like you, it's the politicians who are their real bosses.Often a local traffic engineer will politely listen to your crosswalk request...and then just as politely blow you off for the next three months (or years). However, if that same request comes from a councilmember's office, it's almost guaranteed to get some immediate attention.

The trick here is for you to gain the ear of the politician, which is easier to do than you might think. Elected officials keep their jobs by demonstrating that they're responsive to their constituents, so it behooves them to pay attention to what you have to say. (Just remember my tips from Step 1 on being polite--and sane. The same rules apply here.)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Your Very Own Crosswalk: A Step-by-Step Manual

So you're staring out your window, watching cars race by your local street corner, and suddenly it hits you: "We need a marked crosswalk there!" You grab your phone and as your fingers aim towards the dial pad something else hits you: "I have no idea who to call about this."

For a lot of would-be pedestrian advocates the journey to a crosswalk ends right there because, and I say this as someone who works in one, nobody in their right mind wants to wade into the swamps of a murky local government bureaucracy voluntarily. You might never get out.


I occasionally turn the corner at work and run across some lost soul who just wanted to renew their food handlers permit back in 1983 and has been at the civic center ever since.

But it doesn't have to be that hard--or at least, that confusing. To help you out in your endeavours, I've put together this handy guide to help you turn your favorite crossing from plain pavement to pedestrian paradise. (One caveat before we begin: I've tried to keep this as generic as possible, but since every city/state/country's government is organized a little differently, I can't guarantee I've covered all potential scenarios. Hopefully this will at least give you a starting point.)

Photo courtesy of Streetsblog 

Step 1: Why are we doing this again?

If you're serious about getting a crosswalk installed in your neighborhood, you need a convincing argument for installing it--and by convincing I don't mean generic or self-serving complaints like "people in my neighborhood drive too fast" or "I hate having to walk an extra block to cross the street." These may be legitimate problems, but remember that yours is only one of hundreds of similar requests your city receives. To make yours rise to the top you need to:
  • Be polite - This can be a frustrating process, but rudeness gets you nowhere but the trash can. Letters to your city beginning "Dear pea-brains" does not further your cause (plus they get boring after a while). Along these same lines, ranting letters in ALL CAPS do not endear you to the folks whose help you need.
  • Be sane - Now is not the time to bring up conspiracy theories, aliens, or explicit pictures. Ditto on the chicken/bloody corpse/traffic light costume
  • Get data - Can you spend an hour counting how many people try to cross the road on a typical afternoon? Calculate how many schoolchildren use the crossing to get home? Find out the number of past crashes at your location? The more detailed information you have to demonstrate that there is a problem at your crossing, the stronger your argument becomes
  • Gather support - From your neighbors, your PTA, your local pedestrian advocacy organization (more on this in Step 7)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Advocate for Safe Routes to School

Our favorite local Safe Routes to School advocate Jessica Meaney needs support for the Los Angeles Citywide Safe Routes to School proposal, which will be heard before the full city council this Friday.

From Ms. Meaney:
"The proposed Strategic City-Wide Safe Routes to School Plan funded by the Measure R local return pedestrian set-aside for $1.2M. LADOT staff is recommending using collision data to prioritize the city’s efforts and develop a meaningful approach to making communities in the city more walkable and bikable for kids and parents on their way to school (see staff proposal here). Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition and the Safe Routes to National Partnership are recommending that the City also use socio-economic data in the prioritization as we know that children and their families in low-income communities suffer a disproportionate burden of disease and injury.

A citywide strategic Safe Routes to School plan will allow the City to prioritize and methodically address making it safer for students to walk and/or bike to school, as well as ensure Safe Routes to School funds succeed in Los Angeles, leverage additional resources, and address and improve transportation policies."

Attend the hearing yourself, or sign on to the letters of support using the links here.

Overcoming opposition to narrow streets

Recently the Strong Towns Blog published an amazing post laying out the key arguments for narrower streets--and how to make them in a language public safety officials will understand. Here's an excerpt:

1. Public safety, including fire protection, is very important.

We acknowledge this is a critical issue. People want to and need to feel safe in their homes. We also acknowledge that we sometimes actually undervalue fire protection, at least until it is our house on fire. Providing a high-level of protection, including reducing response times, is a community priority.

2. As budgets are tightened, we are forced to make choices in how we provided local services.

Unfortunately, the state of our public budgets is forcing us to make some very difficult choices. And we can see, in communities across the country, that many are opting to reduce fire fighting capabilities, including force reductions and extending the life of equipment further than it should be. These are dangerous precedents to set in what are likely early rounds in a long, multi-year budget crisis.

3. If we stick with the current approach, we may have wide streets, but we won't be able to afford to maintain them, or even pay for the fire department to drive on them.

The amount we spend on our fire department is dwarfed by the amount we spend on maintaining our roads and streets -- or would be spending if we were actually maintaining them. This is the elephant in the room, the thing we never talk about. We have chosen to invest in a pattern of development that is prohibitively expensive to maintain, and it is crowding our the other parts of our budget.

Pretty great, huh? You can read the full post at the Strong Towns Blog here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cool Ped Stuff # 7: Photovoice

I love this project, sponsored by Safe Kids Worldwide, that handed cameras to kids in seven differnt countries and asked them to document the pedestrian environment in their neighborhood. Many of the problems that children identified in Photovoice: Children's Perspectives on Road Traffic Safety were addressed in subsequent roadway improvement projects, leading to safer walking for kids worldwide. What a great lesson for children about the power of pedestrian advocacy.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's PEATON MAN!

Yes, the Pedestrians' Super Hero ( "Peaton" is "pedestrian" in Spanish) has taken an extra long walk from Ecuador to Spain to help promote pedestrian rights in Sevilla, and our friends at Peatones de Sevilla (Sevilla Pedestrians) have put together this short film about his efforts. For the non-Spanish speakers, I've thrown in a translation after the jump.