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

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pedestrian Advocacy in the Developing World

And now, after cleverly peaking your interest in pedestrian advocacy through this series of posts (part 1, part 2, part 3), I can finally crow about my own research on the subject. Truly motivated readers can check out the full article in the latest issue of Transportation: Theory and Application, but for the rest here's a quick summary:

Last year, after scouring the internet for every ped advocacy group I could find, I spent some time reading the websites and surveying the leaders of seven pedestrian advocacy organizations in low- and middle-income countries (thank goodness Google translate does Bulgarian). Some of the interesting findings:
  • Not surprisingly, pedestrian advocacy is a relatively new phenomenon in the developing world; most groups were only formed in the last five years.
  • Safety is the top concern for most groups, but issues of social justice/equity, health, and traffic congestion are also important
  • Most groups are funded entirely by private donations, unlike those in the US and Europe that supplement private funding with government monies, corporate grants, and even consulting fees
  • Technology plays a big role in the groups' outreach efforts; many have blogs, websites, email lists, and online forums. While a great (and cheap) source way to promote walking, these sources might not reach the poorest walkers, who likely don't have computer access.
  • Many group members serve as technical "experts" on government transportation projects. On one hand, this a great way for the groups to make their voices heard. On the other, that local governments don't have any internal pedestrian experts does suggest that walking isn't the government's top priority...
If you'd like to learn more about these groups or their work you can check out their websites on the Pedesrian Advocacy page.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pedestrian Advocacy Part 3: Building Momentum

Here's the final installment of my series on the history of pedestrian advocacy. As we learned in part 2, pedestrian advocacy gained steam during the 1920s and 30s, as advocates concerned about pedestrian safety fought for measures such as vehicle speed limits, traffic signals, and sidewalks. However, as vehicle ownership rates grew and cars became the primary mode of transportation for more and more people, pedestrian advocacy gradually fell by the wayside. For a time, the UK's Pedestrians Association was the only voice for walkers around the world.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pedestrian Advocacy Part 2: Safety First

I'm checking out walking in the Washington, D.C. area this week, so until I have time to report on what life on foot looks like on the East Coast today, here's some info on what life on foot was like at the turn of the last century--and how it led to some of the first pedestrian advocacy groups.

The first organized groups to promote pedestrian safety formed in response to the increasing prevalence of automobiles on city streets. Some of the groups, like the Long Island Highway Protective Society established in 1902, were independent associations. However many, such as the Society for Political Study’s Committee for the Prevention of Reckless Driving and Street Accidents and the Safety First Federation of America’s Street Traffic Committee, were part of larger civic organizations. Often at odds with increasingly powerful motorist lobbies, these groups pushed for greater regulation of drivers and motor vehicles, including the adoption of speed limits, the installation of traffic signals, stricter enforcement of roadway rules, licensing requirements, and competence exams for drivers. They also argued for the creation of uniform traffic laws, including laws to protect pedestrians at crossings. Safety organizations paid particular attention to educating children, who were accustomed to using city streets as their playgrounds, about roadway safety.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pedestrian Advocacy Part 1: First Steps Along a Footpath

Since I've been working on a paper about pedestrian advocacy in the developing world recently (more on that later), pedestrian advocacy groups have been on my mind a lot lately. One thing that's always baffled me about pedestrian advocacy is how, despite the fact that virtually everyone walks at some point in the day (even if it's only from the couch to the fridge), it's hard to get pedestrians to think of themselves cohesive group the way bicyclists or runners or even transit riders do. Why don't pedestrians self-identify? This is one of the questions that inspired me to research pedestrian advocacy, and while my paper went in a different direction, along the way I learned some pretty interesting stuff about the history of pedestrian advocacy. Who knows, maybe it can provide some insight that will advance the cause of walkability. Even if it doesn't, I thought it was worth sharing...

Those of you who read my post about the history of sidewalks might recall that London was responsible for introducing the first sidwalk in the late 1700s, so it should come as no surprise that the UK was also the birthplace of pedestrian advocacy. Right about the same time that the new-fangled "sidewalk" was making walking easier within British cities, foot travel in more rural parts of the country was becoming more difficult. Historically citizens had been allowed access through private lands along designated public footpaths. But an 1815 Parliamentary act allowed magistrates to close those paths they considered “unnecessary.”

Monday, April 26, 2010

Walking Events in May

This month promises a bundle of walking excitement for pedestrian-oriented Angelenos. I hope to be able to make it down from my perch in Ventura to be able to attend a few of these events.

May 1 and 2 - Jane's Walk
I posted earlier about Jane's Walk USA, an annual series of neighborhood walks that teach people about urban planning and introduce them to their community (especially the parts that they might not notice while gazing out of their windshields). This year there are two walks planned for the LA area, one in the MacArthur Park neighborhood and one in downtown Los Angeles. You can find more info on the Jane's Walk website here.

May 4 - Safe Routes to School Southern California Conference Call
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership is holding its first SRTS Southern California Network conference call on May 4. The key purpose of the call is to start bringing people, resources and knowledge together to improve walking and bicycling for children and families in Southern California. Everyone is welcome to join in the discussion.

The call will take place May 4 from 12:00 to 1:00 pm. The Conference Call Conference Dial-in Number is (218) 862-1001 and Participant Access Code is 1009315# (*6 mutes/unmutes the call).

May 12 - Metro 2010 Pedestrian Symposium: Walking into the Future City
This event will explore strategies to increase travel options and create sustainable, healthy, livable communities. Participants will learn the latest information on critical pedestrian planning issues and engage in an essential and pertinent dialogue about the future of our communities.

The symposium is scheduled from 8:30am – 3:30pm and will be located in the Board Room at Metro Headquarter, One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012. To learn more and RSVP to the symposium, visit the webpage here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Jane's Walk USA

I recently learned about this international event honoring the Jane Jacobs, the author of the Death and Life of Great American Cities and generally awesome urban planning thinker (and wearer of surprisingly cool glasses, see below).

What better way to honor an urban planner than by walking around a city? Jane's Walk USA is an annual series of neighborhood walks that teach people about urban planning and introduce them to their community (especially the parts that they might not notice while gazing out of their windshields). Begun in 2007 by a set of Jane's friends, the walks can be led by anyone with an interest in planning, walking, architecture, or other social issues facing city residents.

As the groups website describes "Jane’s Walk honors the legacy and ideas of urban activist and writer Jane Jacobs who championed the interests of local residents and pedestrians over a car-centered approach to planning. Jane’s Walk helps knit people together into a strong and resourceful community, instilling belonging and encouraging civic leadership."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Thank you Ray LaHood

Yesterday Transportation Secretary LaHood announced on his blog (all the cool people have them these days) the "end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized." This major policy revision from the FHWA includes several key recommendations:

  • Treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.
  • Ensure convenient access for people of all ages and abilities.
  • Go beyond minimum design standards.
  • Collect data on walking and biking trips.
  • Set a mode share target for walking and bicycling.
  • Protect sidewalks and shared-use paths the same way roadways are protected (for example, snow removal).
  • Improve nonmotorized facilities during maintenance projects.

It's great to see leaders at the top of the transportation world recognizing that people who travel on two feet deserve exactly the same treatment as people who travel on four wheels. Here's hoping that whole bit about treating walking and biking equally extends to funding...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Upcoming Events: Street Summits on Two Coasts

Angelenos and others in the SoCal region can check out STREET SUMMIT 2010: Biking, Walking and Beyond! this Saturday (March 20) at the LA Trade Tech College from 10:00 am - 5:00 pm. Participants can learn about Sidewalk Politics, Reclaiming Streets for People, and Changing Communities Through Walkability Assessments. More information and registration is available on the Street Summit webpage.

Folks on the opposite side of the country are invited to the Chittenden County Bike/Ped Summit on March 27 at the McCarthy Arts Center from 8:30 am to 12:45 pm. On the agenda are sessions about advocacy and behavior change, safe routes to school, bicycle commuting, and a keynote address from Mary Collins, author of American Idle: A Journey Through Our Sedentary Culture. More information is available here.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Transportation For America: Take Action

Transportation for America is heading to DC this week to advocate for Rep. Earl Blumenauer's Active Community Transportation Act (H.R. 4722). This bill would create a $2 billion competitive grant program to fund safe networks for biking and walking, and it needs your support.

You can find more information on the Active Community Transportation Act here, along with links to send a message to your representative asking them to co-sponsor the bill.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Today's Disheartening Quote

"When did it become the responsibility of the federal DOT to build sidewalks?" asked Missouri Senator Kit Bond during today's transportation appropriations hearing (full story here on Streetsblog).

How about: around when we realized how much treating the obesity epidemic, driven in part by our auto-centric society, costs us? Or, when we discovered how expensive it was to deal with the health and environmental impacts of relying only of vehicles to get around? When we saw how many pedestrians are killed or injured each year in traffic crashes? When we learned that poor walkability contributes to serious social and economic disadvantages for people who can't drive or can't afford a car?


Monday, February 22, 2010

Hollywood Walk Audits - Feb 25 and 27

This week the Hollywood Community Studio is hosting two hour-long walks for people interested in making Hollywood a more walkable place to work and play.

For the uninitiated, a walk audit is a short walking survey of a neighborhood to evaluate the area's pedestrian friendly (or unfriendly) features. Walk audits focus on all aspects of the walking environment, including sidewalks, crosswalks, street furniture, landscaping, lighting, adjacent buildings and other elements that contribute to the pedestrian environment. Often hosted by local pedestrian advocacy groups, walk audits can the the first step in a process to improve community walkability. The great thing about walk audits, aside from the fact that they get people out walking in their neighborhood, is that they provide planners and community leaders with data on the pedestrian enviroment that might not otherwise get collected in a typical traffic study.

"Auditors" often use checklists to help evaluate the walkability of a neighborhood. Here are a couple of examples that you can use in your community:
Partnership for a Walkable America
City of Los Angeles

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

You know it's a big deal when Oprah gets involved

Yes, Lady O has joined the fight against distracted driving, as we learn here on her webpage--where you can even take the No Phone Zone Pledge along with her other fans.

The nice thing about Oprah's campaign is that there's none of this half-hearted, mixed-signal, we-know-you-can't-spend-20-minutes-out-of-touch-because-heaven-forbid-you-allow-yourself-time-to-think-so-here-have-a-bluetooth-device stuff to muddle things up. As one of her guests put it, "It's not where your hands are, it's where your head is."

Okay, so it's a clear message, and it's in the interest of pedestrian safety, and even the DOT is all over it...and boy is it hard. I spent my entire 55-minute drive home contemplating whether or not I could bring myself to cut the wireless phone cord. (Yes, I realize that it is only because I wasn't on the phone that I had 55 minutes to contemplate this.)

The thought of losing out on all that convenient chatting time seems horrid, and I'm only marginally moved by the example of people like Oprah and Ray LaHood who are probably driven everywhere by someone else and don't even have to deal with this issue.

Nonetheless, as a good pedestrian advocate I'm going to stop ignoring the clear evidence of the dangers of distracted driving and give it a try. I'll let you know how the experiment goes.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Demanding the Right to Walk

Here in the US we tend to think of walking as a sustainable, healthy form of transportation. But is it also one of our fundamental human rights? The pedestrian advocacy group The Right to Walk Foundation in Hyderabad, India believes so. The group recently filed a petition with the State Human Right Commissioner alleging that city officials' refusal to address walkability concerns in Hyderabad constitutes aviolation of citizens' fundamental rights to education, work, an adequate standard of living, and freedom of movement and residence.

The petition calls for six changes to pedestrian policy in Hyderabad, such as the implementation of manned pedestrian crossings, clear demarcation of sidewalks and a "no encroachment" policy, and the requirement that all government employees travel to work using non-motorized or public transportation at least one day a week.

I especially like that last suggestion--but I think it ought to be extended to politicians as well.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Happy International Walk to School Day!

Grab a kid and join the nearly 3,300 schools across the country who are participating in walking events today. Here's a rundown of some of the fun activities kids in LA area schools will take part in.

Serrania Elementary in Woodland Hills
Classes will track walking routes to count how many kids walk and bike to school today.

Edison Elementary in Burbank
We will have parent volunteers stationed at each corner outside our school handing out Clif Bars, Twisted Fruit snacks, WTS pencils, water, activity sheets, etc. to promote walking to school. Participants will sign a WTS banner. We are looking to create a 100 Mile club to promote fitness at our school throughout the entire year.

Robert F. Kennedy Elementary in Compton
Students, parents, teachers, and other staff will be walking from opposite directions to school. A special breakfast will be provided and nutrition and physical activity pamphlets will be given out once on campus. Incentives will include cookbooks, pens, and jump ropes. Those walking will have posters and banners promoting healthy living.

Repetto and Ynez Elementary in Monterey Park
Repetto and Ynez School's administrators, teachers, students and parents meet together at a nearby park. Our District's Network for a Healthy California, Monterey Park Fire Department and local city officials kick off the morning with an inspiring message as our schools begin walking to their respective schools. It's a great morning to "walk for health!"

Hermosa View Elementary in Hermosa Beach
We will be having meeting points along our safe walk to school routes to have kids meet and walk to school together. We will also encourage kids to decorate their shoes for walk to school day. We will encourage city officials to join us for our Walk to School Day to encourage our kids!!

La Mariposa Elementary in Camarillo
We are trying Walking School Buses this year. This event kicks off out Walk or Wheel Wednesday Program.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Then of course, there's this...

I'm not sure if the idea is to encourage or terrify, but at least it gets kids out on the street.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cool Pedestrian Stuff #2: Donkey Stickers

Living out the dreams of frustrated pedestrians everywhere, the Streetpanthers are a group of activists who have taken the job of enforcing pedestrian laws into their own hands.

Their work takes place primarily in Thessaloniki, Greece. Aside from maintaining a website, online forum, blog, and 1,800-member facebook page, the Streetpanthers roam the streets planting "donkey" stickers on vehicles parked in crosswalks, on sidewalks, and generally anywhere that interferes with pedestrians' ability to safely navigate the streets.

The stickers say something along the lines of "I'm a donkey, I park where I want and ignore the rights of pedestrians"...though from what I gather the original Greek might not be quite so polite.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Pedestrian Blog? That's so...pedestrian.

I'll admit that walking isn't the most glamorous mode of transportation out there. Compare a sneaker to a maglev train, or a lear jet, or even one of those goofy segways: it just doesn't have that much caché. But to quote Enrique Peñalosa, one of my favorite ped activists (and a pretty snazzy politician to boot),

"God made us walking animals — pedestrians. As a fish needs to swim, a bird to fly, a deer to run, we need to walk, not in order to survive, but to be happy."

The problem is that the way we've built our cities and transportation systems generally makes walking a very unhappy activity. Our streets are dangerous, polluted, congested, and just plain ugly. And on top of it all, there's rarely a place for the poor, persecuted pedestrian to walk to.

But this blog is going to change all that.

Okay, maybe my eyes are a little too big for my flip-flops. After all, this is "Where the Sidewalk Starts" not "Where the Sidewalk is In Place Along All Major Streets and is Connected By Thoroughly Signed and Marked Crosswalks With the Occasional Median Refuge Thrown In As Appropriate." But as they say, every great journey begins with a single step (love those walking cliches!). Consider this step one.