Showing posts with label Innovation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Innovation. Show all posts

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.

    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. 

    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    "Street Smart" Walk Score

    This week I've been playing around with Walk Score's new "Street Smart" version, which is currently in beta testing mode. Some of the key changes proposed with the new version:
    • Replacing "as the crow flies" distances with actual walking routes
    • Including block length and number of intersections in the walk score calculation
    • A clearer breakdown of how different amenities (nearby restaurants, banks, etc.) factor into the score
    Despite the fact that my score dropped five points with the new version, I'm still pleased with the upgrade. I appreciate that Walk Score ditched the whole "as the crow flies" approach. This type of analysis is more complicated to do, but infinitely more meaningful, since most of us don't do our walking on wing. I also really like that block length and number of intersections are included in the score now. One of my biggest beefs with my neighborhood is the absurdly long blocks that constantly force me to either a) risk my life by racing across a six-lane road or b) walk well of my way to find a safer crossing. Combined with the lack of intersections (the steep hills and unfortunately-placed 101 make for some serious disconnects), running a simple errand or walking to the coffee shop can take twice as long as it would in a more walkable neighborhood.

    The added transparency in Walk Score's calculations of amenity value is also helpful, although it emphasizes some oddities in the algorithm. Example: in my neighborhood Walk Score only picks up the small Jewish market down the street as a "grocery store," somehow missing the two major chains across the street. Also, does anyone really think The Tux Place deserves much recognition as a walkable shopping outlet?

    Others have questioned the high value assigned to nearby coffee shops (Walk Score's creators are from Seattle after all) and books, not necessarily amenities that everyone enjoys walking to. Personally, I would advise wrapping those categories into shopping and restaurants, while creating a new category for "services" that covers pharmacies, hair and nail salons, yoga studios, optometrists, and post offices--all of which I walk to in my neighborhood.

    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    Your Guide to Twalking

    In this short video, LA Times technology writer Michelle Maltais explains new smartphone apps that use in-phone cameras to allow users to see the pavement beneath their fingers as they text and walk (aka "twalk"). Given all the hype over pedestrians' inability to safely use their phones and walk at the same time, perhaps there's something to these applications. On the other hand, they do little to stop texting drivers from mowing down unsuspecting walkers. So let's not get too excited.

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    My Other Favorite Pocket Park

    I've been meaning to blog about this park in San Diego's Little Italy neighborhood for ages. It's been around for 10 years or so, but I doubt many people walking down India Street would realize it's there--which is maybe what I like the most about it. Here's the view from the sidewalk:

    I'm sure most people passing by assume that this leads to a private building entrance or someone's office, and in part they would be right; the park is actually a "quasi public" space meant to serve as open space for some adajacent apartments, as well as a park for general use.

    It's not too inviting at first, but go a few feet further and suddenly you're presented with this:
     And this!
    I think it's these kind of surprises that make walking such a great mode of transportation. There's a sense of discovery that you just won't ever get with a car (because you go to fast to take in the finer details of a neighborhood) or even transit (with its set routes and rigid schedules). And in the interest of promoting that kind of exploration, I'm not going to tell you exactly where this park is. You'll just have to take a walk and find it for yourself.

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    The Case of the Mysterious Pocket Park

    When I first moved to my neighborhood, I would often pass this cactus garden on Topanga Boulevard and marvel at the creativity of the people who chose such a unique landscaping scheme for their yard. Were they industry people who had a bunch of leftover props from a Western shoot and didn't know what to do with them? Cactus lovers with a lot of spare time on their hands? Then, not too long ago, a strange thing happened.

    The yard started growing.

    First it moved to the median separating the parking on Topanga from the road.
    Then in crept to the other side of the street and took over the bus stop.
    Soon it made it all the way down the road to an adjacent parkway.

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    SCAG Ped Planning Goes 2.0

    For those of you who dream of writing a Regional Transportation Plan (or is that just me?), SCAG has finally given you a chance with its new Bike Ped Wiki. Just create a user profile, sign in, and you're free to add your own thoughts, edits, pictures, and any other content you can come up with to the wiki, which will ultimately be incorporated into the official plan next summer. The kind folks at SCAG have populated the pages with some content to get you started, but the rest is up to you.

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    CicLAvia Reviews

    With apologies for my shameful lack of promotion for this event, a few recaps of Sunday's transformation of seven miles of downtown LA streets into a bike/ped paradise:

    LA Times
    For a few surreal hours Sunday, the car was stripped of its crown in Los Angeles and pavement was turned into playground.

    Streetsblog LA
    CicLAvia touched hundreds of thousands of people, even if it were just that they heard laughing on their streets instead of cars honking their horns.
    While a majority of participants used the chance to cycle between East Hollywood and Boyle Heights via a variety of neighborhoods like downtown and MacArthur Park, others used it to dance, have a game of dodgeball or tennis, do yoga, make art, or go for a run.
    Curbed LA
    People were talking, waving, and smiling at each other. Families, hippies, hipsters, artists, activists, old people, kids, all sorts of religious people in their headgear....
    I might have made it to the epic event, if it wasn't such an epic journey to LA proper from the Valley, but I've heard nothing by rave reviews and am hoping that this sparks some interest in a similar event in other places in the city (like, I don't know, Woodland Hills?).

    Monday, September 27, 2010

    Streets for Feet

    Kudos to the Hollywood Community Studio (and especially my friends Jessica and Kristen) on the success for their Streets for Feet park project. A lovely way to celebrate this month's carfree activities (Park(ing) Day, International Carfree Week, etc), the project shut down two blocks of Hudson Avenue in Hollywood and turned it into a pedestrians-only space complete with cafe tables, plants, sidewalk art--and of course, hula hoops. With land for park space at a premium, creative projects like this can use existing resources to give Angelenos the parks they deserve (and of course improve neighborhood walkability.

    As Jessica Cowley explains:

    I think the demonstration project was a great way to start a dialogue with community members about open space, and get folks to think about how we might be able to make our streets into spaces for more than just cars....everyone I spoke to had positive things to say about the project, from residents of the Hillview (the big pink apartment building that fronts one side of Hudson) to visitors from Denmark, who were pleasantly surprised to find a pedestrian plaza in what they see as a very car-centric city.

    You can get the full wrap-up of the project, including results of the community survey and (more) photos from the HCS website.

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Sidewalk Redefined

    In this compelling recent article, Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris and Reina Ehrenfeucht describe the downfall of sidewalks in the US, and suggest how planners might bring them back to life. They identify five essential purposes of sidewalks:

    Movement This one's pretty self-explanatory. Sidewalks are how pedestrians move from one place to another.

    Encounter Sidewalks are the places where you meet people: people you know, people you don't know, and people you might not want to know. And sometimes, this purpose of the sidewalk trumps the "movement" purpose, as in when a street fair temporarily closes a pathway to normal traffic. As the article describes, sidewalks are where, "Spontaneous and planned festivities break the rhythm of everyday life and give collective expression to people’s joy, sorrow or aspirations."

    Confrontation Not every activity that takes place on a sidewalk is comfortable. Rallies and protests, sit-ins, or even talking loudly might be distruptive or violate social norms. Still, the authors' believe that these activities should be accomodated on "democratic" sidewalks.  

    Survival We don't always like to dwell on it, but for some people the sidewalk is "home," and the only place where they can carry out the ordinary activities of daily life (eating, sleeping) that the rest of us more commonly do indoors. Sidewalks are also, often controversially, the places where some people like street vendors or day laborers go to earn a living.

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    Cool Ped Stuff # 9: Guerrilla Crosswalks

    LA has DIY parking spaces and sharrows, Greece has Donkey Stickers, and as Treehugger reports Sao Paolo, Brazil now has its own band of guerrilla street improvers aimed at improving conditions for Brazilian pedestrians. Armed with white paint, they cleverly waited until no local traffic engineers would be paying attention (i.e. during World Cup games featuring Brazil) to paint crosswalks and "Slow Down" signs at dangerous intersections around the city.

    I can almost feel the collective shudder as city attorneys simultaneously cringe at the liability issues this raises.

    Photo courtesy Treehugger/Urban repair squad @ Apocalipse motorizado

    Friday, September 3, 2010

    Worldwide Walking: Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala

    I won't pretend that Latin America doesn't get a lot wrong when it comes to its pedestrian environment, but one thing I do appreciate about the region is its abundance of mixed-use streets. Unlike the here in the US, where we've spent decades working hard to ensure that pedestrians stay in their proper place (preferably, within a car) and vehicles have the road to themselves, pedestrians still have a valid place on many South and Central American streets. When done correctly (i.e., with an eye towards ensuring pedestrian safety), this can lead to a lively, jubiliant street atmosphere. I'll start with one of my all-time favorite pictures of pedestrians taking the street for themselves:

    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Worldwide Walking: Tokyo

    Inspired by a recent webinar from the PBIC on pedestrian safety lessons from around the world, I wanted to share my own walking images from afar. This week I'll innundate you with some of my favorites from Asia, Europe, and (of course) Latin America, starting with my visit to Japan in 2008.

    You might already have heard of their amazing bullet trains, but it turns out Tokyo outdoes us in just about all things transportation (and don't get me started on disaster preparedness). Some of my favorite pedestrian-friendly features were this series of pocket parks. What was surprising about them wasn't their diminutive size (given that space is at a premium in the city), but how much they could pack into a small space. Makes you think about what we might be able to do with the right-of-way if we cut down our oversized roadways.

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    A new fix for local sidewalks

    You may recall the hullaballoo that ensued earlier this year when the City of Los Angeles considered discontinuing its longstanding practice of paying for sidewalk repairs. Even though state law places the burden of sidewalk maintenance on adjacent property owners, LA took over responsibility in the early 70s after it received a hunk of federal funding for sidewalks. Now that the funding has run out, the City is looking to slither out of the sidewalk repair business.

    Not only does this irritate property owners, who have gotten used to the City taking charge (however slowly) of sidewalk fixes, it raises issues related to accessibility under the Americans with Disabilites Act. The federal courts have ruled that ADA regulations, which stipulate equal access to the mobility-impaired, require local jurisdictions to maintain their sidewalks in good repair.

    And how will cash-strapped cities like LA afford to do this? Donald Shoup (of The High Cost of Free Parking fame) offers one suggestion in the most recent issue of Access: point-of-sale sidewalk repairs.

    Thursday, August 19, 2010

    Walk Score Gets Even More Awesome

    This week your friendly neighborhood walkability evaluator Walk Score launched some great new features to help you evaluate where you live (or where you might want to live). The new Transit Score ranks a location based on transit availability, considering stop locations, frequency, and type of service. So far the service is only available in a few dozen cities, but will hopefully expand as more transit date becomes available from local agencies.

    Walk Score has also integrated info from Google Maps to help you evaluate your commute options with the new Commute Report tool, which lists travel times between locations by foot, bike, car, and transit (where available). There's even a handy elevation map for those of us who like to know just what kind of walk/bike commute we're getting ourselves into.

    The Commute Report also uses Center for Neighborhood Technology's Housing + Transportation Affordability Index to estimate combined housing and transportation costs for your location, which is important because transportation costs can put a serious dent in the affordability of neighborhood. Not that anyone was thinking Woodland Hills was affordable, but it was discouraging to see that on average transportation costs in my area are 11 percent higher than the average for the region.

    You can get more details from the Walk Score Blog.

    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.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    Enjoying the Walk Through Texas

    A few months ago I introduced you to intrepid walker George Throop, who is walking across the country in an effort to inspire Americans to walk at least 20 minutes each day. When we left him George was just starting his trek through Los Angeles. Since then, he's made it through the rest of California, Arizona, and part of Texas, where he's paused for a summer hiatus in order to avoid serious desert walking in serious heat (smart call, George). Here's a few of his observations from the trek, but you can follow the whole journey on his website here.

    Interestingly, riding a bicycle on I-10 is legal, but walking is prohibited. This poses a significant challenge for anyone wishing to walk across America via the southern route. Though I'm for walking on city or frontage roads as much as possible, occasionally the freeway is the best option, despite the dangers. Arizona Highway Patrol booted me from I-10 just a few miles short of Benson. They told me I could continue on the freeway till Benson, but that from there, I'd have to find another way. I did find alternatives through the rest of the state. I walked some miles on I-10 once I reached New Mexico.

    From El Paso, I'll be heading back into NM, to Alamogordo and then across on Hwy 82. This will take me through some mountains-- so it's better that I'm doing this now and not in the winter.

    The desert part of the walk has been challenging-- especially given that it's now heating up considerably. That said-- I'm happy it hasn't reached 100 degrees yet. (93 in El Paso tomorrow.) I've loved it though-- what a fantastic first-time-in-the-SW-desert experience it's been!