Showing posts with label Research. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Research. Show all posts

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Walking and Access to Jobs

A newly-released report from the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota ranks the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the US based on accessibility to jobs on foot. According to Access Across America:Walking 2014, New York has the highest job accessibility by walking. As you can see by the map below, there are hundreds of thousands of jobs within walking distance in Manhattan and the surrounding neighborhoods, but the entire region provides fairly good access to jobs on foot.

Compare New York to San Diego, where even the densest neighborhoods can't offer many jobs within easy walking distance.

The study will provide a basis for future work on walking and employment access. According to the authors, "Using this data as a starting point, future reports in the Access Across America series will track the way that accessibility in these metropolitan areas evolves in response to transportation and safety investments and land use decisions." It's important to have a baseline; one the big challenges in pedestrian advocacy is simply a lack of data about walking. With studies like this, we'll have a better understanding of existing conditions for pedestrians, which can help us determine how to effectively improve walking conditions.

You can find the full ranking of cities in the report, but here's the top ten:

1. New York
2. San Francisco
3. Los Angeles
4. Chicago
5. Washington
6. Seattle
7. Boston
8. Philadelphia
9. San Jose
10. Denver

And one last map, for people who continue to insist that LA is only for driving. Take a look at all of that green and yellow...

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, April 17, 2013

Will Pedestrian Countdown Signals Suffer the Same Fate as Marked Crosswalks?

A recent study from University of Toronto PhD student Sacha Kapoor and Arvind Magesan evaluated the impact of installing pedestrian countdown timers at various intersections throughout Toronto over a four-year period. After much parsing of data, the study concluded that installing countdown signals resulted in a five-percent increase in crashes versus intersections without the special signals. But there are nuances to that conclusion:
"The data reveals starkly different effects for collisions involving pedestrians and those involving automobiles only. Although they reduce the number of pedestrians struck by automobiles, countdowns increased the number of collisions between automobiles. We show that countdowns cause fewer minor injuries among pedestrians for every pedestrian on the road and more rear ends among cars for every car on the road."
Further, while the the countdown signals increase crashes overall, at the most dangerous intersections the installation of countdown signals reduced crashes and made the intersections safer.

Unfortunately, nuances don't fit nicely into a soundbite. If you scroll through headlines of recent stories covering this study, you'll see two themes emerge:
  1. Pedestrian countdown timers cause more crashes
  2. Pedestrian countdown timers safer for pedestrians, hurt drivers
Neither of these statements is false, but they also don't tell the whole story about the effects of the signals. More importantly, if you're a policymaker faced with a decision about whether or not to install countdown signals, they could easily lead you to the wrong conclusion. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New Pedestrian Research

The latest in pedestrian and transportation geekery:

Transport and Health Resource: Delivering Healthy Local Transport Plans
The Transport and Health resource was jointly commissioned by the Department of Health (DH) and Department for Transport (DfT) to support the development and delivery of health conscious Local Transport Plans throughout England.

Local Transport Plans (LTPs) are required to be assessed through Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) (European Directive 2001/42/EC) as an integral part of developing, appraising and later, delivering LTPs. Addressing human health is a key requirement of the SEA directive, and health impacts are also covered in the statutory duty to assess for the Impact on Equality, which will need to be carried out for all LTPs.

The Colorado Mile Markers: Recommendations for Measuring Active Transportation

The Project The goal of this project is to help decision-makers (leaders and practitioners) make informed actions regarding active transportation facilities and programs–and to monitor the results of such actions. There are many data collection approaches and indicators in use; there also remain substantial gaps in existing data and lack of standards. This report offers a recommendation for a robust monitoring system to provide decision makers with the information they currently lack and to make it comparable across geographic boundaries.

Smartphone-Based Travel Experience Sampling and Behavior Intervention among Young Adults

This research project aims to develop a data collection application that enables real-time tracking and reporting of the health-related impacts of travel behavior. Using computing, communication, and sensing capabilities of smartphones, an Android phone application was developed to collect real-time travel-related physical activity and psychological well-being data from phone users. The application was tested on multiple Android phones, among which Nexus S and HTC Magic were found to produce comparable physical activity outputs with the commercially available accelerometer. The application was further tested in a three-week field study for its viability for real-time data collection and behavior intervention against unhealthy travel behavior. Twenty-three young adults were recruited and randomized into intervention and control groups. Both groups were asked to install UbiActive on their phone and wear their phone on their right hip during all waking hours for three consecutive weeks. The intervention group was provided information on impacts of their travel behavior on physical activity and psychological well-being. No information was provided to the control group. After the field study, all participants were asked to complete a web-based exit survey that was comprised of questions about their general participation experience and specific concerns about the study design, application, compliance requirements, and privacy issues. Findings from the field study show that UbiActive has high potential in collecting travel-related physical activity and psychological experience data, but limited effectiveness in behavior intervention. Findings from the exit survey provide useful insights into potential improvement areas of the study and the UbiActive application.

The Safe Routes to School Program in California: An Update
Despite efforts to combat increasing rates of childhood obesity, the problem is worsening. Safe Routes to School (SRTS), an international movement motivated by the childhood obesity epidemic, seeks to increase the number of children actively commuting (walking or biking) to school by funding projects that remove barriers preventing them from doing so. We summarize the evaluation of the first phase of an ongoing SRTS program in California and discuss ways to enhance data collection.
Effect of North Carolina's restriction on teenage driver cell phone use two years after implementation
A majority of states now restrict teenagers from using a mobile communication device while driving. The effect of these restrictions is largely unknown. In a previous study, we found North Carolina's teenage driver cell phone restriction had little influence on young driver behavior four months after the law took effect (Foss et al., 2009). The goal of the present study was to examine the longer-term effect of North Carolina's cell phone restriction. It was expected that compliance with the restriction would increase, as awareness of the restriction grew over time. Teenagers were observed at high schools in North Carolina approximately two years after the law was implemented. Observations were also conducted in South Carolina, which did not have a cell phone restriction. In both states, there was a broad decrease in cell phone use. A logistic regression analysis showed the decrease in cell phone use did not significantly differ between the two states. Although hand-held cell phone use decreased, there was an increase in the likelihood that drivers in North Carolina were observed physically manipulating a phone. Finally, a mail survey of teenagers in North Carolina showed awareness for the cell phone restriction now stands at 78% among licensed teens. Overall, the findings suggest North Carolina's cell phone restriction has had no long-term effect on the behavior of teenage drivers. Moreover, it appears many teenage drivers may be shifting from talking on a phone to texting.

And even more!
Integrating Public Health and Transportation Planning: Perspectives for MPOs and COGs
Sharing the Road: Optimizing Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety and Vehicle Mobility
Promoting Active Communities in a Culture of Distracted Driving
Community-Based Participatory Research: A Strategy for Building Healthy Communitiesand Promoting Health through Policy Change

Monday, April 16, 2012

Pedestrian-Friendly Research

Vehicle Speed Impacts of Occasional Hazard (Playground) Warning Signs
The main objective of this study was to estimate the speed impact of occasional hazard (playground) warning (OHPW) signs along residential streets. Three types of data were collected at each of three study sites approximately one month before and one week to one month after the installation of a pair of OHPW signs. Vehicle speed data were collected with a pneumatic tube device. Manual observations were recorded, and focused on the magnitude and location of the on-street parking and park and/or playground activities occurring at the study sites. Linear regression analysis was used to estimate the change in mean vehicle speed associated with the presence of the OHPW signs, while controlling for the effects due to activity levels on the streets and the playgrounds. At one site the OHPW sign had no discernible effect on mean vehicle speeds, while at the other two sites mean vehicle speeds decreased by 1.5 mph and 0.9 mph following installation of the OHPW signs.

Evaluation of Alternative Pedestrian Control Devices
A literature review, field study of Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB) installations in Oregon, and a static survey on the sequencing of the Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon (PHB)/High Intensity Activated Crosswalk Signal System (HAWK) were completed as part of this study.

The field study conducted in this project was designed to compare side and overhead-mounted beacons and RRFBs. The field study results indicated that the environment surrounding the crossing has an impact on compliance and that the presence of a median can increase compliance.

The PHB study verified that drivers are confused about what these devices are and how they operate. For the first deployment of a PHB in an area, a public education program is recommended during the early deployment of the PHB.

The study includes guidelines for installation for each of these devices. The major recommendation is that RRFBs be installed on medians when side-mounted devices are considered and at locations with posted speeds of 40 mph or less unless additional features such as stripping, signing, and advance warning RRFBs are used.

Effect of Changes to the Neighborhood Built Environment on Physical Activity in a Low-Income African American Neighborhood
The authors  examined how changes in the built environment affected residents’ physical activity levels in a low-income, primarily African American neighborhood in New Orleans. The researchers built a 6-block walking path and installed a school playground in an intervention neighborhood. They measured physical activity levels in this neighborhood and in 2 matched comparison neighborhoods by self-report, using door-to-door surveys, and by direct observations of neighborhood residents outside before (2006) and after (2008) the interventions.

Neighborhoods were comparable at baseline in demographic composition, choice of physical activity locations, and percentage of residents who participated in physical activity. Self-reported physical activity increased over time in most neighborhoods. The proportion of residents observed who were active increased significantly in the section of the intervention neighborhood with the path compared with comparison neighborhoods. Among residents who were observed engaging in physical activity, 41% were moderately to vigorously active in the section of the intervention neighborhood with the path compared with 24% and 38% in the comparison neighborhoods at the postintervention measurement. This analysis shows that changes to the built environment may increase neighborhood physical activity in low-income, African American neighborhoods.

**And if all those weren't enough, TRB has posted a whole trove of "practice-ready papers"

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Crosswalks and Crashes: What we DO know

Adam Choit's short film about his attempts to get a crosswalk on Sunset Boulevard, and the LA DOT's subsequent response, have reminded us once again how easy it is for traffic engineers, policymakers, and others to blithely cite "studies" proving how dangerous marked crosswalks are without technically, to use a scientific phrase, "having the slightest clue what they are talking about."

Happily, a recent publication from the Oregon DOT includes a nice summary--with citations--of the latest research on crosswalks, pedestrian crashes, and what the research really shows:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pedestrian Research News

Time again to curl up with a cup of coffee and your favorite guilty pleasure: research papers! Or is that just me? / Dan Burden

Effects of Pedestrian Perceptions of Safety: An Examination of Pedestrian Crossing Behavior in Marked versus Unmarked Crosswalks

This study revisits the "false sense of security" argument often just to justify eliminating marked crosswalks. Using surveys and observations at marked and unmarked crosswalks, the study examined pedestrian attitudes and behavior towards crosswalk marking. Survey data collected showed many pedestrians believe they have the right of way only in marked crosswalks.When observing pedestrian behavior in three different crosswalk treatments, however, pedestrians surprisingly showed higher levels of cautiousness in marked crosswalks than unmarked crosswalks. These findings suggest that marked crosswalks do not give pedestrians a false sense of security or correlate with reckless behavior.

Neighborhood Crime and Travel Behavior: An Investigation of the Influence of Neighborhood Crime Rates on Mode Choice – Phase II

This report describes the second phase of a research study conducted by the Mineta Transportation Institute evaluating the impact of neighborhood crime on mode choice. While it has always been assumed that the threat of crime influences the decision to walk or ride a bike, there has been little research on the topic of neighborhood crime and travel.

The analysis in this study shows that high crime neighborhoods tend to discourage residents from walking or riding a bicycle. As the authors describe, "When comparing a high crime to a lower crime neighborhood the odds of walking over choosing auto decrease by 17.25 percent for work trips and 61 percent for non-work trips." The researchers also investigated the impact of neighborhood crime on the access portion of transit trips (walking, bicycling, or driving to a transit stop). They found that  this part of the transit trip is sensitive to neighborhood crimes, and that in high crime neighborhoods people forgo walking and bicycling in favor of driving to transit stations.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Preserving Mobility for Older Americans

My mom likes to say that being old isn't hard, but getting there is rough.

Not that she would know, of course.)

For many, one of the roughest parts of aging is giving up driving. Sacrificing the car keys also means sacrificing the freedom to go, comfortably, the places you want to go. As a new generation creeps into the "should you really be driving?" age group, it's no surprise that greater attention is being paid to the mobility needs of older adults, as with the newly-released white paper from AASTHO and TRIP Keeping Baby Boomers Mobile: Preserving the Mobility and Safety of Older Americans.

The paper offers a series of recommendations related to road design, education, licensing, vehicle design, and alternative transportation modes that aim to preserve older adults' ability to move throughout their communities on their own.

Unfortunately (though perhaps not surprisingly for a paper written by a highway association), several of the key recommendations do little to improve the overall safety of the road, and may in fact harm more vulnerable users like pedestrians and cyclists.

Let's begin by examining one of fundamental premises underlying these recommendations, that in the name of safety we must redesign our roads to accommodate older drivers. The paper emphasizes that older drivers are disproportionately represented in fatal crashes. This may be true, but that has more to do with these drivers' frailty than unforgiving roads. In fact, older drivers tend to self-regulate their driving (e.g. drive only during the day, choose "easier" routes), which largely negates the effect of decreased physical abilities on their driving skills.

And let's not forget that while older drivers may be likelier to cause a crash than other adults, the really dangerous ones are younger drivers. According to one RAND study, older drivers may be 16 percent more likely to cause a crash, but younger drivers are 188 percent more likely to do so.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Feeling the HEAT

For those of you who looking for a way to quantify the health benefits of walking or cycling (probably many of you, given the growing push for "measurable" results from new programs or projects), the WHO's online tool HEAT (the Health Economic Assessment Tool) can help you "conduct an economic assessment of the health benefits of walking or cycling by estimating the value of reduced mortality that results from specified amounts of walking or cycling."

HEAT is available here. To use it you'll need to provide:
  • An estimate of how many people are walking or cycling. 
  • An estimate of the average duration spent walking or cycling in the study population
  • Mortality rate
  • Value of a statistical life
  • Time period over which you wish average benefits to be calculated
  • A discount rate, if desired
While HEAT was primarily developed for European use, you can take a look at how some researchers in the US modified it for their use in this study.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Retrofitting the Suburbs to Increase Walking

This study by Marlon G. Boarnet, Kenneth Joh, Walter Siembab, William Fulton, and Mai Thi Nguyen examined travel patterns in eight neighborhoods in Los Angeles' South Bay region, comparing trends in "pedestrian-oriented centers" and "auto-oriented corridors" in an attempt to better understand what influences walking in suburban communities. The results have interesting policy implications for those of us who'd like to promote walkability in our neighborhoods.

Not surprisingly, people who live in pedestrian-oriented centers with "inwardly focused" street geometries walk more than those who live along auto-oriented corridors. The research showed that the number of businesses per acre is most strongly correlated with pedestrian trips, suggesting that "the key is not simply sales but a large number and variety of businesses in a relatively small area."

This led to a related question: can the residents and employees in pedestrian centers support the centers on their own, without "importing" outside customers? Interestingly, the answer was no. In the authors' words, "...pedestrian-oriented centers require a concentration of business activity larger than the local residents can support...people must drive from outside of the neighborhood to support the commercial activity that in turn encourages local residents to walk more."

What does all of this mean for those of us trying to create walkability? The authors offer several policy recommendations:
  • suburban regions should focus both on fostering pedestrian centers and on knitting those centers together with transportation networks
  • planners should promote the development of pedestrian centers by offering incentives such as density bonuses or the elimination of parking requirements
  • transit services should be tailored to the suburbs, such as shuttles between neighborhoods or even neighborhood electric vehicles
While recognizing that turning suburbs into walking meccas will be challenging, this research provides planners, advocates, and policy-makers some realistic suggestions for addressing what is sure to be a key challenge of planning in the next few decades.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Research and Resources

Wow, there is a whole bunch of great stuff out there these days for pedestrian advocates.
Model Design Manual for Living Streets
Courtesy of the County of LA, this new manual has been generating a lot of buzz in the Complete Streets world. More info from the authors:
"The Model Street Design Manual was created during a 2-day writing charrette, which brought together national experts in living streets concepts. This effort was funded by the Department of Health and Human Services through the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. This manual focuses on all users and all modes, seeking to achieve balanced street design that accommodates cars while ensuring that pedestrians, cyclists and transit users can travel safely and comfortably. This manual also incorporates features to make streets lively, beautiful, economically vibrant as well as environmentally sustainable."

American Council of the Blind Pedestrian Safety Handbook
The third edition of the Council's Pedestrian Safety Handbook, the new online version of the handbook is envisioned as a "living document" that can be updated on an ongoing basis to address evolving vehicle technology and roadway design feathers.

Pedestrian Countermeasure Policy Best Practice Report
A discussion of relevant policies related to medians, refuge islands, walkways and shoulders from several states throughout the US.
State Best Practice Policy for Shoulders and Walkways
A brief summary of three state departments of transportation (New York State Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Oregon Department of Transportation) that have implemented policies and plans that promote the inclusion of paved shoulders and walkways.
State Best Practice Policy for Medians
A short description of three agencies that have implemented policies and plans that promote the inclusion of raised medians: the New York State Department of Transportation, the Oregon Department of Transportation, and the Florida Department of Transportation.
Safe Routes to School: Helping Communities Save Lives and Dollars
A comprehensive discussion of the SRTS program, along with specific data covering a variety of areas (e.g. traffic congestion, busing costs, physical activity) to help advocates make the case for SRTS.
Street Network Types and Road Safety: A Study of 24 California Cities
This study uses data from over 130,000 crashes in 24 cities to evaluate whether or not street network types affect roadway safety. The results show a correlation between roadway safety and both street network density and connectivity, with the highest risk of fatal or severe crashes occurring with very low street network density, and safety outcomes improving as intersection density increases.

Predicting Walkability
This research provides new methodologies for predicting the quality of the walking environment from the perspective of the user using operational and physical variables. The formulas were derived by combining the perception data gathered from participants in the community street reviews with measurements of the walking environment.

The Street Level Built Environment and Physical Activity and Walking: Results of a Predictive Validity Study for the Irvine Minnesota Inventory
The Irvine Minnesota Inventory (IMI) was designed to measure environmental features that may be associated with physical activity and particularly walking. This study assesses how well the IMI predicts physical activity and walking behavior and develops shortened, validated audit tools.

The authors find that while this inventory provides reliable measurement of urban design features, only some of these features present associations with increased or decreased walking. Characteristics of the sidewalk infrastructure, street crossings and traffic speeds, and land use are more strongly associated with walking for travel, while factors that measure aesthetics are typically less strongly associated with walking for travel.

Crossing Solutions at Roundabouts and Channelized Turn Lanes for Pedestrians with Disabilities
This report explores concerns over the accessibility of two complex intersection forms for pedestrians who are blind: intersections with channelized right turn lanes and modern roundabouts with one-lane and two-lane approaches. Based on the findings of this research project, significant impediments to the accessibility of these sites exist for pedestrians who are blind, but some crossing solutions can increase the accessibility in terms of improving safety and reducing delay.
Assessing the perceived safety risk from quiet electric and hybrid vehicles to vision-impaired pedestrians
This study investigates the accident risk posed by electric and hybrid vehicles and compares it with that for equivalent vehicles with traditional internal combustion engines to determine whether electric/hybrid vehicles are audibly more difficult to detect. This report presents the findings from the study, based upon a review of accident statistics, a programme of practical measurements to compare the noise of electric/hybrid and internal combustion engine vehicles, and a small-scale subjective assessment of the noise from these vehicles involving visually impaired participants.

Reducing Pedestrian Delay at Traffic Signals
This research, which was carried out between 2007 and 2010 in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, used techniques such as pedestrian attitude surveys, micro-simulation modelling and a literature review of international best practice to identify methods of reducing pedestrian delay at signalized intersections in these cities.

Distracted Driving: What Research Shows and What States Can Do
This report reviews and summarizes distracted driving research available as of January 2011 to inform states and other organizations as they consider distracted driving countermeasures. It concentrates on distractions produced by cell phones, text messaging, and other electronic devices brought into the vehicle. It also considers other distractions that drivers choose to engage in, such as eating and drinking, personal grooming, reading, and talking to passengers.

Effect of 20 mph traffic speed zones on road injuries in London, 1986-2006: controlled interrupted time series analysis
This report quantifies the effect of the introduction of 20 mph traffic speed zones on road collisions, injuries, and fatalities in London based on analysis of geographically coded police data on road casualties between 1986-2006.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Research Summary

Making the Case for Investment in the Walking Environment
The UK-based organization Living Streets recently released a report that explores the potential benefits of investing in the walking environment. It outlines many of the well-known benefits of improving the pedestrian environment, including increases in physical and mental health, improved mobility for specific groups like children and the elderly, environmental and economic benefits.

Among the report's key points:
  • The most significant measured benefit of investments in the walking environment is improved health from increased physical activity
  • User experience (often referred to as journey ambience) is the second largest benefit
  • All the evidence reviewed of evaluations of walking environments showed positive cost benefit ratios, of up to 37.6
  • investment in the walking environment is likely to be at least, if not better, value for money than other transport projects
Attitudes Towards Red-Light Camera Enforcement in Cities with Camera Programs
The objective of this report, published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, was to obtain information on attitudes and experiences related to red light camera enforcement in cities with camera programs, as well as in Houston, Texas, where cameras were removed after voters rejected the program in November 2010. Telephone surveys were conducted with 3,111 drivers in 14 large cities (population greater than 200,000) with long-standing red light camera programs and 300 drivers in Houston.
According to the report, among drivers in the 14 cities with red light camera programs, two-thirds favor the use of cameras for red light enforcement, and 42 percent strongly favor it. The chief reasons for opposing cameras were the perceptions that cameras make mistakes and that the motivation for installing them is revenue, not safety.

Forty-one percent of drivers favor using cameras to enforce right-turn-on-red violations. Nearly 9 in 10 drivers were aware of the camera enforcement programs in their cities, and 59 percent of these drivers believe the cameras have made intersections safer.

Almost half of those surveyed knew someone who received a red light camera citation, and 17 percent had received at least one ticket themselves. When compared with drivers in the 14 cities with camera programs, the percentage of drivers in Houston who strongly favored enforcement was about the same (45 percent), but strong opposition was higher in Houston than in the other cities (28 percent versus 18 percent).
An Assessment of Urban Form and Pedestrian and Transit Improvements
A recent study from the Washington State Department of Transportation looked at the impact of various community design strategies on travel and carbon emissions. The study used data from the 2006 PRSC Houshold Activity Survey and existing sidewalk data in its evaluation, controlling for household characteristics that could influence walking behavior.

According to the statistical analysis in the study, travel pricing and demand management strategies yield consistently large and significant influence on VMT and CO2 generation. For example, filling in a community's sidewalk network so that 70% of streets offer safe pedestrian space reduces vehicular travel by 3.4% and carbon emissions by 4.9%. The analysis also suggests that only moderate increases in sidewalk infrastructure may be needed to yield significant decreases in VMT and associated CO2 emissions.

On the other hand, more aggressive and substantial increases in land use mix may be required before a greater return on investment is realized. Moreover, the authors make the important point that the success of strategies to promote land use mix and sidewalk availability may largely depend on having a local land use and transportation system to encourage alternative mobility options.

It's important to note that the study was hindered by a lack of sidewalk data for much of the region, so the results should only be considered a "first step"--albeit an encouraging one. Eventually the DOT hopes to expand the study when data from more neighborhoods becomes available.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dangerous by Design 2011

The transportation world is buzzing about Transportation for America's newly-released update to Dangerous by Design, which ranks the country's large metro areas according to their "pedestrian danger index." Florida tops the list, with Orlando in first place, followed by Jacksonville, Tampa, and Miami. Although Riverside comes in at number five, Southern California is happily underrepresented in the top 10...but don't go throwing away your personal pedestrian flags quite yet. Los Angeles is still ranked number 27, followed closely by San Diego.

The Transportation for America explains, the many dangers pedestrians face on our roadways work against efforts to improve American health by encouraging physical activity. As the report so morbidly puts it, "Americans get to pick their poison: less exercise and poor health, or walking on roads where more than 47,000 people have died in the last ten years." You can read the full report on the Transportation for America site here.
And if you're looking for some solutions to all the pedestrian problems the Dangerous by Design brings up, WalkSanDiego offers an antidote: Safe For All: 2011 Street Design Benchmark Study for the San Diego Region.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pedestrian Research Rundown

Hmm, perhaps that wasn't the best choice of titles for a pedestrian blog. At any rate, here's a summary of some of the latest in pedestrian research, for the academically (or not-so-academically) inclined:

Cost-Driven Injury Prevention: Creating an Innovative Plan to Save Lives With Limited Resources
Pedestrian injury costs $20 billion annually. Countermeasures such as blinking crosswalks can be expensive, but expectedly vital to injury prevention efforts. In this study, the researchers aimed to create a new framework of cost-driven surveillance using a detailed analysis of hospital costs and their relationship to location of pedestrian injury. Targeting identified “high cost areas” with effective countermeasures could save lives and be most cost-effective.

The researchers conducted an analysis of billing records of 694 auto versus pedestrian victims treated in San Francisco in 2004. Ninety percent of victims resided in San Francisco, and of 11 city districts, three districts accounted for almost 50% of the total cost.The total cost of injury was $9.8 million, 76 percent of which was publicly funded. Thirty-one percent of victims were admitted, and cost of their care accounted for 76% of the total cost.

Conclusions: These findings provide a roadmap to target costly hot spots for preventive countermeasures. In a climate of limited resources, this kind of roadmap highlights the areas that could most benefit from countermeasures from both an injury prevention and cost-containment standpoint. Cost-driven surveillance is useful in city strategic planning for cost-effective and life-saving pedestrian injury prevention.

Evaluation of Lane Reduction "Road Diet" Measures on Crashes
While potential crash-related benefits are cited by road diet advocates, there has been limited research concerning such benefits. This brief from the the FHWA summarizes a recent reanalysis of studies in Washington, California, and Iowa to compile crash data and gain a better understanding of the impact that road diets can have on crash rates.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Smorgasbord of Technical Studies

For all the transpo geeks out there (admit it, statistics make you drool), a rundown of the latest in pedestrian design and research:

Accessible Pedestrian Signals: A Guide to Best Practices
A 300-page tome that outlines everything you ever wanted to know about designing pedestrian signals for folks who are blind or have low vision. This guide clearly describes the many different types of accessible signals (e.g. tonal signals, messages, vibrotactile), explains design considerations, discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each, and (this I find especially helpful) explains how a blind or sight-impaired person would actually use the accessible signal in their everyday travel.

Best Practices in Traffic Operations and Safety: Phase II: Zig-zag Pavement Markings
After touring the world in search of effective safety measures not found in the US, highway officials came back with a dozen or so promising ideas to test out. One of these, installing "zig-zag" pavement markings on roadways with significant bicycle and pedestrian traffic, is intended to raise motorist awareness of vulnerable users, reduce roadway speeds, and decrease pedestrian and bicycle crashes. This study tests out the technology at two Virginia locations where the multi-use Washington and Old Dominion trail crosses a major roadway. The study showed that the markings were associated with lower driver speeds and a higher tendencies for drivers to yield to other users, although the unfamiliar markings did cause some confusion among roadway users, who weren't entirely sure of their intent.

Monday, January 31, 2011

NHTSA Releases 2009 Pedestrian Fatality/Injury Statistics

In its early release of its (ironically named) Traffic Safety Facts 2009 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides a trove of gloomy, if enlightening, statistics on pedestrian deaths and injuries in the US. Here's some of the info I found most interesting. All data comes from the NHTSA.

2009 Traffic Fatalities

You can see from this data that pedestrians constituted a pretty high percentage of the people killed in traffic crashes in 2009. It's hard to know if pedestrian deaths are disproportionately high, though, because we don't have good data about what percentage of trips are taken on foot.

2009 Traffic Injuries

This chart shows traffic injuries from crashes in 2009. What I wanted to point out here was the significantly lower number of pedestrians injured compared to the number killed. It almost sounds like good news, until you realize this discrepancy probably means that pedestrians are more likely to be killed than injured in traffic crashes. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Want to Avoid Dementia in Later Life? Take a Walk.

A longitudinal study of older adults (average age 78) released this month in the journal Neurology shows that walking at least 72 blocks a week, or six to nine miles, leads to greater volumes of grey matter--and less memory loss--over time. About 40 percent of study participants developed some form of dementia over the course of the study, but those who had more grey matter because of walking reduced their risk of cognitive impairment by two-fold.

So at least now we have some evidence that creating pedestrian-friendly environments is important for public health.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Factors Involved in Distracted Driving

This recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Distracted Driving and Driver, Roadway, and Environmental Factors, got me thinking once again about my efforts to cut down on my own distracted driving. As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I decided about 10 months ago to give up talking on my cell phone while driving. So far it hasn't been as bad as I expected. I find that I use to the time to ponder work problems, plan my schedule for the week, or just muse on life issues (when I'm not bopping along to cheesy country music, that is).

Thus, it was with great relief that I learned from this report that "distraction from internal sources was more common than distraction due to non-driving cognitive activities"-- or in plain non-academic speak, more people are distracted by stuff (or people) inside their cars prior to a crash than by just thinking, like I do. Phew.

Interestingly, despite our recent focus on distraction from electronic devives, "Among 14 internal sources of distraction, conversing with a passenger was the most frequently recorded source -- 17 percent...." The report goes on to warn that this doesn't necessarily suggest that passenger conversation was the cause of the crash, just that it was happening prior to the crash occurrence. So you don't have give up talking in the car just yet. And of course, phones aren't blameless in all of this--they're the second-mosts common distraction recorded. Not surprisingly, cell phone use was higher among younger and middle-aged drivers, and women--which likely reflects patterns of cell phone usage overall. And, if there's any good news to come out of the statistics, "Drivers mostly conversed on phone when there was no traffic flow interruption." So I guess at least people are using at least a little judgment in their phone habits.