Monday, November 9, 2009

Newsflash: Walking is still dangerous

In the newly released study Dangerous by Design, Transportation for America ranks metropolitan areas across the US by its "Pedestrian Danger Index" (calculated by dividing the annual pedestrian fatalities in each area by the percentage of people who commute to work on foot). Just for kicks, they also throw in rankings for pedestrian and bicycle spending.

At this point you probably expect the obligatory rant about LA's low spot on the spending list, or at least an astonished exclamation about how the top 10 most dangerous cities are all in the south.

Sorry, but I've got other things to complain about today.


1. Census data undercounts pedestrian trips. This is because the census only allows respondents to check one box next to the "how did you get to work today" question. It's a silly system since at least part of every trip is made on foot--even if it's just a walk through a parking lot. (Unless, of course, you're carried to work in a litter. And if you are, please let me know how I can get a job there too).

2. Census data only includes commute trips. At last count, those made up just over 15 percent of total travel in the US. So, we're in the dark about 85 percent of the trips Americans take, many of which could be walking trips.

3. Biking and walking are not the same. I'll save my polemics on the inevitable, illogical grouping of these two barely-related modes for another day. But I would like to point out that funding data nearly always combines the two, so we rarely know how much money is spent on pedestrians alone.

With so many data problems, rankings like Transportation for America's don't tell us much about the state of the pedestrian world. But they should remind us that if we're going improve walkability, we need a far better understanding of what's going on out there. If we can do it for freeways (and for the record, Caltrans does), we can do it for sidewalks.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

This week on foot

It's been a rough week for pedestrians.

In Scotland, vehicles just can't seem to keep their tires out of the town of Thurso's pedestrian zone. Drivers abusing pedestrian area

Then, in Austria a Pensioner dies after avoiding zebra crossing. Note the not-so-subtle laying of blame on the pedestrian, who carelessly crossed a full five meters away from the designated crosswalk. No mention of the driver who carelessly hit her.

It just goes to show, Even on a sidewalk, pedestrians must be wary--or at least they should be according to the Texas jury that refused to award damges to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle while walking on the sidewalk because he admitted he "hadn't been paying attention to the cars around him." Which would make sense. Because he was on the sidewalk.

And if you think Texas is a tough place for pedestsrians, consider Ohio, where we learn of Youngstown's plans to demolish pesky pedestrian bridge. Maybe that will get rid of those pesky pedestrians.

Of course, bicyclists in LA are getting their share of jabs also:
Bicycle ire from cyclists, motorists and pedestrians. And then there's cycling on the sidewalk...

At least London has something to cheer about. London Pedestrians Cross at New Japanese-style "Scramble Crossing"

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

LA 2.0 - December 5, GOOD Think Space

Do your friends and family refuse to listen to your latest pontification about the sad state of our city's streets? Want to spend some time with a bunch of people who don't suddenly remember other important things they have to do when you mention the words "smart growth"? Check out the upcoming think tank sponsored by GOOD Magazine, Sheridan/Hawkes, and the Public Studio.

The plan is to spend an afternoon inter-disciplinary collaboration, emerging with "a list of the top five catalytic strategies to improve the physical urban environment of Los Angeles." All the juicy details are available here.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Piano Stairs

Setting aside the somewhat suspicious fact that this project is sponsored by a car company, I like the "theory" that making walking fun will encourage more people to do it. Of course, that's the entire premise of walkability: creating pleasant pedestrian environments makes people want to walk. Obviously we aren't going to integrate musical instruments into every sidewalk (or could we?), but we can provide street furniture, trees, art, and other elements that lend foot travel panache instead of tedium.

Pedestrian injured in Oak View

A pedestrian was seriously injured in a crash on Sunday evening in the Oak View community, the Ventura County Star reports. The 32-year-old victim was crossing North Ventura Avenue outside of a marked crosswalk when he was hit.