Tuesday, March 2, 2010

WalkSanDiego 2010 Gala

San Diego pedestrian advocacy group WalkSanDiego has announced the date of its annual Gala and Golden Footprint Awards ceremony. The Gala, honoring Lemon Grove Mayor Mary Sessom and other award winners to be announced, is a great opportunity to mingle with other pedestrian advocates and learn about some of the important pedestrian work happening in California's most southern county. You can get more details on the website or from the event flyer.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Free FHWA Pedestrian Safety Webinar Tuesday

Date: Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Time: approximately 1:00-3:00 pm Eastern Time (that's 10-12 am for those of us on the west coast)

The Details: This webconference will focus on tools for improving safety. There will be two presentations and discussions.

Dan Nabors (of VHB) will discuss Pedestrian Road Safety Audits (PRSAs). Case studies and programs such as Montgomery County, Maryland’s PRSA program will be highlighted. Montgomery County’s PRSA program includes an innovative funding mechanism, a before and after study, and has resulted in numerous engineering, enforcement, and education safety countermeasures.

Sarah Weissman (of the Transportation Safety Resource Center at Rutgers University) will discuss “Plan4Safety,” a multi-layered decision support tool and program created for the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT). Plan4Safety identifies crash hot spots, integrates statewide crash data, roadway characteristic data, calculates statistical analyses, incorporates network screening layers and models, and includes visual analytical tools (GIS).

You don’t need to register. Just follow below instructions:

Select “enter as guest,” type your name in the space provided, then click on
“enter room”


Phone: 800-988-0375, passcode *:* 8220909

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

Saturday, February 20, 2010

This Week on Foot

It seems like we've been hearing a lot lately about the dangers pedestrians face in inclement weather, and this week is no exception. First, in Maryland there was a Pedestrian killed on Branch Avenue while avoiding snowy sidewalks (proving why it's so important to clear the sidewalks and the roadways after a storm). Then, in Montreal Snow removal trucks kill 3 pedestrians.

Even though they rarely have to worry about snow, Seattle bicyclists and pedestrians were hoping for increased safety from proposed legislation that would have increased penalties for drivers who hurt or kill "vulnerable" road users. Unfortunately, the 'Vulnerable Users' bill dies in state Senate -- but supporters promise to bring it back again.

At least pedestrians in New York got some good news this week when they learned that Broadway pedestrian plazas made permanent, NYC might create more . The popular car-free spaces in central Manhattan have not been without controversy, but during their eight-month pilot period they were popular enough to convince Mayor Michael Bloomberg to keep the plazas in place.

Other cities around the world are considering implementing similar projects. Pedestrians to reclaim Queen Street in Brisbane, Australia, and a Bus terminus at Valletta to make way for pedestrians in Malta.

Abu Dhabi is also working to make its streets more pedestrian friendly, where a new street design manual explains Narrower lanes will cut speeding . Maybe they'll let us borrow it to use in LA?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Enjoy the Walk

Michelle Obama isn't the only one with a campaign to encourage physical activity.

Tipped off by a story last week in the Ventura County Star, I learned about an ambitious walker named George Throop who is traveling from Vancouver, Washington to Washington, D.C. on foot in the hopes that his example will inspire others to "Walk 20 Minutes Today." Guessing that anyone who had already walked through three states would have something to say about walkability, I caught up with George and his current walking buddy (Colin Leath from Santa Barbara) over the weekend.

First, the obvious question: why walking? George explained that he chose walking because it was something that pretty much anyone can do; it doesn't take expensive equipment or special training to walk. He also wanted to keep his message direct. Instead telling people to do something vague like "exercise more," George decided to focus on one simple lifestyle change: walk 20 minutes a day for better health.

Then there's the community-building aspect of walking. People who walk in their neighborhoods every day get to know their community and their neighbors. Their eyes are out on the street instead of inside houses or cars, leading to safer communities. Plus, placing an emphasis on walking helps to generate demand for pedestrian infrastructure and the political will that it takes to push for pedestrian-friendly communities.

George is realistic about what walking can accomplish in terms of people's health. He acknowledges that walking 20 minutes a day won't prevent all health problems, but he believes it can increase awareness about preventative health. He hopes that walking 20 minutes each day will create some momentum in people's lives, moving them towards a healthier lifesytle overall.

So how is it out there? George says that walking conditions have been mostly good so far. Many neighborhoods have sidewalks, particularly in middle class areas (though they often lack curb ramps). However, in poorer neighborhoods the sidewalks are often run down--or nonexistent. Interestingly, sidewalks are also missing from many of the the wealthier communities George has traveled through ("maybe they're inside the gates?").

Some of the most challenging walks have been along rural roads, such as Box Canyon Road in Simi Valley, which aren't built to allow pedestrian access. Highway 1 along the California coast, with its many blind curves, was also a dangerous stretch--although George points out that the good thing about walking is that you can generally hear cars coming early enough to get out of their way. However, George explains that freeways have been the biggest barrier to walkability he has encoutered. He's often confronted by freeways without a pedestrian crossings, forcing him to take long and time-consuming detours.

With his neon yellow safety vest and bright signs advertising his trip, distracted driving hasn't been much of a problem for George yet. On the contrary, he is often the distraction. George explains that drivers regularly veer towards him while trying read his signs, quickly correcting themselves when they realize what they're doing.

Not surprisingly, both George and Colin agree that walking across the country is different that traveling by other modes. George explained that the more you slow down, the greater the experience--which is partly why he has moved the finish date of his trip from June to November. Colin, who has already completed a cross-country bike trip, finds walking more social than other modes. He notices that people are more likely to stop you with questions--or even join the walk for a block or two--when you travel at "human speed."

This week you can find George and Colin walking through Los Angeles along Wilshire Boulevard. After they cross they city, they'll cut north to Glendale and follow Interstate 10 east to Phoenix, El Paso, and eventually the White House. George is hoping he'll be able to convince President Obama (and maybe the rest of the first family) to finish the last 20 minutes of the walk with him.

You can learn more about George and his walk on his website: http://www.enjoythewalk.org/.