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.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cool Ped Stuff #6: Skinny Streets

Who could resist a story (from Grist) that starts with a headline like that? It led me to the blog of photographer and self-proclaimed urban planning geek David Yoon, who passes the time creating pictures of what LA streets might look like on a road diet. Here's one example from Santa Monica, which shows how narrowing a street can transform it from pedestrian acquaintance to pedestrian friend. You can see more at Narrow Streets Los Angeles.

Friday, March 12, 2010

This Week Foot

This week began with a spate of nasty pedestrian crashes in my part of the world. First the Ventura County Star reported a Pedestrian, 33, struck and killed by car in Fillmore, then there a Buena student hit by car remains in critical condition. Happily, she seems to be improving--but not so happy was the story of Donations sought for Ventura boy's funeral expenses after a two-year-old was hit in a Ventura crosswalk.

Hoping to avoid a similar fate for her own child, Streetsblog describes how a Bay Ridge Mother Stirs Street Safety Awakening at Brooklyn CB 10 after she--and her empty stroller--were hit while walking to pick up her son from school.

They could use that kind of activism elsewhere in the world, like in Nigeria, where in Lagos there is such an Urgent Need to Rehabilitate Ketu Pedestrian Bridge that pedestrians are forced to scurry across a busy four-lane road because it's "safer" than using the overpass.

Of course, the Nigerians almost seem to have it good compared to the Frail pensioner forced to take 14-mile bus ride when she wants to cross the road, who appeared in various blog posts this week.

With all the negative news out there, a little humor was in order. Enter this story: Romanian Residents Amused By Drunken Pedestrian Sign.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sidewalk Materials: What Are You Walking On?

Not only did this recent post from the Infrastructurist make me realize that there are blogs about absolutely everything out there, it got me thinking about what we use to build our sidewalks.

Concrete is the most common choice, as it meets several key criteria for sidewalk design: it's cheap, durable, and slip-resistant. On the other hand, it's pretty boring to look at and--a factor that's becoming increasingly important as stormwater runoff regulations become more stringent--it's impervious.

In the past bricks and similar decorative pavers have been used to spice up the look of sidwalks, but cobbled surfaces can be difficult to navigate for folks with disabilities (not to mention those of us who wear high heels). As an alternative, the FHWA recommends stamped concrete or concrete pathways with brick trim. WALKArlington has been working with that Virginia city on a similar "field and border" design concept that relies entirely on textured concrete slabs with a smooth concrete border.

Then there's the issue of permeability. With pavement covering so much of our urban surfaces, it's important to finds materials that allow water to drain directly into the ground. The City of Olympia in Washington state has been installing pervious pavement in projects throughout the city since 1999. Although pervious concrete sidewalks are more expensive than traditional sidewalks, they can significantly reduce overall construction costs by eliminating the need for expensive "stormawater controls" adjacent to roadways (see the full report on Olympia's pervious sidewalks here).

The uber-green may opt for rubber sidewalks, another porous option, made entirely recycled tires. My knees are particularly intrigued by the proponents' claim that the flexible rubber surface is more comfortable to walk on. Sounds cushy to me.