Saturday, April 10, 2010

This week on foot

New Jersey, where a New Law Says Stop, Not Yield, for Pedestrians, continues to be in the pedestrian safety spotlight this week. The goal of the law, which requires drivers to stop completely once a pedestrian enters a crosswalk or face a $200 fine and 15 days of community service, is to eliminate ambiguities about driver behavior and Protect Pedestrians in crosswalks.

The Pacific Coast Highway could certainly use some of that protection, where this week Authorities seek witnesses to Malibu crash that killed pedestrian. The crash was the second pedestrian fatality in Malibu in the past month.

At the New York auto show this week Volvo revealed one potential solution to pedestrian safety: New Volvo S60 brakes automatically if it detects pedestrians. The vehicle is just one of a growing number of cars that are taking pedestrian safety out of the hands of drivers--a trend that I would like to see a lot more of (and not only because I have a running bet with my husband over whether or not we'll see cars that drive themselves entirely in our lifetime).

Of course, there are other options for improving pedestrian safety, as we learned in this nice Streetsblog feature about Making Streets for Walking: Dan Burden on Reforming Design Standards (e.g. if we want people to drive slowly then we need to--I know, this sounds crazy!--design roads that make it uncomfortable to speed). The piece focuses on the new street design publication recently released by the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the Congress for New Urbanism: Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context Sensitive Approach .

Now if they could only do the same thing for parking lots like this one in Hattiesburg where there was a Pedestrian hit in Wal-Mart parking lot...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Bunny Fiasco

Angelenos have probably already heard about last week's controversy over Glendale's Easter-themed crosswalk sting, in which an officer dressed in a rabbit suit repeatedly crossed an unmarked crosswalk to see if drivers would yield to the "pedestrian" as required by law. The police department justified the decision to use the costume by explaining that such an unusual outfit would be more noticeable (clearly they should have read my post explaining that even funny outfits don't catch the eye of distracted drivers).

The sting earned the Glendale PD a lot of publicity...not to mention the ire of at least one city councilmember, who blasted it for being "dangerous" and a waste of city resources. It got me thinking about these types of operations (e.g. crosswalk stings, pedestrian marches, etc) and whether or not they actually advance the pedestrian cause.

We know that spot enforcement can be effective at reducing bad driver behavior like speeding--for a while. But improvements tend to dwindle rapidly once the officers pack up and move to another location. What does linger on, in my opinion at least, is the resentment and bad feelings towards pedestrians that the enforcement generates. Do you think that any of the 24 Glendale motorists who were cited because they failed to yield to a bunny are going to feel enthusiastic about pedestrian rights in the future? I suspect not.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Jane's Walk USA

I recently learned about this international event honoring the Jane Jacobs, the author of the Death and Life of Great American Cities and generally awesome urban planning thinker (and wearer of surprisingly cool glasses, see below).

What better way to honor an urban planner than by walking around a city? Jane's Walk USA is an annual series of neighborhood walks that teach people about urban planning and introduce them to their community (especially the parts that they might not notice while gazing out of their windshields). Begun in 2007 by a set of Jane's friends, the walks can be led by anyone with an interest in planning, walking, architecture, or other social issues facing city residents.

As the groups website describes "Jane’s Walk honors the legacy and ideas of urban activist and writer Jane Jacobs who championed the interests of local residents and pedestrians over a car-centered approach to planning. Jane’s Walk helps knit people together into a strong and resourceful community, instilling belonging and encouraging civic leadership."

Thursday, April 1, 2010

ITS Berkeley Transportation Seminar Series

Courtesy of the UCLA Transporters email list...

Friday, April 2, 2010

4 - 5 p.m. in 512 O’Brien

Rick Shaw
Professor, Graduate School of Business, Leland Stanfurd Junior College

A Life Cycle Analysis of Pedestrians

Abstract: It has become a mantra among transportation engineers and urban planners that our cities should be more “walkable”. However, a detailed cradle to grave study of the economic, environmental, and social impacts of pedestrianism challenges such orthodoxy. First, an historical survey reveals that innovation in perambulation technology has stagnated over the last several millennia. Additionally, a fiscally driven life cycle analysis of sneakers and automobiles reveals that the former has a markedly negative impact on global economic growth when compared to the latter.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Distracted Driving Update

I'm over a month in to my anti-distracted-driving quest. Aside from the rare 30-second call to my husband to tell him I'm on my way to pick him up from work, I've managed to keep off the phone pretty consistently so far.

My biggest complaint has been missing out on all that talking time during my 2-hour commute (I haven't been calling my mom as much lately, I think she's worried), and I have been tempted give in and allow myself hands-free conversations while driving on the freeway. But then I saw this (you might have seen other versions floating around on the internet).

It reminded me of the recent study showing that people talking on cell phones were so absorbed in their conversations they missed a unicycling clown...and reminded me to stick with my no-talking-at-all-while-driving rule.