Monday, May 31, 2010

Walking in Washington (and elsewhere)

Safely back from a whirlwind jaunt through the greater DC (anything within two hours of the city counts as "greater DC," right?), I have a few pics of my many, many walking excursions to share. First, I was happy to note the tremendous number of marked crossings, many with some kind of distinct paving treatment:

On the othe hand, much of the marking--like much of the sidewalk--was brick. As we learned in a previous post on sidewalk materials, given enough time, water, and/or tree roots, brick can become seriously difficult to navigate.

You'd think the founding fathers would have kept that in mind when they designed this street near the capitol building, but I suppose trip and fall lawsuits weren't such a prominent issue when you were in the middle of building a nation.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pedestrian Advocacy Part 2: Safety First

I'm checking out walking in the Washington, D.C. area this week, so until I have time to report on what life on foot looks like on the East Coast today, here's some info on what life on foot was like at the turn of the last century--and how it led to some of the first pedestrian advocacy groups.

The first organized groups to promote pedestrian safety formed in response to the increasing prevalence of automobiles on city streets. Some of the groups, like the Long Island Highway Protective Society established in 1902, were independent associations. However many, such as the Society for Political Study’s Committee for the Prevention of Reckless Driving and Street Accidents and the Safety First Federation of America’s Street Traffic Committee, were part of larger civic organizations. Often at odds with increasingly powerful motorist lobbies, these groups pushed for greater regulation of drivers and motor vehicles, including the adoption of speed limits, the installation of traffic signals, stricter enforcement of roadway rules, licensing requirements, and competence exams for drivers. They also argued for the creation of uniform traffic laws, including laws to protect pedestrians at crossings. Safety organizations paid particular attention to educating children, who were accustomed to using city streets as their playgrounds, about roadway safety.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Walking is GOOD

Intrepid blogger Ryan Bradley takes a long walk through Los Angeles and pens (er...types about) his experiences in this miniseries from the folks at GOOD. "Could it be that this western cow-town, this place that's synonymous with self-reinvention, is reinventing itself?" he asks. Let's hope so...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cool Ped Stuff #6: Parklets

Count on San Francisco to come up with a program that turns Pavement into Parks (and on Streetfilms to make a movie of it):

Inspired events like Park(ing) Day and New York's pedestrian plazas, the joint effort of the mayor's office, public works and planning departments, and the MTA creates temporary mini parks in unused (and often unusable) patches of public street right-of-way. Although the parks are currently dismantled after an intial trial run, the idea is to make the most popular ones permanent fixtures in the SF streetscape.

What I really admire about this idea (aside from the improvements to the pedestrian environment, of course) is its brilliant political strategy. Putting up a "temporary" park bypasses much of the bureaucracy and political finagling that would be required to build a permanent park. Once the temporary park is place, people fall in love with it. Suddenly there is a group of park supporters who will help fight to make the park permanent--a group who probably never would have existed if the temporary park hadn't been built in the first place. In other words, sometimes the only way to get a good idea implemented is to put the proverbial cart in front of the horse...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pedestrian Advocacy Part 1: First Steps Along a Footpath

Since I've been working on a paper about pedestrian advocacy in the developing world recently (more on that later), pedestrian advocacy groups have been on my mind a lot lately. One thing that's always baffled me about pedestrian advocacy is how, despite the fact that virtually everyone walks at some point in the day (even if it's only from the couch to the fridge), it's hard to get pedestrians to think of themselves cohesive group the way bicyclists or runners or even transit riders do. Why don't pedestrians self-identify? This is one of the questions that inspired me to research pedestrian advocacy, and while my paper went in a different direction, along the way I learned some pretty interesting stuff about the history of pedestrian advocacy. Who knows, maybe it can provide some insight that will advance the cause of walkability. Even if it doesn't, I thought it was worth sharing...

Those of you who read my post about the history of sidewalks might recall that London was responsible for introducing the first sidwalk in the late 1700s, so it should come as no surprise that the UK was also the birthplace of pedestrian advocacy. Right about the same time that the new-fangled "sidewalk" was making walking easier within British cities, foot travel in more rural parts of the country was becoming more difficult. Historically citizens had been allowed access through private lands along designated public footpaths. But an 1815 Parliamentary act allowed magistrates to close those paths they considered “unnecessary.”