Friday, June 11, 2010

This week on foot

As the summer sun heats up this week, so does the controversy over New Jersey's new pedestrian law that requires motorists to come to a complete stop when peds are in the crosswalk. A Long Beach Island businessman seeks repeal of N.J. pedestrian law, but Spot checks show motorists frequently ignore new crosswalk law at New Jersey shore.

Undeterred by the tepid acceptance of ped friendly laws in New Jersey, Streetsblog New York reports on a new law that is making its way through the NY state legislature. Hayley and Diego’s Law Clears State Assembly this week, and if passed it will make "careless driving" (i.e. running over vulnerable road users) a punishable offence.

It looks like Minnesota could use a similar law, where Kid Hit by Car at Pedestrian Crosswalk, but Police Don't Ticket Driver.

Of course, conflicts with vehicles aren't the only danger for walkers. In New York City, Pedestrians, Bicyclists Spar for Space in NYC's New No-Car Zones. Part of the City's efforts to reduce congestion, improve the environment, and encourage the use of alternative transportation, the zones have also had the unintended consequence of making travel difficult for bike messengers and other cyclists. Hopefully the hundreds of miles of new bike lanes proposed for the city will help alleviate the problem.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pedestrian Advocacy in the Developing World

And now, after cleverly peaking your interest in pedestrian advocacy through this series of posts (part 1, part 2, part 3), I can finally crow about my own research on the subject. Truly motivated readers can check out the full article in the latest issue of Transportation: Theory and Application, but for the rest here's a quick summary:

Last year, after scouring the internet for every ped advocacy group I could find, I spent some time reading the websites and surveying the leaders of seven pedestrian advocacy organizations in low- and middle-income countries (thank goodness Google translate does Bulgarian). Some of the interesting findings:
  • Not surprisingly, pedestrian advocacy is a relatively new phenomenon in the developing world; most groups were only formed in the last five years.
  • Safety is the top concern for most groups, but issues of social justice/equity, health, and traffic congestion are also important
  • Most groups are funded entirely by private donations, unlike those in the US and Europe that supplement private funding with government monies, corporate grants, and even consulting fees
  • Technology plays a big role in the groups' outreach efforts; many have blogs, websites, email lists, and online forums. While a great (and cheap) source way to promote walking, these sources might not reach the poorest walkers, who likely don't have computer access.
  • Many group members serve as technical "experts" on government transportation projects. On one hand, this a great way for the groups to make their voices heard. On the other, that local governments don't have any internal pedestrian experts does suggest that walking isn't the government's top priority...
If you'd like to learn more about these groups or their work you can check out their websites on the Pedesrian Advocacy page.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Enjoying the Walk Through Texas

A few months ago I introduced you to intrepid walker George Throop, who is walking across the country in an effort to inspire Americans to walk at least 20 minutes each day. When we left him George was just starting his trek through Los Angeles. Since then, he's made it through the rest of California, Arizona, and part of Texas, where he's paused for a summer hiatus in order to avoid serious desert walking in serious heat (smart call, George). Here's a few of his observations from the trek, but you can follow the whole journey on his website here.

Interestingly, riding a bicycle on I-10 is legal, but walking is prohibited. This poses a significant challenge for anyone wishing to walk across America via the southern route. Though I'm for walking on city or frontage roads as much as possible, occasionally the freeway is the best option, despite the dangers. Arizona Highway Patrol booted me from I-10 just a few miles short of Benson. They told me I could continue on the freeway till Benson, but that from there, I'd have to find another way. I did find alternatives through the rest of the state. I walked some miles on I-10 once I reached New Mexico.

From El Paso, I'll be heading back into NM, to Alamogordo and then across on Hwy 82. This will take me through some mountains-- so it's better that I'm doing this now and not in the winter.

The desert part of the walk has been challenging-- especially given that it's now heating up considerably. That said-- I'm happy it hasn't reached 100 degrees yet. (93 in El Paso tomorrow.) I've loved it though-- what a fantastic first-time-in-the-SW-desert experience it's been!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

This Week on Foot

Sparking nationwide debate over the intelligence of pedestrians, this week we learn that Woman sues Google over Utah walking directions. Plantiff Lauren Rosenberg blames faulty Google routing for directing her to a high-speed boulevard with no sidewalks in a trek across Park City, where she was hit and injured while crossing. Lost in scorn over Rosenberg's lack of common sense, the public appears to be missing some of the key issues this story raises, namely: why doesn't the four-lane boulevard have sidewalks? And, if the Park City could afford to clear the roadway of snow, why not the adjacent pedestrian path? If we're looking for people to blame here, it seems like Google isn't the only one at fault...

Pedestrians in Nagpur, India won't have to face the same challenges crossing the street that Rosenberg did, as Nagpur to get 22 foot-over-bridges soon. The real question, of course, is will people (and particularly the elderly and disabled) be able to make the climb to use them?

If Nagpur is looking for serious solutions to pedestrian problems, maybe it should look to British Columbia, where Vancouver judged Canada's most walkable city. I wonder if the folks over at the Victoria Transport Policy Institute are jealous?

Of course, it takes more than just footbridges to make a community walkable. In fact, according to one recent study of walkability Good neighborhoods have lots of intersections. Turns out that neighborhoods with short blocks arranged in a grid pattern have the most walkers. Speaking as a person living in an anti-grid neighborhood (seriously, there are so many twists and turns here that after three years I still get lost coming home from the grocery store sometimes), I agree with the results of the research.

One thing that doesn't seem to improve neighborhood walkability? Speeding ambulances, like this one in New York City where Pedestrian Struck By Volunteer Ambulance. As I explained in an earlier post, I believe that the tradeoffs we make in pedestrian safety by designing "ambulance-friendly" roads aren't always worth the improvements in response time, a topic that Tom Vanderbilt also explores in an interesting post here.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pedestrian Advocacy Part 3: Building Momentum

Here's the final installment of my series on the history of pedestrian advocacy. As we learned in part 2, pedestrian advocacy gained steam during the 1920s and 30s, as advocates concerned about pedestrian safety fought for measures such as vehicle speed limits, traffic signals, and sidewalks. However, as vehicle ownership rates grew and cars became the primary mode of transportation for more and more people, pedestrian advocacy gradually fell by the wayside. For a time, the UK's Pedestrians Association was the only voice for walkers around the world.