Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Worldwide Walking: Paris

Enough people extol the virtues of Europe's pedestrian environment that I don't think I need to go into too much detail, but I do have a few things to share. If you read my early post on the history of sidewalks you might recall that although London was the first to adopt sidewalks, but France was also quick to the pedestrian pathway game. Here are some pictures of Paris' early take on the sidewalk, covered shopping arcades:

Note that while they're certainly beautiful (and weather-proof), I suspect that they were--and continue to be--exclusively for the use of the middle/upper classes, which defeats some of the egalitarian purpose of the sidewalk space.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Worldwide Walking: Tokyo

Inspired by a recent webinar from the PBIC on pedestrian safety lessons from around the world, I wanted to share my own walking images from afar. This week I'll innundate you with some of my favorites from Asia, Europe, and (of course) Latin America, starting with my visit to Japan in 2008.

You might already have heard of their amazing bullet trains, but it turns out Tokyo outdoes us in just about all things transportation (and don't get me started on disaster preparedness). Some of my favorite pedestrian-friendly features were this series of pocket parks. What was surprising about them wasn't their diminutive size (given that space is at a premium in the city), but how much they could pack into a small space. Makes you think about what we might be able to do with the right-of-way if we cut down our oversized roadways.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

This week on foot

I had a little trouble this week finding stories that weren't along the lines of "Pedestrian Killed in Crosswalk," or "Pedestrian Dies After Being Struck by Bus"--but lest you think vehicles and trains are the only dangers pedestrians face, this week the New York Post warns us that Crews ignore 'dangerous' trees in Central Park. As if pedestrians don't have enough to worry about them without the threat of tree branches falling on their heads.

And pedestrians' troubles hardly end with trees. Even when they cross the street in the crosswalk during the walk signal, they might still be charged for a crime, as in the Los Angeles-area city where Baldwin Park police consider citing pedestrian who was hit by bus in crosswalk.

With all those dangers out there, it's nice to know that Purdue planning to hire crossing guards to help improve safety for pedestrians around campus.
Perhaps what we need is a major international sporting event around here. Maybe then we'll get our own World Cup legacy: more bids to get South Africans out of their cars and into pedestrian-only plazas like the Fan Walk that surrounded the Cape Town stadium.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Prius Stops Creeping Up on You

Toyota announced today that it will begin offering an engine-like sound system in newest Prius hybrids to help assuage concerns that the quiet vehicles pose greater risks to pedestrians than their noisier counterparts (a recent study showed hybrids were twice as likely as non-hybrids to be involved in pedestrian crashes at low speeds). The system is voluntary and (as of now) only offered in Japan, but Toyota is considering expanding the option to other countries/vehicle models.

Nice to know that pedestrians might soon face one less danger on the roads.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A new fix for local sidewalks

You may recall the hullaballoo that ensued earlier this year when the City of Los Angeles considered discontinuing its longstanding practice of paying for sidewalk repairs. Even though state law places the burden of sidewalk maintenance on adjacent property owners, LA took over responsibility in the early 70s after it received a hunk of federal funding for sidewalks. Now that the funding has run out, the City is looking to slither out of the sidewalk repair business.

Not only does this irritate property owners, who have gotten used to the City taking charge (however slowly) of sidewalk fixes, it raises issues related to accessibility under the Americans with Disabilites Act. The federal courts have ruled that ADA regulations, which stipulate equal access to the mobility-impaired, require local jurisdictions to maintain their sidewalks in good repair.

And how will cash-strapped cities like LA afford to do this? Donald Shoup (of The High Cost of Free Parking fame) offers one suggestion in the most recent issue of Access: point-of-sale sidewalk repairs.