Monday, October 11, 2010

Factors Involved in Distracted Driving

This recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Distracted Driving and Driver, Roadway, and Environmental Factors, got me thinking once again about my efforts to cut down on my own distracted driving. As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I decided about 10 months ago to give up talking on my cell phone while driving. So far it hasn't been as bad as I expected. I find that I use to the time to ponder work problems, plan my schedule for the week, or just muse on life issues (when I'm not bopping along to cheesy country music, that is).

Thus, it was with great relief that I learned from this report that "distraction from internal sources was more common than distraction due to non-driving cognitive activities"-- or in plain non-academic speak, more people are distracted by stuff (or people) inside their cars prior to a crash than by just thinking, like I do. Phew.

Interestingly, despite our recent focus on distraction from electronic devives, "Among 14 internal sources of distraction, conversing with a passenger was the most frequently recorded source -- 17 percent...." The report goes on to warn that this doesn't necessarily suggest that passenger conversation was the cause of the crash, just that it was happening prior to the crash occurrence. So you don't have give up talking in the car just yet. And of course, phones aren't blameless in all of this--they're the second-mosts common distraction recorded. Not surprisingly, cell phone use was higher among younger and middle-aged drivers, and women--which likely reflects patterns of cell phone usage overall. And, if there's any good news to come out of the statistics, "Drivers mostly conversed on phone when there was no traffic flow interruption." So I guess at least people are using at least a little judgment in their phone habits.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Happy International Walk to School Day

Grab a kid and hit the streets. There are hundreds of schools participating in this year's event, here's a rundown of some of the festivities in the Southern California region, courtesy of the International Walk to School Day site:

Beverly Hills
Horace Mann School
Horace Mann is kicking off their Walk to School Wednesdays with International Walk to School Day. There will be certificates for each family that participates. The PTA will be hosting breakfast bake sale.

Mariposa Elementary School
We'll have walking school buses along four routes. We'll also have a bike train.

Mckinley Elementary School
We will be using our Nutrition Advisory Council to promote the event starting two weeks ahead of time. We will top it off b providing a healthy breakfast upon return.

Culver City
Linwood E. Howe Elementary School
Our event started as "Walk to School with Ms. Anderson (the principal)" but is now..."Walk to School with the CCUSD Superintendent, CCUSD Director of Human Resources, Culver City Fire Chief, Culver City Police Chier, Culver City City Manager, and Ms. Anderson!" We are still awaiting responses from the mayor and city council members. Linwood Howe families are invited to join all of us in the front of Culver City City Hall on October 6th to walk to school, which is a few blocks away. This is the first time our school is participating in a walk-to-school event and we hope to be visible to the community by wearing our school spirit wear and holding signs which promote walking and wheeling to school.

R.D. White Elementary School
Last year we had close to 90% (over 600 kids) of our school walk on Walk-to-School Day! We had healthy snack and gift give-aways sponsored by local companies, a State Senator and local government officials present, and press coverage - it was a GREAT day!

Monterey Park
Repetto Elementary School
Beginning your day with breakfast and being active everyday are messages our school is promoting. In conjunction with Walk to School Week. Our school takes an active role in creating a healthy school environment and work at providing opportunities for our school community to learn about integrating healthy lifestyle habits; not just at school but at home. During walk to school week, we anticipate over 300 students, teachers, parents and community members to join us informing our walking school bus

San Diego
Sunset Hills Elementary School
Every year we have a theme for the event. Last year we did "Buzz on up to School" We painted the sidewalk with chalk drawings of bees and encouraging sayings for the children. We also collected old shoes for the needy. If you walked to school that day you received a toe token for your shoelace. Our school gives them out for running club so we purchased a special one for walk to school day. The kids seem to love the day and we usually have about 150 to 200 walkers each year.

Citrus Glen Elementary School
District personnel and parent volunteers will help us kick off a safe Walk to School Day. Students who participate will receive a bracelet.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Woodland Hills Gains Costco, Loses Walkability

Okay, I've done my best to embrace walking in my neighborhood, to ignore the fact that while we might have any number of walkable destinations, our every step is thwarted by urban design where the automobile doesn't so much "dominate" as "crush into oblivion." Sometimes literally.

So when I learned of the supposedly mixed-use "Village" project, announced with much fanfare by Westfield a few years back, I was cautiously hopeful. Granted, the sidewalks that a mall developer would produce were hardly likely to serve the five essential purposes touted by our friends Loukaitou-Sideris and Ehrenfeucht, but maybe we could get one or two of them. Like the one about beauty. Because nothing could possibly be uglier than an empty parking lot and some vacant buildings, right?

Except maybe Costco. And a gas station.

Best Policies for Bikes and Peds

We may not like to admit it, but it's true: planners are copycats. It's not that we don't like innovative ideas--we do. It's just that we like them so much better when someone else has already gone through the political hassle of implementing them for the first time.

So it's no surprise that in our quest to identify the best policies to improve pedestrian (and bicyle) safety and walkability, we spend a lot of time looking at what others have done. And (given our love affair with all things European), it's even less of a surprise that the when the FHWA sent its team of experts out to hunt down the most effective pedestrian policies for the Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety and Mobility International Scan it turned to Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Five key lessons/themes the group identified from its review:

1. No single “silver bullet” policy or action exists to make streets and roads safer and more conducive to pedestrians and bicyclists.

2. To achieve desired outcomes, pedestrian and bicyclist policies should clearly state a purpose and vision, as well as a way to measure progress toward the desired outcomes.

Friday, October 1, 2010

This week on Foot

There's been lots of good news in the international pedestrian world this week. In Islamabad Pedestrian bridges fixed to avert accidents, while Krakow's New Pedestrian Bridge Opens. In Tawain Fluorescent traffic signs help Taipei pedestrians, and over in Dubai Pedestrian fatalities hit record low over 9 years.

But don't get too excited, pedestrians are still on shaky ground out there. Not only do they have to contend with vehicular hazards, in New York an Air Conditioner Falls From Window, Injures Pedestrian. And just when you thought all those fancy new pedestrian detection devices were going to make things a little safer, Volvo Pedestrian Avoidance Test Goes Wrong, Company Blames Dummy.

I guess it's better than blaming the pedestrian?

Good thing that next week Walk to School Day encourages pedestrian safety...