Thursday, December 2, 2010

This Week on Foot

This week Switchboard brings us Images from the world's 10 (or 11) most walkable cities (as ranked by Frommer's). Not surprisingly, LA didn't make the cut--but Munich did, especially exciting for me since I'll be spending the Christmas holidays there. I promise to come back with lots of walking pictures, but in the meantime, here's an image to inspire you:

Meanwhile, things in the Southland have been less walkable. Between new of a School crossing guard punched, robbed; two arrested, a  Pedestrian injured after being hit by car near Highway 101 in T.O, and the LAPD's stiff jaywalking fines, it's no shock that some fed up pedestrians feel like we should just
Outlaw Walking!

That idea would probably be a hit with some people in New York, where Anger Over Rampant Bike Lanes, Pedestrian Plazas Leads to New Legislation forcing the NYDOT to publish its criteria for the installation of traffic calming mechanisms.

But elsewhere people are hoping for, not fighting, pedestrian improvements. In Russia Residents In Russian City Protest Pedestrian Fatalities , while in Arizona there's celebration as the Region gets $4.5M for pedestrian, bike paths.

All of which led Grist to ask an interesting question: Can a neighborhood be too walkable? Personally, I think the answer is "no." But maybe I'm a little biased.

Your Guide to Twalking

In this short video, LA Times technology writer Michelle Maltais explains new smartphone apps that use in-phone cameras to allow users to see the pavement beneath their fingers as they text and walk (aka "twalk"). Given all the hype over pedestrians' inability to safely use their phones and walk at the same time, perhaps there's something to these applications. On the other hand, they do little to stop texting drivers from mowing down unsuspecting walkers. So let's not get too excited.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

LAPD Hits Peds Where it Hurts

Namely, in their pocketbooks.

As reported in this story from the LA Times, pedestrians who jaywalk in downtown LA will pay a nearly $200 fine for their offense. The hefty fines, along with a "zero tolerance" policy for pedestrians crossing the street outside of crosswalks, is intended to reduce crashes and lower crimes rates over the holiday season. Because, as LAPD Lt. Paul Vernon explains, "Jaywalking is often done by thieves, purse snatchers and robbery suspects to target their victims."

If only we could just keep everyone inside their cars, where they would be safe from such villainy.

Of course, if you take a look at the LAPD website you'll see that, mysteriously, the top five traffic violations causing causing collisions have nothing to do with pedestrians. For the record, they are:
  • Following too close
  • Running a red light
  • Driving under the influence
  • Left turn violations
  • Speeding
It seems to me that if the City of LA was really interested in improving safety over the holidays, it would turn downtown into a pedestrian-only zone and get rid of the real safety problem: cars.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turkey meets zebra (crossing)

image courtesy of

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Trouble in the Valley Continues

We've heard a lot in the last few weeks about the crashes that killed pedestrians Conor Lynch and Emely Aleman, but today I'd like to talk about another recent crash in the Valley that hasn't received quite as much attention. (Apparently--cue frustration and gnashing of teeth--it takes a child or two dying before people really start to take note of the challenges pedestrians face on the streets out there.)

Earlier this month Julia* was hit by a car while crossing the street at Ventura Blvd and Etiwanda Avenue with the signal and in the crosswalk. The crash sent her to the hospital for weeks, and although, unlike Lynch and Aleman, Julia survived her crash, she's facing a painful recovery (not to mention some painful battles with her insurance provider).

Some might be tempted to dismiss this incident, arguing (with a hint of fatalism) that there's not much that can be done about drivers who flagrantly break the law and run a red light. Perhaps. But let's take a closer look at that intersection, shall we?

Here's a picture of the northeast corner of the intersection, looking south across Ventura Boulevard.

For strarters, notice the crosswalk striping: two measly white lines. This may be considered the "standard" for crosswalk striping, but it's hardly going to get the attention of drivers zipping down Ventura Boulevard at 45 or 50 mph. And there's not even a median refuge to help pedestrians as they navigate seven lanes of traffic. I would argue that an intersection with this kind of traffic volume/speed requires a more extensive crossing treatment. Please, at least give the poor pedestrians a stop bar behind the crosswalk!