Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Worldwide Walking: Munich

So does Munich really deserve the moniker of most walkable in the world?

Like Vienna, Munich is rife with pedestrian zones:
Pedestrian-only plazas:
And toucan crossings:
But like I said in my last post, I'm not as impressed by the walkability of cities that developed when the only real form of transportation was walking. Not to say they aren't great--just that it's a lot harder to create a walkable city after the fact, and cities that manage to do so deserve extra credit.

So while I appreciated everything that Munich had to offer in the way of walkability, I wasn't quite ready to call it the best in the world...until I discovered this:

Monday, January 10, 2011

Worldwide Walking: Vienna

Freshly back from two weeks in some of the world's most walkable cities, I'd like to share some observations and pictures about walkability done right.

First, Vienna. As you can see in this shot of the center of town, pedestrian zones abound throughout the city--but that isn't necessarily saying much in a city that developed pre-automobile. Does it represent forward, pedestrian-oriented thinking on the part of city leadership, or just a lack of funding to "modernize" the city? To answer that question, we need to look outside the city center:
This is one of the main arterials that rings the central part of the city. As you can see, there's quite a bit of pavement devoted to travel here--but unlike what you might find here in LA, most of is not given over to vehicles. In fact, when you add in the wide sidewalk and bike path on the opposite side of the street (not visible here), the majority of right-of-way is granted to non-motorized modes. I think this says a lot about the value placed on walking and biking in Vienna.

Finally, from the same location, one last note on crosswalk design. Here you can see a midblock crossing stretching across the frontage road. While I'm impressed by the attention to pedestrian safety (even though this is a narrow, low-volume road, engineers have still added extra safety measures including signs and an advance stop bar), what I like the most is the placement of the crossing.
See that low wall to the left? That's an entrance to the subway system. Even though it's located only about 100 feet from the main intersection, Vienna officials put a midblock crossing right at the entrance because they understood that pedestrians wouldn't walk 100 feet out of their way to cross at the intersection. I suspect that you would never see a similar set-up here in the US, because roadway designers would much rather make a pedestrian walk out of her way to cross a street than to deal with the challenges of midblock crossings. And if they did "jaywalk" and take the most direct route? Well in downtown LA that would be a $200 ticket...

Tomorrow: does Munich deserve to be called one of the world's most walkable cities?

Friday, January 7, 2011

This Week on Foot

This week I returned to all sorts of gloomy news on the local pedestrian front. First a Train kills pedestrian near Fairview Avenue in Goleta. Then there was a Pedestrian Struck And Killed Near 105 Freeway Offramp, a Pedestrian, 93, dies after San Carlos collision, and a Pedestrian dies after being hit by car in Irvine.

Sheesh! Thank goodness the President Signs Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act to require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to evaluate how much sound that must be made by electric and hybrid vehicles to ensure pedestrian safety. Of course, some people persist in blaming the pedestrians, not the vehicles, for our many pedestrian safety problems. They claim that Pedestrians take too many risky chances . Hmm, you mean like crossing the street?

Elsewhere in the world things aren't looking so bright either. Our friends in India complain that Pedestrians’ safety is low priority in Pune, and in England a Skate park set to get go-ahead despite pedestrian reservations. Perhaps these problems are the reason Baku starts raids to prevent pedestrian rundown accidents.

But despite the many obstacles pedestrians face, there's still reason to get walking. As one recent study points out, The Faster you Walk, the Longer you Live. And if that's not motivation enough, a new device promises to let you Walk to charge your cellphone. See, walking just became even more energy efficient.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Where the Sidewalk Starts will return in January. In the meantime, remember to yield to pedestrians. And elves.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

This week on foot

This week starts out with two stories that prove the point that vehicles truly can be considered potentially deadly weapons. First, there was the Redding pedestrian struck twice by same driver (on purpose, of course). Then we learned that a Seattle cab driver rams pedestrian who complained about his driving.

As if the intentional crashes weren't enough for pedestrians to contend with, the region was hit (no pun intended) by several unintentional crashes, including a Fatal traffic collision in Fillmore and a Mother, 3-year-old hit while crossing Ventura street.

With all this mayhem it's no wonder that Glendale mayor says distracted driving at 'epidemic' level in Glendale, citing charge in pedestrian death. But it wasn't distracted driving that led to the death of three young men on train tracks in Commerce. Still, Why 3 youths killed by train were walking on tracks remains a mystery.

Speaking of mysteries, blogdowntown posted a story this week that clears up the mystery of the City of LA's hefty new jaywalking fines. In Breaking Down the Cost of Jaywalking: Where Does Money from a $190 Ticket Go?, the blog explains that the vast majority of the money (wait for it) doesn't go to improving pedestrian safety. Fortunately, this week a Senate vote adds noise to silent electric cars, hybrids--so maybe there's a little hope left for pedestrian safety after all.

Or maybe not. This week one Vancouver paper published a clearly anti-ped editorial complaining that Pedestrians are nearly impossible to see at night. Most cringe-inducing quote: "If a pedestrian is wearing dark clothing and is struck mid-block after dark, I propose that ICBC automatically rule that the pedestrian is 100-per-cent liable for their injuries and for damage to the car. It's called walking without due care." Given attitudes like this, I guess it's no surprise that Torontoist nominated Blaming Pedestrians for it's 2010 villain of the year.

But to end the year on a positive note, this week in Georgetown, Massachusetts, Police earn pedestrian safety award for 30 years without a pedestrian fatality in the town. I'm thinking of moving there.