Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Worldwide Walking: Signs

To end on a lighter note, I wanted to share a few pedestrian-oriented signs from Austria--but only after first posing the question: can any one explain why pedestrian crossing signs in Europe are blue instead of yellow or green? It strikes me as an odd color choice, as I can't imagine blue signs standing out very well at night.

I find this bright yellow "Children at Play" sign much more striking, especially with snow as the background. Of course, we know that while signs like these are charming to look at, they don't do much to slow traffic.
This sign, on the other hand. Well, it's pretty hard to miss...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mission Beach Walk - January 15

For those of you in the San Diego area:

WalkSanDiego Community Walks

Saturday, January 15, 2011, 8:30 a.m.

Mission Beach Walk – Meet at the North Shore Cafe, 3125 Ocean Front Walk, San Diego, CA 92109 (Next to the Wave House)

Join us to walk the Boardwalk and Mission Beach community and hear about the history of the development of this area by John Sprekels, the old trolley line and trivia from the past. A modest paced, three-mile walk on flat terrain.

Reservations not needed

The walks are open to everyone; they are free to WalkSanDiego members, with a suggested $5 donation for non-members. For further information, contact Dave Schumacher.

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.