Monday, January 31, 2011

NHTSA Releases 2009 Pedestrian Fatality/Injury Statistics

In its early release of its (ironically named) Traffic Safety Facts 2009 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides a trove of gloomy, if enlightening, statistics on pedestrian deaths and injuries in the US. Here's some of the info I found most interesting. All data comes from the NHTSA.

2009 Traffic Fatalities

You can see from this data that pedestrians constituted a pretty high percentage of the people killed in traffic crashes in 2009. It's hard to know if pedestrian deaths are disproportionately high, though, because we don't have good data about what percentage of trips are taken on foot.

2009 Traffic Injuries

This chart shows traffic injuries from crashes in 2009. What I wanted to point out here was the significantly lower number of pedestrians injured compared to the number killed. It almost sounds like good news, until you realize this discrepancy probably means that pedestrians are more likely to be killed than injured in traffic crashes. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

This week on foot

The week reaction continues to last week's suggestion that distracted walking may be causing increased pedestrian fatalities. In response, Arkansas, New York Lawmakers Move to Ban Headphones While Walking. Of course, one savvy blogger points out that Safety Group’s Pedestrian Fatality Report Substitutes Guesswork for Analysis, as I'll also discuss in a post next week on the NHTSA latest pedestrian fatality data. In the meantime people everywhere continue to insist that Smart phones foster dumb habits among pedestrians. No mention of the habits they foster in drivers...

And speaking of drivers, this week I found competing editorials regarding whether or not drivers should give pedestrians the right of way at crossings. Some believe Cars shouldn't stop for pedestrians at crosswalks, while others insist Pedestrians should always have the right of way. You can imagine where I fall in this debate.

Meanwhile, snow continues to wreak havoc in climes less balmy than ours here in Southern California. Not only does Sidewalk snow removal sparks debate for city, in Winnipeg City councillor to introduce motion on off-road vehicles after pedestrian killed in snowmobile collision. And for those in Illinois, don't forget that a Deadline to shovel sidewalks expires in Des Moines.

Snow isn't the only thing causing a fuss in the sidewalk department. In Toronto cyclists get sidewalk warning, while here in California we see an epic Battle of the Sidewalk Signs. And then there's the Texas Man claims lost lens caused him to strike pedestrian...on a sidewalk.

Finally, this week Santa Barbara provides us with even more evidence of its pedestrian unfriendliness, when Santa Barbara Council Votes to Pull Out Bulb-Out Requirement for Chapala Street.


At least Cowley residents get pedestrian crossing at long last

Monday, January 24, 2011

Whose sidewalks are they, anyway?

As I was trolling the internet for pedestrian news this week, I was disturbed to come across this story about the City of Santa Barbara's latest efforts to clear its downtown streets of itinerants and panhandlers. The city's redevelopment agency (sidenote: Santa Barbara needs a redevelopment agency??) plans to devote $50,000 to rearranging sidewalk benches in the city's shopping district so that they are perpendicular, rather than parallel, to the street.

Photo courtesy of Google Streetview
The idea is that this will make panhandling less lucrative for people sitting on the benches because they'll only be facing one direction, and thus have only half the opportunities to ask passersby for money. The backs will also be removed from several benches, further discouraging lingering. The city's actions stem from longstanding frustration on the part of downtown business people with the way the homeless use the sidewalks. "It's just like they've made the street their living room," one anonymous business owner complained. The hope is that changing the angle of the benches will force the homeless to relocate out of downtown.

Wow. There are so many things wrong with this idea, it's a little hard to know where to begin criticizing it.

Friday, January 21, 2011

This Week on Foot

Pedestrians and health advocates everywhere are groaning over statements this week from Governor's Highway Safety Association Director Barbara Hasha suggesting that Michell Obama's "Get Moving" campaign might actually be working--and the result is that Exercise, iPods could be causing pedestrian deaths. I won't dwell on the absurdity of this much, except to point out that 1) a single year's rise in pedestrian deaths is hardly a trend, so it's a bit early to begin pointing fingers, and 2) wouldn't rising vehicle miles traveled and rising rates of distracted driving be an equal (and more plausible) possibility? And as if American madness wasn't enough, there's the Road Madness in Ghana, we are all not safe.

No indeed we aren't, and there are efforts on many fronts to address that problem. In Canada City brass hope signs cut crossing confusion --they think a sign instructing "Wait for Gap" is easier for pedestrians to understand than "Pedestrians Yield to Vehicles"-- and in Glendale Plan clears path for cyclists and pedestrians. Meanwhile China TV shows grisly deaths as driving lessons and in Wisconsin UW Wants Pedestrians To Stop Walking In Street (here's a thought: maybe you shouldn't close the sidewalk then).

Elsewhere in the world pedestrians fight back--sometimes a bit too strongly, like the Suspect stabs man in pedestrian-rage incident.  But it's easy to understand where the anger comes from when in places like Toronto Sidewalk snowed under near Scarborough Town Centre and there's no snowplow in sight.

Finally this week, a note on vehicle safety. Grist explains that Smaller SUVs are safer than bigger ones, but walkability trumps all . It sure does.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Walk San Diego Forum - Jan 21

For anyone in the SD region, WSD is holding its first lunchtime forum of the year:

Coast Highway101 – Our region’s next complete street?

Special guest presenters will be:
Diane Langager, Principal Planner, City of Encinitas
Mike Nichols, Councilman, City of Solana Beach

Come hear what the cities of Encinitas and Solana Beach are doing with the planning of Coast Highway 101 to make it safer for bicyclists and pedestrians and how public participation has made road diets and roundabouts part of the solution.

Date: January 21, 2011
Time: 12:00-1:00 P.M.
Location: 193 Horton Plaza, 1st level, (Next to Victoria’s Secret)
Suggested: Lunch Donation is $5.00, RSVP by January 19th, $7.00 at the door

Please RSVP to Cynthia Offenhauer
Free Parking at Horton Plaza Garage