Thursday, February 10, 2011

This week on Foot

This week the Tri-State Transportation Campaign released its annual survey of the region's most menacing streets, so we learned that Broadway, Atlantic Ave Deadliest Roads for Pedestrians in NYC, while Ranking of N.J.'s most dangerous roads for pedestrians is topped by Route 130

Thankfully, NYC at least has some laws in place to try to address the issue of pedestrian safety, and this week NYPD Use New Law in Pedestrian Death on Madison Avenue . Less encouraging is a proposed New York law intended to make it illegal for pedestrians to use electronic devices while crossing the street, and it's making lots of people mad. As Streetsblog reports, Victim’s Mother Shames CBS2 for Using Traffic Death to Bolster Carl Kruger (the media coverage takes the all-too-typically "blame the pedestrian" stance...while failing to mention that the driver in this particular incident was the one breaking the law).

Meanwhile, over on this coast we've had our share of pedestrian deaths this week. In Escondido: Police seek help in pedestrian hit-and-run,  while a Pedestrian killed by vehicle outside Camarillo identified. Makes you kind of glad that Falling Costs Push Pedestrian Detection to a $17 Billion Market and Mean Greater Safety, According to ABI Research.

Elsewhere folks are doing better on the pedestrian safety front. In the tiny town of Chelan, WA a new Sign: Good for pedestrians, bad for Nixon businesses, while in Hawaii an Online program teaches students traffic safety . In North Carolina Planners, Engineers Tour Charlotte As Example Of Walkable City. Perhaps they're learning that Creating the Perfect City Is About Illusions, Such as Shorter Blocks . Just as long as the crosswalks aren't illusions...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Why is Caltrans encouraging distracted driving?

Am I the only one who's been noticing these signs around lately?

It seems like every time Caltrans has nothing better to throw up on its digital message boards, this is what appears. I admit this isn't, strictly speaking, a pedestrian issue -- hopefully none of you are spending much time walking along the freeway. But still, it disturbs me that Caltrans thinks it is a good idea to prod drivers into hopping on their cell phones mid-commute. Sure they could dial using their bluetooth devices...but as we all know, just because your hands are free doesn't mean your brain is.

I do understand that the idea behind the 511 system is to make more efficient use of our roadways by keeping drivers well informed about traffic conditions, and to some extent I applaud our transportation officials for trying to improve congestion without building more roads.


This message board demonstrates the subtle way that we (or at least, the people in charge of highway signs) favor efficiency over safety in transportation. Doesn't it seem a little odd that the Secretary of Transportation devotes loads of publicity to the dangers of distracted driving, while at the same time every few miles on the freeway we have signs encouraging us to get on the phone in the name of reducing traffic? So in other words, we would really, really like you to stop gabbing on your cell phone while driving because it's super dangerous--unless of course talking on your phone can help get our freeways moving, in which case by all means put your life and the lives of those around you at risk.

I'm not saying that all intelligent transportation systems are a bad idea, because more efficient traffic movement means less incentive to ditch sidewalks for travel lanes. But we need to be very careful about where we place our priorities. Sure it's great to have less congestion, but at the expense of people's lives? I don't think so.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

This Week on Foot

This week distracted pedestrians are still claiming the headlines, despite clear evidence (see post earlier this week) that they pose a relatively low risk to themselves and others. That hasn't stop the media from warning Danger, distracted pedestrians ahead , or for otherwise innocent walkers to give their Confessions of a distracted pedestrian.

But here in California it's still drivers who are causing major problems, such as when Pedestrians targeted by drive-by paintball attacks in Burbank, or when a driver killed a 66-year-old man in a crosswalk, leading A crosswalk widow asks for safer streets in Santa Monica.

Of course, in other parts of the country pedestrian problems are often caused by weather at this time of year. In one City walkability goal hits an icy patch, while the Toronto Sun wanrs that Storm means more caution for pedestrians. It's natural disasters like these that remind us of The importance of walkable destinations in an emergency.

Elsewhere in the world, India suggests we Hail the pedestrian, widen footpath, not roads, while Discovery news explains how Parallel parking better for pedestrian health

And finally, the folks at WalkBikeJersey remind us that Pedestrian deaths are always more than just statistics

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