Friday, November 18, 2011

Great LA Walk This Weekend

Angelenos, don't forget about this Saturday's Great Los Angeles Walk 2011. Meet other walking enthusiasts, check out some of LA's fabulous neighborhoods, including Downtown Los Angeles, Echo Park, Los Feliz, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, and enjoy the afterparty at Locanda del Lago restaurant in Santa Monica. If 19 miles sounds too intimidating, you can find the full route on the Walk's website and just pick your favorite segment to complete.

The Habits of the Western Jay(walker)

Our family is spending the next few weeks on an ambitious road trip from LA to the Pacific Northwest, which leaves little time for blogging, but much time to observe the pedestrian environments and walking habits in cities along the west coast. Aside from vast differences in walkability between a city like LA and one like San Francisco, I've been particularly struck by differences in jaywalking habits from place to place.

Based on my strictly unscientific observations, there is a distinct correlation between the walkability of a city and the tendency of its citizens to cross the street against traffic signals, midblock, and in other officially unsanctioned ways. The pedestrian advocate side of me is enthusiastic about this, but the driving-in-an-unfamiliar-city side finds it disconcerting that when my signal is green a pedestrian might still dart out in front of me.

Proponents of the "shared space" concept, and its close cousin the woonerf, suggest that one solution to this problem is to ditch the traffic signals altogether and reintroduce the idea of the street as common space for all users. The thought is that removing signage and signals would force roadway users to rely on eye contact and social interaction to navigate streets, thus improving roadway safety by eliminating "mindless" driving.

There are several successful examples of this idea out there (e.g. New Zealand, the UK), and just on this trip I've noticed shared space used informally in small towns like Ferndale, CA. But what about in the heart of a big city like Portland or San Francisco? Is it courting disaster to open up major streets to a vehicle/cyclist/transit/pedestrian free-for-all, or is it just returning the streets to a happier time when they belonged to everyone and people paid attention to the environment around them when they traveled?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

This Week on Foot

This week the Two-Year Transpo Bill Moves on to Full Senate Without Bike/Ped Protections, which sounds discouraging--but according to our friends at Streetsblog there are Nine Reasons For Bike/Ped Advocates to Take Heart: The Senate Edition.

Unfortunately, here in California there aren't so many reasons to take heart. There was a Pedestrian killed outside Camarillo, and there was an Arrest in Santa Ana toddler pedestrian death.

Elsewhere in the country a Fatal hit-and-run raises safety concerns in Dallas and an Ann Arbor pedestrian safety ordinance repeal proposed in response to concerns from councilmembers. On top of it all, The Pedestrian Loses the Way when it comes to bikes and sidewalks, at least in the opinion of one NY Times columnist. I guess it's more than just the Time Change Hazardous To Pedestrians.

Fortunately,  UNLV seeks scientific way to curb pedestrian death and a New bicycle, pedestrian committee launches in Baltimore County. Meanwhile, Pedestrians called to action in Ottawa and they're Making city streets safer for pedestrians in Philadelphia.

Oh, and in these tough economic times want One way to save money? Walk!       

Monday, November 7, 2011

Research and Resources

Wow, there is a whole bunch of great stuff out there these days for pedestrian advocates.
Model Design Manual for Living Streets
Courtesy of the County of LA, this new manual has been generating a lot of buzz in the Complete Streets world. More info from the authors:
"The Model Street Design Manual was created during a 2-day writing charrette, which brought together national experts in living streets concepts. This effort was funded by the Department of Health and Human Services through the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. This manual focuses on all users and all modes, seeking to achieve balanced street design that accommodates cars while ensuring that pedestrians, cyclists and transit users can travel safely and comfortably. This manual also incorporates features to make streets lively, beautiful, economically vibrant as well as environmentally sustainable."

American Council of the Blind Pedestrian Safety Handbook
The third edition of the Council's Pedestrian Safety Handbook, the new online version of the handbook is envisioned as a "living document" that can be updated on an ongoing basis to address evolving vehicle technology and roadway design feathers.

Pedestrian Countermeasure Policy Best Practice Report
A discussion of relevant policies related to medians, refuge islands, walkways and shoulders from several states throughout the US.
State Best Practice Policy for Shoulders and Walkways
A brief summary of three state departments of transportation (New York State Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Oregon Department of Transportation) that have implemented policies and plans that promote the inclusion of paved shoulders and walkways.
State Best Practice Policy for Medians
A short description of three agencies that have implemented policies and plans that promote the inclusion of raised medians: the New York State Department of Transportation, the Oregon Department of Transportation, and the Florida Department of Transportation.
Safe Routes to School: Helping Communities Save Lives and Dollars
A comprehensive discussion of the SRTS program, along with specific data covering a variety of areas (e.g. traffic congestion, busing costs, physical activity) to help advocates make the case for SRTS.
Street Network Types and Road Safety: A Study of 24 California Cities
This study uses data from over 130,000 crashes in 24 cities to evaluate whether or not street network types affect roadway safety. The results show a correlation between roadway safety and both street network density and connectivity, with the highest risk of fatal or severe crashes occurring with very low street network density, and safety outcomes improving as intersection density increases.

Predicting Walkability
This research provides new methodologies for predicting the quality of the walking environment from the perspective of the user using operational and physical variables. The formulas were derived by combining the perception data gathered from participants in the community street reviews with measurements of the walking environment.

The Street Level Built Environment and Physical Activity and Walking: Results of a Predictive Validity Study for the Irvine Minnesota Inventory
The Irvine Minnesota Inventory (IMI) was designed to measure environmental features that may be associated with physical activity and particularly walking. This study assesses how well the IMI predicts physical activity and walking behavior and develops shortened, validated audit tools.

The authors find that while this inventory provides reliable measurement of urban design features, only some of these features present associations with increased or decreased walking. Characteristics of the sidewalk infrastructure, street crossings and traffic speeds, and land use are more strongly associated with walking for travel, while factors that measure aesthetics are typically less strongly associated with walking for travel.

Crossing Solutions at Roundabouts and Channelized Turn Lanes for Pedestrians with Disabilities
This report explores concerns over the accessibility of two complex intersection forms for pedestrians who are blind: intersections with channelized right turn lanes and modern roundabouts with one-lane and two-lane approaches. Based on the findings of this research project, significant impediments to the accessibility of these sites exist for pedestrians who are blind, but some crossing solutions can increase the accessibility in terms of improving safety and reducing delay.
Assessing the perceived safety risk from quiet electric and hybrid vehicles to vision-impaired pedestrians
This study investigates the accident risk posed by electric and hybrid vehicles and compares it with that for equivalent vehicles with traditional internal combustion engines to determine whether electric/hybrid vehicles are audibly more difficult to detect. This report presents the findings from the study, based upon a review of accident statistics, a programme of practical measurements to compare the noise of electric/hybrid and internal combustion engine vehicles, and a small-scale subjective assessment of the noise from these vehicles involving visually impaired participants.

Reducing Pedestrian Delay at Traffic Signals
This research, which was carried out between 2007 and 2010 in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, used techniques such as pedestrian attitude surveys, micro-simulation modelling and a literature review of international best practice to identify methods of reducing pedestrian delay at signalized intersections in these cities.

Distracted Driving: What Research Shows and What States Can Do
This report reviews and summarizes distracted driving research available as of January 2011 to inform states and other organizations as they consider distracted driving countermeasures. It concentrates on distractions produced by cell phones, text messaging, and other electronic devices brought into the vehicle. It also considers other distractions that drivers choose to engage in, such as eating and drinking, personal grooming, reading, and talking to passengers.

Effect of 20 mph traffic speed zones on road injuries in London, 1986-2006: controlled interrupted time series analysis
This report quantifies the effect of the introduction of 20 mph traffic speed zones on road collisions, injuries, and fatalities in London based on analysis of geographically coded police data on road casualties between 1986-2006.

Friday, November 4, 2011

This Week on Foot

This week we ask, is it the End of the road for the zebra? Perhaps there are safer alternatives out there for pedestrian crossings, and it's time to move on from the stripes. Colorado seems to think so, where they're wondering about the Aspen airport pedestrian crossing: Over or under?

Either option would have been better for the Pedestrian Struck & Killed While Crossing Ventura Freeway. Fortunately, things turned out better in Michigan, where according to an Ann Arbor resident: Collision at pedestrian crosswalk 'could have been tragic'.

Of course, some believe it's all the fault of the pedestrian, like this Devil’s Advocate: Careless pedestrians put themselves at risk by ignoring traffic safety laws, but we know the bigger problem is the Utter disregard for pedestrians' right, don't we?

At least in some places there's a little regard for the pedestrian, like in Ashland, Oregon where Pedestrian-friendly ideas approved, Salt Lake City where Transportation policy to consider needs of cyclists, pedestrians and more, or in Mississippi where there's a Pedestrian trail project planned for downtown Jackson. Hopefully these ideas catch on at higher levels as well, and just in case there's some hesitation here are 3 Reasons Congress Shouldn’t Abandon Cyclists And Pedestrians. My fingers are crossed that Congress acknowledges the value of  Wheels & Heels: Pedestrian-Friendly Streets Good for Business.

Some cyclists definitely see that value, such as this Bicycling group wants pedestrian mall on Pacific: Panels to weigh proposal for two-way traffic Thursday. Guess they understand that "Urbanism is Sustainable".

Speaking of sustainability, ever wonder What does trick-or-treating tell us about sustainable living? Maybe it's the same lesson we learn about Making cities healthier (and livelier) with a 'walking school bus' and vitality makeover. (Hint: Sustainable Communities focus on livability, walkability).

Finally, with winter snows upon (some of) us, it's good to know that in the PITTSFIELD TOWNSHIP: Residents will have to shovel sidewalks after 1 inch of snowfall