Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Walking in Winter Wonderland

The season of snow is upon us--well, those of us who live outside of Southern California anyway--and with it comes the perennial problem of snowy sidewalks. For those in more wintry climes, major snowfall can be a serious impediment to walkability. Particularly for less adroit walkers or for those in wheelchairs, navigating sidewalks-turned-snowdrifts is iffy at best.

Many northern cities address this issue by including sidewalk snow removal regulations in their municipal ordinances. Philadelphia, for example, requires "the owner, agent, and tenants of any building or premise shall clear a path of not less than 36 inches in width on all sidewalks, including curb cuts, abutting the building or premises within 6 (six) hours after the snow has ceased to fall." Saint Paul allows property owners a leisurely 24 hours for snow removal, while the ever-hurried residents of New York City have a mere four hours to comply.

Other cities vary slightly in timing and specific requirements, but nearly all stipulate that sidewalk snow removal 1) is the responsibility of adjacent property owners, 2) must be finished within a relatively short period of time following significant snowfall, and 3) if not completed according to city regulations can result in stiff fines. If you're interested in reading about more cities' policies, you can find a nice summary of a dozen or so here.

While having a strict snow-removal policy in place is a great start, those of us in the business of writing ordinances know all-too-well that having a law on the books doesn't always lead efficiently to the anticipated outcome. Tony Hull of Bike Walk Twin Cities tells the story nicely in a post from earlier this year on Seasonal Sidewalk Disorder: given the time it takes to process a violation, two weeks is a best case scenario for clearing a non-compliant sidewalk of snow.

Can you imagine the outcry if it took two weeks to clear roadways of snow after a storm?

Friday, December 16, 2011

This Week on Foot

This week pedestrians scored a victory at the federal level as U.S. Senate Commerce Committee passed important T4-America policies in its portion of transportation reauthorization bill, including requirements for accommodation of pedestrians in federal surface transportation projects (aka complete streets). It's great news for pedestrians, as we know that Completing streets might prevent more ghosts

And across the country, others are also trying to save pedestrians' lives. In North Carolina, Troopers try to stop pedestrian deaths, announce crackdown, while in Austin Colorado Street to get wider sidewalks, fewer traffic lanes. In Philadelphia officials are urged to Protect pedestrians during Center City revival, while Developers aspire to create new public spaces in MidTown Oklahoma City    ,
CB1 Committee Backs Making a Tribeca Pedestrian Plaza Permanent in New York, and
Walkabout steps up ideas for Hernando in Tennessee.

All this hard work is important, especially since we see a  Growing trend in Bakersfield: Increase in pedestrian deaths. And guys should be especially concerned, especially if they live in New Jersey, where Male pedestrians more likely to be fatally struck than females along N.J. roads.

Elsewhere in the world there's a Plan to make city roads safer for pedestrians in Delhi, and in Australia there's a City taking right steps to encourage walking. But in the UK Ashford pedestrians avoid crossing in 'shared space', and the city is considering a return to more traditional crossings.

Of course, it's the traditional crossings that are problematic in Seattle, where there's no shortage of Crosswalk carnage: Why do cops still ignore drivers who won't yield? Hard to say, but maybe it would help if we Make Driving While Dialing the New DWI, as the Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition suggests. More money can't hurt either, as we learn this week in Ventura’s Cool Video Calling for More Bicycle and Pedestrian Funding. And if nothing else works, maybe we can just keep Fighting Job Sprawl, and keep more jobs in walkable central cities. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cool Ped Stuff #19: Triple Plays

It's been a while since I've been able to post about all things awesome in the ped world, so this week I've got three for you (with thanks to the America Walks forum for the first two):
Walking Apps
Everybody Walk! is an online campaign to encourage 30 minutes of walking, five days a week for better health. The new Everybody Walk app helps you find walking paths near you, connect with other walkers, and track your own routes and history. Find the links to download it here.
For those hoping for a more poetic (if dark) take on pedestrian safety, the NY DOT has installed these haiku safety signs around the city. The campaign uses 17 syllables and clever graphics to remind pedestrians, cyclists and drivers about the dangers of careless behavior on the road. Read the full story from NPR here.
Video Advocacy
In yet another example of a creative approach to advocacy, our friends at the Right to Walk Foundation in Hyderabad, India just released this new video encouraging drivers to respect the rights of pedestrians in the city.

Friday, December 9, 2011

This Week on Foot

This week we learn that As U.S. road deaths drop, more pedestrians getting struck, although no one seems to be able to figure out quite why that is due to the shameful lack of data on pedestrian travel in the US. Some theories are that more pedestrians are walking in the auto-oriented suburbs, smart phones are contributing to pedestrian distraction, or that alcohol maybe a factor, like the Pedestrian Fatally Struck by Car in Bel Air; May Have Been Under Influence of Alcohol.

But even if they can't figure them out, many officials are trying to do something about those discouraging pedestrian statistics. In Chicago Flags are newest weapon in city's pedestrian safety push, while in London they're taking a Walk on the wild side: Pedestrians could soon be given equal footing with cars (not entirely sure what's so "wild" about that...). In Tennessee Lawmakers Want Safe Solution After 8th Pedestrian Dies, to which I'm sure pedestrians across the state are saying "it's about time." In Las Vegas the it's the Parent of girl killed in traffic accident working to help improve pedestrian safety, where we're reminded No, you don't get points for hitting pedestrians.

Finally, You Like Walking in the City? So Do Plenty of Others, although Pedestrians reluctant to use overhead bridges. And outside central cities Walkable Neighborhoods Gaining Popularity -- Even in the Suburbs. So Take a Walk, If You Can (although if your neighborhood is like some of parts of India, that might be tough to do...). 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

And we're back!

With some nice photos of the walkable Northwest. Here are a few streets in Oregon that caught my eye as we traveled. Note the buildings that front the sidewalk, nice street furniture, and wide area for walking in this pic of Hood River:

With a street like this in Albany, with on-street parking and a relatively narrow space for vehicle travel, a zebra crossing can be enough for a pedestrian. Note also the street trees, decorative lighting, and (again) buildings fronting the sidewalk that are "human" scale.

I liked how this pocket park in Ashland made use of what might otherwise be wasted space, and in doing so made the entire area feel like it belonged to both pedestrians and vehicles.

But it wasn't just the street design that made Oregon so pedestrian-friendly, it was the clear culture of equality between pedestrians, bikes, and vehicles. I'm not quite sure how they've managed it, but somehow Oregonians have created cities where driving is downplayed, sharrows abound, and not stopping for a pedestrian is a gross violation of social norms. Maybe they put something in the microbrew?