Friday, March 16, 2012

This Week on Foot

This week Volvo rolls out V40 with pedestrian air bag, which is earning the company lots of attention from advocates who are concerned that it gives drivers a "pass" to hit pedestrians (or at least be less vigilant when watching for them. You can join the debate on this Streetsblog Open Thread: The Volvo Pedestrian Airbag. Personally, I'm all for any technology that helps protect pedestrians, and I'm willing to bet that the parents of the 11-year-old twin girls hit by car in Studio City, 1 critical, 1 serious feel the same way. But not everyone agrees, like this Washington Post blogger who wonders Will driverless cars really slow for pedestrians?

If they do, hopefully New Jersey drivers will start using them on Route 22, where, With 9 pedestrian deaths over 3 years, Route 22 ranks among N.J.'s most dangerous roads. Fortunately, folks in the area are working on that problem with Regional Responses to Most Dangerous Roads for Walking Report.

Elsewhere in the country, Aging Houstonians want safer streets, Planning Commission to hear about changes to growing city, and in Seattle they're thinking about Freeing Food Carts to create more walkable environments. In Chicago they're searching for a Complete Streets policy? What Complete Streets policy? while up in San Francisco they're talking about Why Apple's New Campus Is Bad for Urban America. Outside the US Perth CBD evolving to be more pedestrian friendly, but in India there's no Civic Sense: Poor pedestrian left in the middle of the road.

Back home we're still debating the transportation bill. You can Compare the Senate and House Transpo Bills, Side-By-Side, but is the bill Bipartisan? Comparing the 2012 bills to past transportation bill votes.

Also, we're reminded this week that it doesn't take much brain power to realize that pedestrian safety is important. It's a No Brainer: Active Kids = Smarter Kids. In other words, It's the Design, Stupid.

Finally, in honor of Saint Patrick's Day Leprechaun helps call attention to pedestrian safety. Whatever it takes...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pedestrian Research News

Time again to curl up with a cup of coffee and your favorite guilty pleasure: research papers! Or is that just me? / Dan Burden

Effects of Pedestrian Perceptions of Safety: An Examination of Pedestrian Crossing Behavior in Marked versus Unmarked Crosswalks

This study revisits the "false sense of security" argument often just to justify eliminating marked crosswalks. Using surveys and observations at marked and unmarked crosswalks, the study examined pedestrian attitudes and behavior towards crosswalk marking. Survey data collected showed many pedestrians believe they have the right of way only in marked crosswalks.When observing pedestrian behavior in three different crosswalk treatments, however, pedestrians surprisingly showed higher levels of cautiousness in marked crosswalks than unmarked crosswalks. These findings suggest that marked crosswalks do not give pedestrians a false sense of security or correlate with reckless behavior.

Neighborhood Crime and Travel Behavior: An Investigation of the Influence of Neighborhood Crime Rates on Mode Choice – Phase II

This report describes the second phase of a research study conducted by the Mineta Transportation Institute evaluating the impact of neighborhood crime on mode choice. While it has always been assumed that the threat of crime influences the decision to walk or ride a bike, there has been little research on the topic of neighborhood crime and travel.

The analysis in this study shows that high crime neighborhoods tend to discourage residents from walking or riding a bicycle. As the authors describe, "When comparing a high crime to a lower crime neighborhood the odds of walking over choosing auto decrease by 17.25 percent for work trips and 61 percent for non-work trips." The researchers also investigated the impact of neighborhood crime on the access portion of transit trips (walking, bicycling, or driving to a transit stop). They found that  this part of the transit trip is sensitive to neighborhood crimes, and that in high crime neighborhoods people forgo walking and bicycling in favor of driving to transit stations.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Preserving Mobility for Older Americans

My mom likes to say that being old isn't hard, but getting there is rough.

Not that she would know, of course.)

For many, one of the roughest parts of aging is giving up driving. Sacrificing the car keys also means sacrificing the freedom to go, comfortably, the places you want to go. As a new generation creeps into the "should you really be driving?" age group, it's no surprise that greater attention is being paid to the mobility needs of older adults, as with the newly-released white paper from AASTHO and TRIP Keeping Baby Boomers Mobile: Preserving the Mobility and Safety of Older Americans.

The paper offers a series of recommendations related to road design, education, licensing, vehicle design, and alternative transportation modes that aim to preserve older adults' ability to move throughout their communities on their own.

Unfortunately (though perhaps not surprisingly for a paper written by a highway association), several of the key recommendations do little to improve the overall safety of the road, and may in fact harm more vulnerable users like pedestrians and cyclists.

Let's begin by examining one of fundamental premises underlying these recommendations, that in the name of safety we must redesign our roads to accommodate older drivers. The paper emphasizes that older drivers are disproportionately represented in fatal crashes. This may be true, but that has more to do with these drivers' frailty than unforgiving roads. In fact, older drivers tend to self-regulate their driving (e.g. drive only during the day, choose "easier" routes), which largely negates the effect of decreased physical abilities on their driving skills.

And let's not forget that while older drivers may be likelier to cause a crash than other adults, the really dangerous ones are younger drivers. According to one RAND study, older drivers may be 16 percent more likely to cause a crash, but younger drivers are 188 percent more likely to do so.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Streets are not for Children

...but they should be. Unfortunately, for the past century various organizations have been campaigning to keep children off streets in the name of "safety." Bike Delaware has posted some interesting images, like this one, from early efforts to keep kids from playing in the streets--because  those streets belong to vehicles, not people, right?

Lest you think that the auto lobby was entirely to blame for this, check out this 1914 NY Times article about "Movies" of Street Car Accidents Shown in Brooklyn Schools . (Yes, the battle for street space started when "movie" was still a slang term that had to be put in quotes.)

Sadly, children seem to have learned the lesson. Want a sign of how important private vehicle travel is to our culture? According to one recent study, of the 25 words every normal toddler should know before age two, only one has to do with transportation: "car."

Friday, March 2, 2012

This Week on Foot

This week we learn about Where the Sidewalk (and Money) Ends, or: It Won't Be Easy Implementing Complete Streets. It will be especially hard if Congress passes a transportation bill that cuts funding for alternative transportation modes, but fortunately the latest Transportation Bill Amendment Would Restore Bicycle, Pedestrian Funding. We'll continue to follow the progress (or lack thereof) of the bill closely.

Meanwhile, at the state level "Complete streets" bill gaining attention in West Virginia, and Complete Streets Building Momentum in Jefferson County, Ala. Elsewhere in the country Zoning reform strengthens Nashville's impressive sustainability efforts, a New bicycling and pedestrian committee holds first meeting in Florida, and Stakeholders meet, brainstorm about pedestrian-safety improvements in Nevada while Cops continue campaign to protect pedestrians here in California.

It's been a busy week for Walk Score, as MRED integrates Walk Score in internal MLS system and Greater Greater Washington asks Which city's rail system has the best Walk Score? Others are wondering about The Green Leap: Can We Construct Urban Communities That Conserve Biodiversity? If so, we can probably all agree that It Starts With Better Design.

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