Saturday, April 6, 2013

Cool Ped Stuff #26: The Stumblr

This week's Golden Footprint awards highlighted a ton of inspiring projects, from the Mike Gotch Memorial Bike and Pedestrian Bridge in my neighborhood, to the City of La Mesa's Safe Routes to School program that uses an often-overlooked resource (older adults) to help ensure student safety on the way to and from school.

Photo courtesy of The Stumblr
But as a blogger I had special appreciation for the electronic activism, and clever title, of The Stumblr, which received special recognition for providing a platform to "showcase" San Diego's worst sidewalks (and for generating some national buzz about the sad state of our most important piece of pedestrian infrastructure). Brainchild of Voice of San Diego writer Liam Dillon, the site allows anyone to submit a photo of their favorite pedestrian debacle, which Dillon will then display prominently on the page. Judging by the dismay of the city councilmembers present at the awards ceremony, it might just be enough to generate some sidewalk improvements.

I wonder if it would work on the LA City Council?

Yes, there really is a sidewalk under this creative landscaping in Woodland Hills. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

This Week on Foot

This week we learn that while Good health can be a walk in the park --not to mention The Link Between Kids Who Walk or Bike to School and Concentration--we still face The disturbing and sometimes tragic challenge of walking in America . Fortunately, all over the country people are working to address that challenge. In New Jersey Metuchen Announces New Program for Pedestrian Safety , while Pedestrian safety projects, funds in SF to shift to major streets . There's A pedestrian mall for The Triangle , a Pedestrian Wayfinding Initiative in Chinatown , and an Elaborate pedestrian tube proposed for Coronado Bay Bridge . In Florida Orlando to fund new pedestrian bridge at Universal , while in Santa Barbara COAST to Lead Eastside Walk of New Pedestrian Improvements on Milpas Street . Further south Complete Streets comes back to Texas Senate , and PB planners formulate aggressive project list for community’s future .

Still, there's plenty of danger out there. This week we consider what happens When cycling and pedestrian worlds collide . In Washington, DC the DDOT Releases Study of Bike and Pedestrian Crash Locations, and in Canada we find that Most vehicle-pedestrian collisions happen at intersections. Perhaps that's why a new Bill would ban pedestrian texting while crossing roads .

But eliminating distracted walking won't solve all pedestrian safety issues. We need to focus on the broader concept of walkability--which can be difficult because 'Walkability' factors of a city cover wide span . Still, Vibrant, Walkable Downtown Areas Make a Positive Difference in the Chicago Real Estate Market, Reports RE/MAX, so we need to keep trying. Towards that end, here's What We Can Learn About Walkability From Looking at Pictures .

Of course, walkability has it's naysayers: Living the walkability life is driving me crazy says one Canadian columnist. And elsewhere Eateries face $1m insurance for outdoor dining (which improves walkability), while AAA fights to keep unnecessary parking rules (which hurt walkability). Let's hope these folks are in the minority.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Have we lost all sense of "reason"?

 Photo courtesy of the San Diego Historical Society
Here in San Diego there's been much moaning and groaning over a recent court decision that effectively quashed plans to remove vehicles from the Plaza de Panama in the heart of Balboa Park. As you can see from the picture above, the Plaza de Panama was once an unobstructed square surrounded by exhibits and green space. The square is still in place today, but it's not quite the pedestrian haven it once was.
Photo courtesy of

After years of dodging cars to cross from one end of the park to the other, the civic-minded (and wealthy) founder of Qualcomm, Irwin Jacobs, decided enough was enough. He proposed a plan to remove vehicles from the Plaza, redirecting them to a parking lot on the park's periphery--and committed to funding it. While the project had the support of San Diego's mayor and city council, the historic preservationist group Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) was concerned that construction of a bypass route to the new parking lot would cause irrevocable damage to the historic Cabrillo Bridge. (Lest SOHO's claims sound too outlandish, consider the damage that previous forward-thinking planners did to the park when they replaced this bucolic pond beneath the bridge with a freeway.) They sued to stop the project, and earlier this month a judge ruled in SOHO's favor. Rather than continue the legal battle Jacobs admitted defeat and withdrew funding.
There's much to be said here about big money vs. small advocacy groups, effective community outreach, true "public interest," and winning the battle but losing the war--but what grates on me is the legal technicality that lost this lawsuit. You can geek out and read the whole ruling here. In summary, the City was unable to convince the judge that there would be "no reasonable beneficial use absent the alteration" to the park. Instead, the judge found that a roadway and parking lot, while perhaps not the most reasonable and beneficial use of park space, is not entirely unreasonable.

That's where I disagree with the ruling. I believe it is entirely unreasonable to sacrifice the safety, aesthetic, and connectivity of a civic institution for the convenience of park users who choose to drive there. I believe there isn't the slightest benefit to prioritizing (free!) parking over open space in a park that has ample parking elsewhere.  I believe that 100 years ago when this park was built, San Diegans would have thought it crazy to use the Plaza de Panama the way we do today. There was a time when we didn't find it reasonable to place the so-called "needs" of the automobile above all our other values. It's long past time for that sort of thinking to return to San Diego. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

2013 Conferences

No matter where you are in the world, there's a conference you can attend this year to learn more about the issues surrounding walkability. Here's a full list, with thanks to John WetmoreAnd--if you're interested in speaking at one of these conferences, a few opportunities are currently available:

The American Public Health Association 141st Annual Meeting and Exposition
The meeting will be held Nov. 2-6, 2013 in Boston. The theme is Think Global, Act Local with a focus on best practices around the world. Find out more about the 2013 APHA Annual Meeting and submit abstracts hereThe deadlines for submission of abstracts range from Feb. 4-8.

Safe Routes to School National Conference 
The conference, Building on Success—Projects, Programs, People, will be held August 13-15, 2013, in Sacramento. The Call for Session Proposals is open from January 7 through February 15. Submit proposals here

Photo courtesy of

9-11  National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD); Alexandria, VA.
13-17  Transportation Research Board; Washington, DC
15-17  Nat'l Conf on Science, Policy and the Environment: Environmental Disasters; Washington, DC
17-18  EMBARQ -- Transforming Transportation; Washington, DC
17-19  U.S. Conference of Mayors, Winter Meeting; Washington, DC
21-22  Australian Cycling Conference; Adelaide, Australia
25-26  Iowa Bike Summit; Des Moines, IA
27-29  ASTM F13 Pedestrian/Walkway Safety and Footwear; Jacksonville, FL
28-2/2  National Sheriffs Association Winter Conference; Washington, DC


4-8  World of Concrete; Las Vegas, NV
5-6  ACORE - American Council On Renewable Energy; Washington, DC
6  Intermodes; Brussels, Belgium
7-9  New Partners For Smart Growth; Kansas City, KS
10-12  National Conference of Regions; Washington, DC
11-12  Colorado Bike Summit; Denver, CO
12-14  Professional Trail Builders Association; Albuquerque, NM
13-15  Sustainable Communities Conference; Windsor Essex, ON, Canada
15  Media That Matters, AU; Washington, DC
17-20  Conference on the Value of Play; Clemson, SC
20-23  American College of Preventive Medicine; Phoenix, AZ
21-23  AASA - American Assn. of School Administrators, National Conference on Education; Los Angeles, CA
22-24 North American Handmade Bicycle Show; Denver, CO
22-26  ATSSA - American Traffic Safety Services Assn. Convention and Traffic Expo; San Diego, CA
23  Alumni Day; Princeton, NJ
26-28  Active Living Research Conference; San Diego, CA
27-3/1  AASHTO Washington Briefing; Washington, DC

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Upcoming Webinars

January 22
Walk Talk: The SRTS Call-In Show Webinar 

Cheryl Wagner, Coordinator, School-Community Partnership Program, Clark County School District, Las Vegas, Nevada
Cynthia Bell, Active Trans Community Liaison, Active Transportation Alliance, Chicago, Illinois
Melissa Kraemer Badtke, Safe Routes to School Coordinator, Associate Planner, East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, Menasha, Wisconsin

Think talk radio is just for radio? Think again. From Mr. Anthony in the 1930s to Click and Clack, Joe and Terry, Rush, and Diane Rehm today, people love the call-in format. We ask questions, we get answers. Simple. People who work on SRTS programs are no different. We like answers to our questions, too. And now we have our own call-in show, sort of, offering expert advice to overcome the challenges we face in achieving our most ardent SRTS dreams. Walk Talk (and bike, of course): The SRTS Call-in Show Webinar, features three experts who each coordinate SRTS programs at multiple schools and who represent a mix of urban, suburban and rural SRTS programs. Between them, they've confronted and overcome all manner of obstacles and barriers. And for one hour they will devote themselves to answering your thorniest SRTS questions.

Here's how it works. You register for the Webinar in advance. You submit a question about your most formidable SRTS obstacles and barriers through the registration page, or by email. You attend the Webinar and listen as the experts grapple with the unique problems facing your SRTS program and others around the country. You ask questions, you get answers. Simple.

Register here.

January 25
Sustainability Series Webinar - New York City's Active Design Guidelines: Process and Best Practices 

Featured Speaker Ernest Hutton, FAICP, Assoc. AIA Principal, Hutton Associates, Inc.

Can transformations in the built environment inspire people to be more physically active, and make our communities healthier? According to a growing body of research, the answer is yes. The 'Active Design Guidelines' developed for New York City translate this knowledge into concrete strategies for a healthier, more sustainable future. Designers, planners, developers, and operations managers can adapt the Guidelines to their own projects to promote physical activity and help counteract the most pressing health epidemics of our time - poor physical fitness and obesity and their relationship to chronic diseases such as diabetes.

'New York City's Active Design Guidelines' is a 1-hour presentation and discussion session that will:
• explore the relationship between health and the built environment;
• provide an overview of the Guidelines and its list of urban design and building design strategies;
• examine synergies between Active Design, environmental sustainability, and universal design;
• share details on the LEED Innovation Credit for Physical Activity; and
• highlight best practices and current planning and policy initiatives.

1 AICP Credit typically available per webinar. Visit to add the webinar to your CM log. Register here.

January 31
Making the Most of MAP-21

A new transportation bill passed by Congress last summer, MAP-21, is changing the way transportation projects will be chosen and funded. T4 will be hosting a free online session with experts, local leaders and advocates about how to use the transportation law to the fullest in your community. Transportation for America released a new, easy-to-follow handbook last month to help communities understand the ins and outs of the new federal transportation law. And on January 31st, T4 staff and representatives from metropolitan planning organizations will host an online presentation reviewing the new law and detailing new policies and funding opportunities.

Under MAP-21 more decision-making has shifted to the state and local level, offering critical new ways for you to engage. This online presentation will explain ways you can help shape your community, including new federal grant programs and other ways to fund projects in your community, including bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements, transit projects, and bridge and road repair. This presentation will offer great instruction for local elected officials—feel free to share this information with your allies.

Register here.