Friday, June 28, 2013

This Week on Foot

Photo courtesy of

This week we're excited about the possibility of Legislation Would Mandate Complete Streets Nationwide, but until then cities across the country are working on implementing complete streets on their own, like in Alexandria where Complete Streets program targets needs of walkers, drivers, in Ann Arbor where Planning Group Highlights Pedestrian Issues, a new Comprehensive Pedestrian Plan Aims to Develop “Walkable City” in Raleighor, or in the Complete Streets column: Bike, walkability of Nekoosa an advantage for future economic growth. Just remember, when it comes to Complete Streets: Burden of Proof on Opponents.

Speaking of burdens, this Tulsa Sidewalk Stories video series focuses on the city's poor walkability. Hopefully it will tell us more about Protecting the pedestrian without have to resort to Rare Pedestrian Bridge Considered In West Boca Where Girl Was Killed. And while some may say Distracted Walking Sending Pedestrians To The ER, we know it's actually cars that are sending them there. Looking for more about Solving pedestrian problems in a car culture? Check out this story about 'Accident' Or 'Collision': Why Don't Drivers Get Jailed For Killing Pedestrians?

New York is one place doing a lot to address its car culture, as we see from these Eyes on the Street: New Pedestrian Spaces Pop in Financial District. And if you're Lost? New York Pedestrian Maps Are Coming.

Finally this week, in a Housing Market Study: Idahoans Demanding Walkable Urbanism, and 8 – 80 Cities' Gil Penalosa promotes 'walkability' as key to successful public transit. And it's not just public transit that could benefit. According to Jeff Speck to City Leaders: Walkability May Save Us From Just About Everything.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Congratulations, George!

In 2010 we hosted George Throop for a night as he completed the west coast portion of his (walking) journey from Washington State to Washington, D.C. After nearly three years and thousands of miles on foot, George made it to his destination last weekend! Along the way he inspired hundreds of people to think about physical activity and walk a little more in their daily lives. You can read more about his amazing accomplishment on his website Enjoy the Walk.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Will Pedestrian Countdown Signals Suffer the Same Fate as Marked Crosswalks?

A recent study from University of Toronto PhD student Sacha Kapoor and Arvind Magesan evaluated the impact of installing pedestrian countdown timers at various intersections throughout Toronto over a four-year period. After much parsing of data, the study concluded that installing countdown signals resulted in a five-percent increase in crashes versus intersections without the special signals. But there are nuances to that conclusion:
"The data reveals starkly different effects for collisions involving pedestrians and those involving automobiles only. Although they reduce the number of pedestrians struck by automobiles, countdowns increased the number of collisions between automobiles. We show that countdowns cause fewer minor injuries among pedestrians for every pedestrian on the road and more rear ends among cars for every car on the road."
Further, while the the countdown signals increase crashes overall, at the most dangerous intersections the installation of countdown signals reduced crashes and made the intersections safer.

Unfortunately, nuances don't fit nicely into a soundbite. If you scroll through headlines of recent stories covering this study, you'll see two themes emerge:
  1. Pedestrian countdown timers cause more crashes
  2. Pedestrian countdown timers safer for pedestrians, hurt drivers
Neither of these statements is false, but they also don't tell the whole story about the effects of the signals. More importantly, if you're a policymaker faced with a decision about whether or not to install countdown signals, they could easily lead you to the wrong conclusion. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

This Week on Foot

We start out the week with the tepid announcement that Bike and pedestrian enhancements don’t necessarily hurt business--which is great, since so many cities are working on them this year, from Chicago, where a in the New Chicago Plan: Pedestrians Come First to Canada where the City of Montreal launches pedestrian safety campaign, while in Phoenix's Walkability Gamble Might Actually Pay Off, San Francisco rolling out plan to improve pedestrian safety, and a new Plan would make West Shore more pedestrian friendly. In other words Sidewalks -- now there's a vision.

At least, in some places...they're still Running Out of Sidewalk Near Lake Murrary, and Sherman Oaks Ranks Average in the Walkability Ratings. For that matter, Austin Ranks Low in Walkability Survey. At least Bellingham Stands Out On Walkability.

Other places, not so much--like in Encinitas, where a Pedestrian struck on Hwy 101 in Encinitas. Fortunately, across the country Police step up efforts to quell pedestrian- and cycling-related crashes, like in DELAWARE: Group formed to study rising pedestrian fatalities--and even in India, where
HC notice to State on plea to ensure pedestrian safety.

Speaking of efforts to improve pedestrian safety: Police Stings for Drivers Who Don't Yield in Crosswalks: Does It Really Work? And while we're on the topic, here's some Survey Results: Are San Diego Adults Driving Distracted? (I think that was a rhetorical question).

Finally, this week you can get a Sneak peek at the making of the island pedestrian walkway, or peruse ChoiceMaps: A New Way to Measure Neighborhoods from our friends at WalkScore.
courtesy of


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Stay Sober, or Get in a Car

Photo courtesy of Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK
Alaska might be different from the rest of the country in a lot of ways, but when it comes to blaming problems with pedestrian safety on pedestrian behavior, it's just the same as everywhere else. Last week the small city of Bethel, AK made headlines for its proposal to amend its public decency ordinance to prohibit walking on public streets while intoxicated.

According to one city council member, "Public streets and roads, ice roads or highways, are very dangerous areas. They have a lot of fast-moving, big vehicles. A lot of foot traffic as well. To have an intoxicated person in those particular areas makes for an exponentially greater risk of harm not only to the person who’s intoxicated, but anyone who’s traveling on those roadways..."

We've heard this argument before, perhaps most memorably from the guys at Freakonomics, who raised a lot of eyebrows by suggesting, 

"Truly, if you're faced exactly with two choices, walking drunk or driving drunk, you absolutely should drive drunk."

Statistically, that's true (if you only care about your own safety, that is)--but that doesn't make it good policy. As I've explained, there are external costs associated with encouraging driving at the expense of walking. If walking while intoxicated is dangerous, it's probably also dangerous while sober. Making a law to forbid walking drunk might seem like the easy solution, but it neglects the true problems that pedestrians face.