Friday, November 1, 2013

This week on foot

Photo courtesy of YouTube
Even with Halloween just behind us, we continue to wonder this week Trick-or-Treat: Is Your Neighborhood Walkable Enough for Halloween? Our neighborhood was good by some measures, but without streetlights we had a little trouble finding our way from house to house. If only we had Starpath glow-in-the-dark spray coating will light up roads in the UK.

Meanwhile, this week we learn about Commuting’s Hidden Cost, and from a MIT Study: Benefits of Placemaking Go Deeper Than Better Places. There's definitely a Walkability Factor: New report shows neighborhood trend. But, Is a walkable neighborhood out of reach for you? Hopefully not, since the dangers of unwalkable neighborhoods are abundant, like in the UK where Mystery fatality raises pedestrian safety issues or in LA where a Pedestrian dies after being hit in Hollywood; Good Samaritan nabs driver.

Fortunately, even if your neighborhood isn't walkable, there are things you can do. Take the example of this Workshop aims to make Wilm. more pedestrian friendly--or you could put your street on a diet, like Flint’s Ingenious Plan to “Right-Size” Its Streets With Road Diets, or  7th Street in Downtown Los Angeles Goes on a Diet. And what's good for safety is good for housing values, as Homes within walking distance to shopping, dining, parks are more attractive in today's real estate market.

Elsewhere in the country, a Pedestrian signal on Fourth Avenue still confusing but doing its jobYpsilanti plans to construct pedestrian crossing with HAWK signal on Michigan Avenue and Broadway is the new face of complete streets in Seattle. Are you Thinking of a Ballot Measure Campaign for Active Transportation? Maybe you should, because Increasing pedestrian safety will take more than tougher laws. And if you're looking for inspiration, A Tour Along Historic Central Ave. is a Good Reminder that People are the Essence of Spaces.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

San Diego Regional Walk Scorecard Released

Photo courtesy of WalkSanDiego
WalkSanDiego has released its annual scorecard of the most and least walkable cities in the region. Using data from its BestWalk app, as well as information about pedestrian-friendly city policies, pedestrian collisions, and percentage of people commuting by foot, WalkSanDiego has ranked each of the 18 cities in the region for walkability.

 Leading the list this year is the City of La Mesa. According to WalkSanDiego,

"The city has (a) extensively cataloged local walking conditions, especially around transit stations and schools, (b) consistently upgraded intersections and other facilities to better alert drivers to the presence of pedestrians, (c) instituted a host of incentives to reward developers for designing buildings and neighborhoods with walking utmost in mind, especially in their downtown and transit station areas, and (d) instituted a robust program to educate students and families about pedestrian and bike safety and encourage them to walk and bike to school. In addition, La Mesa has protected its downtown grid network of streets, which allows for a mix of walkable destinations, including transit stops."
Also included in the top five are the cities of National City, Imperial Beach, Solana Beach, and Encinitas. In contrast, El Cajon and Santee fall at the bottom of the list.

You can read more about the scoring system, this year's rankings, and download the full report here.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pedestrian crossings: What we can be doing better

Photo courtesy of the Florida Times-Union
In writing this blog I come across a pretty horrifying number of news reports about people killed or injured while walking, but this story about a teenage girl and her mother hit last month in a Florida crosswalk has stuck in my mind ever since I first read it a few weeks ago.

Orly Ohayon and her mother Esther Benzohar Ohayon, both Orthodox Jews, were walking to services on the eve of Yom Kippur when they were struck by a car. As observant Jews, they were prohibited from using electronics--like the walk button that triggers a longer crossing time when pedestrians are present--during the holiday. Thus they had less than 20 seconds to cross an 8-lane road (quick math: based on industry standards they needed at least 30 seconds). Sadly, if predictably, they didn't make it to the other side safely: Orly was critically injured when hit, and her mother was killed. 

Aside from the obvious gut-wrenching aspects, I think this story has been hard to forget because it highlights three key weaknesses in the way we currently look at street design and pedestrian safety.

1. Culture matters, and one size doesn't fit all

Streets, sidewalks, public spaces: they mean different things and are used in different ways depending on the population they serve. It's important for planners and decisionmakers to acknowledge those differences, and tailor roadway designs accordingly. Following the Jacksonville crash there were a flood of suggestions about how to make crossings safer for observant Jews while respecting their religious practices, but this was a neighborhood that already had a large Jewish population--there should have been steps taken to address the issue before someone was killed.   

Monday, October 28, 2013

Trick-or-Treat, Walking Feet

With only a few nights remaining to plot their most lucrative candy-gathering strategies, children across the country are hunkering down, maps and empty plastic pumpkins in hand, to figure out their ideal routes. Parents hoping to sneak their share of the haul (definitely none of those in my house) might direct them to Zillow's annual list of the Top 20 Cities for Trick or Treating. Using an index that draws from data on population density, home values, and of course Walk Scores, Zillow ranks not only cities, but neighborhoods within cities, by their treat potential. Both LA and San Diego made the list this year, though it's clear that home value trumped walk score for some of the top neighborhoods (do they even let people trick or treat in Bel Air?).

All the walking that happens on Halloween night makes it one of the most dangerous for pedestrians, especially children, so take care out there! 

Friday, October 25, 2013

This Week on Foot

This week we learn How One D.C. Suburb Set A Gold Standard For Commuting, and transformed itself into a vibrant, walkable (if expensive) example for the rest of the world. Perhaps this is why DC’s New Parents Aren’t Fleeing to the Burbs, although Yes, Baby Boomers Are Moving Back to Cities. No, Not All of Them..

Elsewhere in the country, Metuchen asks residents how they feel about bright orange pedestrian flags in New Jersey, but De Blasio hedges on pedestrian malls in New York, and Commission plans new paths to make Bennington more ‘walkable'.They're thinking about Pedestrian safety in Ann Arbor: Council members propose citizens advisory committee, and the Region may consider pedestrian scramble in Waterloo. Even Disney is getting into the walkability game, as Pedestrian bridges added to Downtown Disney makeover.

Outside the US, they're trying to Walk this way: pedestrian road safety must be stepped up worldwide. Fortunately, in Canada a Students’s union calling for action on pedestrian safety on campus, but in other countries there is an An urgent need of more pedestrian bridges on main roads that isn't being met.

Closer to home, here are some Notes from Seattle: A very complete street--we all know about the Many benefits from Complete Streets, right? Like in Maine, where Woodbine Recognized As Complete Streets Community--but maybe not in New York, where NYS Passes Complete Streets Law, Then Slashes Funding for Pedestrian and Bicycle least These Pedestrian Maps Are a Feat of Design, Data and Diligence.

Finally, we're reminded that Distracted Driving Is Claiming the Lives of More Pedestrians and Cyclists (at least in Oregon there are TriMet's 'talking buses': Listen to new pedestrian warning), and of The Infrastructure of Inequality. Maybe it's time we moved Beyond “Level of Service” — New Methods for Evaluating Streets and bring the focus back to other users besides cars.