Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Cool Ped Stuff #28: Key to the Street

Ever dreamed about what your bland, pedestrian-unfriendly street might look like if you could spruce it up a bit? Key to the Street is a new design tool created by Jessica Lowry and Murali Allada that let's you use your phone as a starting point to transform any street. Not only does the app provide the ability to redesign your street with features like landscaping or bike lanes, it helps keep you up to date on potential improvements that are already in the works by linking to city projects in the area. You can even use the app to share your ideas with decisionmakers or other advocates.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Upcoming Webinars

November 6, 12 pm PST

NACTO's New Release: Urban Street Design Guide
National Association of City Transportation Officials

A well-illustrated, concrete vision for the future of city streets, NACTO's new "Urban Street Design Guide" charts the principles and practices of the nation’s foremost engineers, planners and designers working in cities today. This webinar will address how this resource will change the face of our nation's streets, the ways you can use it in your community, and how specific topics and elements in the document differ from conventional practice.
Register here.

November 7, 11 am PST

Shared Use: Is It In You? Engaging Key Stakeholders in Shared Use Strategies
Safe Routes to School National Partnership

Making use of school facilities that would not otherwise be used after school hours allows for a more efficient use of public space and money, and is a promising strategy to combat childhood obesity. This webinar will focus on providing tools to engage key stakeholders in the discussion around shared use agreements.
Register here

November 21, 11 am PST

Empowering Lower-income Communities to Take Advantage of MAP-21 Funds
Safe Routes to School National Partnership

More street scale projects can be built in lower-income communities and communities of color by training advocates nationwide on how to have successful meetings with local elected officials about existing funding for pedestrian and bicycle projects, including the new MAP-21 funds. This webinar will focus on the tools the National Partnership has created and the need to activate our National Active Transportation Diversity Task Force and other partners at the local and state level.

December 4. 11 am PST

Developing Effective Practices for Snow Removal: Why is it Worth all the Effort? 
Easter Seals Project Action 

Ensuring safe and independent travel for people with and without disabilities in the event of snow can be difficult. A national standard for effective snow removal for pedestrians does not currently exist. Join this webinar to look at snow removal issues and explore ideas for possible solutions to be considered at the local level. Presenters will discuss how snow effects the independent travel of people with disabilities as well as effective practices in snow removal for public transportation as well as for the broader community with a Complete Streets perspective.

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.