Friday, January 31, 2014

More on Snowy Sidewalks

Photo courtesy of BBC News
Snow seems to be on the minds of many this week (though not so much here in Southern California). Here are a few stories about how cities with colder weather than us are addressing the problems that come along with all that white stuff.

Smart Growth America wonders, How do you shovel a bike lane? They offer some resources for folks looking to answer that question on their site:
Focusing on clear and accessible pathways and transit stops for people with disabilities, a booklet from Easter Seals Project ACTION describes the ways snow and ice present significant barriers to travel, innovative practices and design solutions to clear the way, and the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements for sidewalk maintenance. Some of this material was covered in a recent webinar, which featured Russ Decker of Aspen, CO, Donna Smith of Easter Seals Project ACTION, and Roger Millar, Director of the National Complete Streets Coalition.
Meanwhile, Grist's Ask Umbra offers some advice to a reader who wonders, What do I do about my treacherous sidewalks this winter? Hint: the best solution involves beet juice.

Finally, this story from the BBC describes how people in snowy climes are using "sneckdowns" (snowy neckdowns) to test potential street redesigns that favor pedestrians, like the one in the picture above:

After a winter storm, snow ploughed to the side of the road creates temporary neckdowns and demonstrates the principle in action.
"When that snow piles up at a lot of intersections in neighbourhoods, you see that space where they could put a kerb extension," says Eckerson. "The cars still can make the turn, including trash trucks and school buses, but you see the slow, more deliberate turn around the corner instead of cutting it."
It almost makes me wish we got snow around here...

Monday, January 27, 2014

Snowy sidewalks: Another reason to be happy about living in California

©Dan Wasserman, The Boston Globe
We're lucky here in Southern California not to have to deal with the issue of snow-plowing--or rather, lack of snow-plowing--on pedestrian walkways, but it's a big problem in other cities, where roads are typically cleared of snow and ice far before sidewalks.

However, in some parts of the world cities are starting to re-think how they address plowing, as this recent story from the Atlantic Cities blog describes. In Sweden, a few cities are revamping their snow clearance policies to prioritize roads near schools and transit stops, as well as those with bike lanes. The idea is that it is these roads, rather than the major ones to city centers, that serve the more vulnerable populations (women, families) who have more challenges dealing with snow. Plowing them first thus becomes an issue of gender equality, not just mobility. Given that those with lower incomes are more likely to walk or use transit, perhaps we need to apply similar thinking here in the US?

Monday, January 20, 2014

How a School in Virginia Got Full Participation in a Walking School Bus

Photo courtesy of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership
This recent story from the Safe Routes to School National Partnership highlights how infrastructure improvements combined with strong leadership and outreach can have a big impact on how kids get to school.

Several years ago Keister Elementary in Harrisonburg, Virginia, received a federal Safe Routes to School grant to provide sidewalks, traffic calming, crosswalks, bike lanes and new signage around the school. With the new infrastructure in place, school leaders were eager to find ways to further encourage students to walk and bike to school. They started with a Walking Friday program where kids walked on a track for 20-30 minutes before school once a week, and then created a walking school bus to serve a nearby housing complex. Initially parents at the complex were concerned about the safety of the walking school bus, so school staff visited each family at home to explain the program and encourage parents to get involved. 

Today the walking school bus has 100 percent participation, and the school is looking into even more ways to incorporate walking and biking into students' daily lives. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Impact of Neighborhood Walkability on Walking Behavior

Photo courtesy of / Dan Burden 
Planners love to point out that people who live in walkable neighborhoods tend to walk more, but they're quick to admit that we don't entirely understand that relationship. A new paper from America Wallks seeks to address that by using survey data to answer some burning questions, namely things like:

  • How much more do people who live in pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods walk than people who live in neighborhoods that are not as conducive for walking? 
  • What about people who happen to live in walkable neighborhoods for whom “walkability” was not a decisive factor in choosing where to live? 
  • Do these people also walk more than others who live in less walkable neighborhoods?

To answer these questions, the survey queried respondents about both the type of walking they did in a typical week, including "utilitarian" (to get some place) and "health/relaxation" (exercise, walking a dog) walking. They were also asked several different types of questions intended to gauge the walkability of their neighborhoods. As the following table shows, people who live in neighborhoods they consider "walkable" are far more likely to walk more than 10 minutes per day than people who live in less walkable places.