Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Video: The Rise of Open Streets

This short video from Streetfilms has been getting almost as much attention as the Open Streets movement itself lately. Here's a little bit about the film from its creators:

"The Rise of Open Streets" examines the open streets movement from myriad perspectives -- how it began, how events are run, how they shape people's perceptions of their streets, and how creating car-free space, even temporarily, benefits people's lives. And it looks not only at big cities like Los Angeles, but smaller ones like Fargo, Berkeley, and Lexington. We've interviewed some of the most important people in the movement, including former NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and former Chicago DOT Commissioner Gabe Klein, as well as former Bogota Parks Commissioner Gil Penalosa and Enrique Jacoby, from the Pan American Health Organization.

Take a look!

Monday, February 3, 2014

User-Friendly Complete Streets

Image courtesy of www.bostoncompletestreets.org

As cities across the country jump on the Complete Streets bandwagon (it's public transportation, after all), they're on the hunt for good examples of Complete Streets documents: why reinvent the wheel, when it's hard enough trying to reinvent the street? One lovely model that any city would do well to emulate is Boston's Complete Streets website.

The site, clearly designed by someone who knows how to do these things, includes a number of features that set it apart from typical municipal websites:

  • Interactive graphics, like the one pictured above, provide detailed information and pictures about complete streets concepts
  • Social media components are integrated into every aspect of the site, encouraging users to tweet, share, and subscribe to stay informed about Complete Streets projects
  • Contact information is easy to find--including direct phone numbers and emails of several staff members responsible for implementing Complete Streets policies, not just the generic (or non-existent) email addresses available on typical sites, that rarely provide an easy connection to an actual person
  • Definitions of key terms in the Complete Streets vision are provided up front, so users are less likely to get lost in a morass of planning jargon
  • A dedicated page highlights opportunities for public participation, and includes a "pitch" describing why users should get involved with Complete Streets issues

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.