Monday, September 22, 2014

A Mixed Bag for PB Pedestrians

Last weekend our neighborhood got a little more pedestrian-friendly, courtesy of this awesome new crosswalk art in front of the local middle school. Not only does the street painting add some loveliness to a distinctly boring stretch of roadway, it will hopefully improve visibility and crossing safety for students who use this route to walk to and from school (or at least to and from their parents' waiting cars). Kudos to beautifulPB for their work on this project.

But just when it looked like we might actually be starting to take active transportation seriously in Pacific Beach, this happens:

Those signs (they also block the bike lane on a nearby street) are in place as part of a festival at a local park on the beach. While no doubt there are locals who would be interested in walking or biking to the festival, they won't be doing it here, particularly not if they need to push a stroller or use a wheelchair.

The best part? In what surely wasn't intended to be an ironic move, the signs are there to inform drivers that they can't stop and block vehicle traffic. Yep, blocking the sidewalk and bike lanes is totally fine, but it's so critical that no one slows down cars (heavens!) that there has to be a sign every ten feet telling drivers to keep moving.

Friday, May 23, 2014

San Diego Waterfront Park Gets it Sort of Right

Yesterday we visited downtown San Diego's new Waterfront Park, highly touted for its futuristic playground equipment...

...not to mention its kid-friendly water feature (which I should point out is much more popular on a sunny day, though the clouds and cold--for us-- weather didn't deter my toddler).

Less kid-friendly are the pedestrian connections to the waterfront path that would otherwise connect the new park with existing parks and tourist attractions along North Harbor Drive. While the path is probably less than 100 feet from the edge of the park, here's how you're supposed to get there:

Welcoming to the pedestrian, isn't it? I especially appreciate that while you can almost make out the curb cut at the far end of the "crosswalk," you would have to navigate around three sets of raised curbs to get to it.

Oh, but first you also have to deal with this:

That would be a free right that encourages drivers to swoop through the crosswalk with little regard for a pedestrian hoping to get across the street. (Sure there's the nominal yield sign in place, but nothing about this design would lead a driver to actually yield--much less pay attention to--a pedestrian at the curb).

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Cool Ped Stuff #29 : Kids, Poop and CO2

With two kids under three years old, the unfortunate fact is that poop plays a disproportionate role in my life.

Happily, that's not the only reason that Worse Than Poop, a new film idea from mother-son collaborators Vanessa and Elliot Warheit, resonates with me. The movie is intended to teach kids about the pollution problems created by too much driving. Toward that end, it will use animation and a pretty gross (read: kid-friendly) metaphor to help viewers visualize the true output of carbon dioxide that we create when we drive. The film will also highlight all the other fun, cool ways to get around besides driving, which would make it a great tie-in to a Safe Routes to School program or other community efforts to get kids walking and biking more.

However, this is all contingent on the full 3-5 minute show actually being made. The Warheits have a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project that ends on May 31. They're about $6,000 short of their goal--totally reachable if you help contribute now. Read more about Worse Than Poop and see fun photos of Elliot's transportation exploits here.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

People (in cars): The truly deadliest animal

You can't fault the creativity behind Bill Gates' efforts to draw attention to the problem of malaria by designating this week Mosquito Week. The accompanying movie poster (Skeeternado!) and infographic--not to mention abundant press coverage--show just how much clever marketing and deep pockets can help promote a cause. Of course, if you're reading this blog it shouldn't take you long to spot the major error in the graphic:

As many of the comments on this blog post have noted, the latest figures from the World Health Organization show that last year 1.24 million people died in traffic crashes. Not only does that number trump malaria deaths, it's on par (or higher, depending on the year) with deaths from HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

A disproportionate number of those deaths are pedestrians. A disproportionate number of those pedestrians killed are vulnerable users like kids, adults, the poor. I've written before about how road safety--especially pedestrian safety--would benefit from a high-profile sponsor like the Gates Foundation. Any takers?

Friday, April 25, 2014

New Baby to Walk, Same Problems with Walking

We might live 100 miles further south and 12 miles closer to the beach, but the problems we have taking this baby for a stroll are the same we faced the first time around: poorly maintained, narrow sidewalks, obstacles blocking the pedestrian travel path, and inconsistent curb ramps all combine to make walking with a stroller an exercise in frustration. 

All those baby books that recommend taking your child for a soothing walk in the evening obviously never tried it in my neighborhood, where every five feet the sidewalk juts up with a Mt.Everest-like buckle. The next time my kid is awakened for 31st time as I bump her over another tree root, I'm planning to call the Mayor's office and just hold the phone over the stroller so he can enjoy her screams as much as I do. 

People who have never tried to heft a 50-pound load of baby, diaper bag, stroller, and three gallons of milk over a curb this high might be inclined to discount this problem as just another mommy-centric rant in a world that places undue importance on the comfort of children and their hovering parents. But as I said to my husband as we sweatily manhandled our stroller over yet another sidewalk obstacle, "Imagine doing this in a wheelchair." Cities have a legal, if not moral, obligation to provide sidewalks that allow all their citizens to travel with relative safety and ease, regardless of physical ability. What makes walking easier for someone with a stroller is also going to make it easier for someone in a wheelchair. Or someone with a cane. Or someone who just doesn't want to trip if they get caught up in scintillating conversation with the person walking next to them. 

And guess what? Improving walking conditions for parents can also help conditions for people who drive--even if they don't have kids. Moms (and dads, but mostly moms) make a lot of short trips in their cars that add significantly to local congestion. Things like taking the older kids to school, picking up some bread from the store, or filling a prescription could all be accomplished on foot, but unless walking is easier and safer that's not likely to happen and we'll continue to be plagued by traffic and the many problems that go along with it. 

Then of course there's the health piece--walking for exercise is pretty much the only thing new moms are allowed to do in the first weeks after having a baby, but it's not easy to get the full benefits of walking when you have to stop every few feet to maneuver around a parked car or shimmy between, say, a fire hydrant and a pole: 

I especially love the added insult of having a ADA curb ramp immediately adjacent to a sidewalk that someone in a wheelchair would never be able to use. San Diego, you can do better than this.