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Posts from the Pedestrian Infrastructure Category


Feds Propose Major Rule Changes to Eliminate Barriers to Safer Streets

Planners will more easily be able to design "Great Streets" like Fifth Street in Dayton, Ohio, pending new federal rules. Photo: APA

By eliminating outdated design standards, the feds can make it much easier for local governments to design streets like Fifth Street in Dayton, Ohio. Photo: APA

Applying highway design standards to city streets has been a disaster for urban neighborhoods. The same things that make highways safer for driving at 65 mph — wide lanes, “clear zones” running alongside the road that have no trees or other “obstacles” — make surface streets dangerous and dreadful for walking, killing street life.

The one-size-fits-all approach to street design has been propagated, in part, by federal standards that apply to a surprisingly large number of urban streets. But not for much longer. In what appears to be a major breakthrough, yesterday the Federal Highway Administration proposed rule changes that will allow cities and towns to more easily design streets in a way that’s consistent with an urban setting.

The FHWA may drop 11 of the 13 design requirements that currently apply to streets in the National Highway System designed for speeds below 50 miles per hour. In place of requirements that dictate things like street width and clear zones, FHWA is encouraging engineers to use judgment and consider the surroundings.

According to Joe McAndrews at Transportation for America, the rule change “will make it dramatically easier for cities and communities of all sizes to design and build complete streets”:

This covers most of the non-interstate roads and highways running through communities of all sizes that are built with federal funds, like the typical four-lane state highway through town that we’re all familiar with, perhaps with a turning lane on one side. Incidentally, many of these roads are among the most unsafe for pedestrians.

In its press release, FHWA said the change is part of an effort to eliminate “outdated standards.”

Read more…


How to Make Big Box Stores Less Terrible for Walking: 8 Expert Tips

Is there any way to integrate walking into the big box development model? Photo: @fineplanner/Twitter

It’s no coincidence that the most dangerous streets in many communities are the ones in front of big box stores.

As a rule, big boxes generate a lot of motor vehicle traffic — and they tend to be a nightmare to navigate without a car. Even though the industry is shifting and some mega retailers have started to create smaller, more urban stores, big boxes likely aren’t going away soon. Is it possible to salvage the streets and parking lots around big boxes to make them more walkable for the people who shop and work at these stores every day?

To find out, I interviewed June Williamson about how communities can make better use of big box sites. Williamson is an architect and co-author, with Ellen Dunham-Jones, of Retrofitting Suburbia. Here are her tips…

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Vote to Decide the Best Urban Street Transformation of 2014


If you’re searching for reasons to feel positive about the future, the street transformations pictured below are a good start. Earlier this month we asked readers to send in their nominations for the best American street redesigns of 2014. These five are the finalists selected by Streetsblog staff. They include new car-free zones, substantial sidewalk expansions, superb bike infrastructure, awesome safety upgrades, and exclusive transit lanes.

Which deserves the distinction of being named the “Best Urban Street Transformation of 2014”? We’re starting the voting today and will post a reminder when we run the rest of the Streetsblog USA Streetsie Award polls next Tuesday. Without further ado, here are the contenders:

Western Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts



After. (We're using a rendering because the project is not quite yet 100% complete.)

After. (We’re using a rendering because the project is not quite 100 percent complete.)

The Western Avenue road diet narrowed dangerously wide traffic lanes on this one-way street to make room for safer pedestrian crossings, a raised bike lane, and bus bulbs. Brian DeChambeau of the Cambridge Community Development Department, the lead agency on the project, adds these details about the redesign:

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Providence Will Transform Freeway Crossing Into Elegant Car-Free Bridge

The Providence River Pedestrian Bridge will stand where Interstate-195 once did. Image: City of Providence via Greater City Providence [PDF]

The Providence River Pedestrian Bridge will stand where Interstate-195 once did. Image: City of Providence via Greater City Providence [PDF]

Pretty soon, folks in Providence, Rhode Island, will be able to stroll casually over the Providence River on the same span once occupied by Interstate 195. Construction is set to begin in the spring on the Providence River Bridge, which will connect parks on both sides of the river.

The bridge will take advantage of footings from the old I-195 bridge. The highway was rerouted 2,000 feet south of its previous alignment in 2010, opening up 20 acres of downtown land for development and better positioning the road to withstand flooding events.

Tearing down the footings would have cost the state $2 million. By preserving and reusing the footings, that money went toward construction of the pedestrian bridge instead, reports the Providence Business News.

In 2010, the city held a design competition to solicit proposals for the structure, and Detroit-based inFORM Studio won. The original design called for a small cafe within the bridge, but plans were scaled back due to cost concerns.

The bridge is expected to open to the public in the fall of 2016.

Night view shows lighting effects. Image: City of Providence

Rendering: City of Providence

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“Safe Routes” Goes Global With the Model School Zone Project

"Please give us a safe route to school." This picture of a 9-year-old girl in Vietnam helped catalyze street improvements. All photos courtesy of Safe Streets Worldwide

“Please give us a safe route to school.” This picture of a 9-year-old girl in Vietnam helped catalyze street improvements. All photos courtesy of Safe Kids Worldwide

This post is part of a series featuring stories and research that will be presented at the Pro-Walk/Pro-Bike/Pro-Place conference September 8-11 in Pittsburgh.

To get to Seoul Gumsan Elementary School in South Korea, students have to cross a heavily trafficked road with a blind curve. Between 2009 and 2010, 89 children were injured and one killed in 86 traffic crashes near the school.

Seoul Gumsan then had the good fortune to become part of the international Model School Zone program, which chose 10 schools in 10 countries to showcase how better infrastructure and education could help keep kids safe on their way to and from school.

To make Seoul Gumsan safer, Safe Kids Korea, in conjunction with Safe Kids Worldwide, painted a mural on the side of the school to clue drivers in to the fact that they were in a school zone. They also installed skid-proof pavement on the road, since they found that cars often skidded in wintry conditions. In conjunction with directional road signs and other traffic calming measures, the average vehicle speed near the school went down by nearly half, from 34 kilometers per hour (21 mph) to about 18 kph (11 mph).

Near the Seoul Gumsan Elementary School in South Korea, before and after Model School Zone street treatments.

Near the Seoul Gumsan Elementary School in South Korea, before and after Model School Zone street treatments.

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Talking Headways Podcast: How Does This Podcast Make You Feel?

This week, Jeff Wood and I get indignant about Miami-Dade County’s misuse of transit funds for roads, and we speculate about why — with the current success of pedestrian projects like Times Square — old-style pedestrian malls are still going belly-up. And then we peek behind the curtain at an exciting new frontier for urban planning: connecting urban form with the feelings they inspire.

And then, just for you: a bonus Valentine’s Day outtake at the end. How could you not listen to the whole thing?

You can subscribe to this podcast’s RSS feed or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes — and please give us a listener review while you’re at it.

Leave your comments — and your Valentines and pickup lines — below.


Turning Baltimore’s Streets Into an Indycar Track: Not So Fun for Pedestrians

Baltimore's Grand Prix Indycar race through the city streets turns sidewalks into cattle pens. Photo: Mark Brown

Road closures began early this week in Baltimore for the city’s annual Labor Day event: the Baltimore Grand Prix.

This isn’t your average marathon-day orange-cones type of street closing. The “celebration of acceleration” welcomes cars racing at speeds of up to 180 miles per hour through the heart of Baltimore, according to the organizers. Along the two-mile course, enormous reinforced fences have to be installed to ensure the safety of onlookers.

Street closures began Monday, but they escalated rapidly beginning today. All the streets won’t be reopened until 6 p.m. on September 3. Meanwhile, the Maryland DOT and race organizers insist they’re doing everything they can to minimize the impact on drivers.

But it’s a huge headache for people walking in the Charm City. Network blog Boston Streets says the event is an embarrassment on a lot of levels.

The Baltimore Grand Prix is a logistical nightmare for residents and workers. Concrete barriers and bleachers disrupt travel patterns for drivers, transit riders, cyclists, and pedestrians alike for a month leading up to the event. Trees are removed in the name of cleaner sightlines. And the noise!

To make matters worse, the company that runs the Grand Prix, Baltimore Racing Development, declared bankruptcy after its first year in 2011, and left the city of Baltimore holding the bag for some of its expenses. As part of the fallout, the company never replanted the trees as promised.

The event is run by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s top campaign contributor. A source in Baltimore told Streetsblog, “Nobody within city government, or with business before city government (myself included) will trash it publicly.”


Guerrilla Crosswalk Turns Into Total Overhaul of New Haven Intersection

This guerrilla crosswalk preceded a safety-focused overhaul of the entire intersection. Image: New Haven Independent

Some New Haven residents were fed up with a dangerous intersection near Yale University, where repeated requests for a crosswalk had gone ignored. So one night last May, they painted a zebra-striped crosswalk on Whitney Avenue near Audubon Street.

The new intersection will be raised to improve visibility. It will include landscaped bump outs and three, faux-brick crosswalks. Image: New Haven Independent

But public officials worried pedestrians wouldn’t be visible to motorists cresting a rise right before the intersection. The crosswalk was removed by the city shortly after it was installed, according to the New Haven Independent.

But two city residents, Erin Gustafson and Doug Hausladen, saw the value in the guerrilla action. Gustafson, who works nearby, noticed cars stopping and letting pedestrians cross. The city of New Haven’s Complete Streets Manual offers a project request form that enables local residents to ask for safety improvements, so Gustafson and Hausladen formally appealed to bring the crosswalk back.

The dangerous crossing won’t be a worry any longer. As it happened, the city was working on a safety fix for the intersection at the same time as Gustafson and Hausladen, New Haven DOT chief Jim Travers told the Independent. The city will construct a raised intersection costing $320,000, with Yale chipping in $150,000.

Read more…


Guerrilla Crosswalk Painter Arrested by Vallejo Police, Cheered By Neighbors

This story falls into the unusual but persistent overlap between pedestrian advocacy and vandalism. In Vallejo, California, last week, one man saw the need for a crosswalk at a dangerous intersection, and decided it was his job to make it happen.

Antonio Cardenas got arrested for trying to keep his community safe. Photo: NewsTimes

Anthony Cardenas, 52, grabbed some white paint and got to work at dawn to create his own makeshift crosswalk at the intersection of Sonoma Boulevard and Illinois Street. And he did a pretty decent job, according to the news photos. Maybe the geometry wasn’t perfect, but Cardenas definitely got his point across. And then he got cuffed.

Acting on a tip from a witness, police found Cardenas in his home last Thursday, where the retired U.S. Marine freely admitted to his paint job and explained that his goal was public safety. The cops placed him in the Solano County Jail with a $15,000 bail. As one officer told KTVU, the rogue crosswalk qualifies as vandalism.

Cardenas still faces felony charges. A Streetsblog reader forwarded a statement from the Solano County district attorney, who said the case is under review and Cardenas will be arraigned later.

But it hasn’t turned out all bad for him. An anonymous donor bailed him out of jail and he got a hero’s welcome once he got home, with neighbors hooting in support and TV news crews heaping attention on his cause.

A bandana-masked Cardenas told reporters he was simply trying to make the intersection safer after witnessing several crashes and almost getting hit a couple of times himself. “I got tired of seeing people get run over here all the time,” Cardenas told CBS Sacramento. He said he’d tried to voice his concerns before to public officials, to no avail.

Many neighbors who spoke to the press supported Cardenas and agreed that the intersection – four lanes and “easy for drivers to barrel through” according to the KTVU video – is a real hazard for pedestrians. “All you see is accidents, all day long,” one woman said. Neighbors also say the DIY crosswalk was getting a lot of use before authorities caught wind of it. Vallejo police dispute that collisions are common there, saying none have been reported.

According to KVTU, Caltrans will “grind and repave [the] intersection to erase any remnants” of Cardenas’ paint job, and has no plans to put in a permanent crosswalk.

This isn’t the first time Cardenas has painted a guerrilla crosswalk. He told reporters that after his first attempt painting markings at the same spot about a year ago, he hid out in LA for a while to evade arrest. But he doesn’t plan to try again. “This is not worth it,” Cardenas told the Times-Herald. “Even though I hate for people to be hit … I am not going to pursue this.”


Walkonomics Sets Out to Create a New Way to Measure Walkability

Looks like Walk Score has some competition in the business of rating walkability.

A new app from Walkonomics seeks to rate streets for walking according to their physical characteristics. Image: Walkonomics

The U.K.-based startup Walkonomics recently unveiled an app that aims to measure the walkability of streets based on physical characteristics. The new Walkonomics app — currently available only for Manhattan, San Francisco and the United Kingdom — uses open source data to rank streets on a scale of one to five.

Whereas Walk Score bases its rankings largely on the accessibility of nearby amenities, Walkonomics looks at sidewalk-level measurements such as street widths, traffic levels, 311 cleanliness reports, crime statistics, and pedestrian injuries. So you could say that Walk Score, which has been a valuable tool in the real estate industry, is geared toward measuring the walkability of neighborhoods, while Walkonomics tells you about the pedestrian-friendliness of specific blocks.

So far Walkonomics has rated some 600,000 streets, factoring in characteristics such as traffic safety, crossing distance, and sidewalk width.

The mobile app, which is available for iPhone and Android, is still rough around the edges, and it will be interesting to see how it evolves in future releases. Walkonomics’ Adam Davies says his company is working to add all major cities in the U.S. This year they hope to provide data for Toronto, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Boston.