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Posts from the "Pedestrian Infrastructure" Category

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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FHWA Helps Cities and Towns Land Bike/Ped Funding

American cities and towns should get a leg up on using federal funds to make streets safer for biking and walking, thanks to rules enacted yesterday by the Federal Highway Administration.

Projects like this pedestrian bridge in Austin, Texas, which are built by local agencies, will get a boost from new FHWA rules. Photo: National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse/R.E. Martin

MAP-21, the current transportation law, was passed hurriedly enough that not all the i’s could be dotted and t’s could be crossed — and some of those details simply aren’t the business of Congress to work out. It’s up to U.S. DOT to put a finer point on many of the provisions in the bill. The agency is still struggling with a lot of them and has, admirably, opened the door to significant public input to help them put meat on MAP-21′s bones.

Some of the details came out yesterday, with FHWA’s guidance on the Transportation Alternatives program, which replaced the popular Transportation Enhancements program as a major funding source for bicycle and pedestrian projects.

America Bikes was quick with its analysis of the pros and cons of the new rules, and chief among the good news is that the guidance preserves local control over bike/ped funds by denying states eligibility for TA funds.

The disappointing provisions in MAP-21 haven’t gone away. TA money still gets split down the middle, with half going to cities and towns and the other half going to the states. And state DOTs can still have the option of either running a competitive grant program with their half of the funds, or “flexing” their entire portion to whatever they want. But the good news is that states can no longer apply to their own grant programs, clearing the way for greater local access to these funds.

“If you make a contest with your own rules, and you apply to it, who’s going to win?” said Mary Lauran Hall, spokesperson for America Bikes.

Primarily, the rule means that if a state decides to use its TA funds on bike and pedestrian infrastructure, local agencies will have a greater say in how the funds get spent. And it won’t just prevent state bike/ped projects from competing against city bike/ped projects. One of the most disappointing changes in MAP-21 was that states can now spend TA funds on environmental mitigation for road building. Those tend to be big, expensive projects that can elbow crosswalks and bike lanes out of the running. This rule seemingly negates that option, unless the state finds a local agency to sponsor the environmental mitigation project.

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DIY Urbanism: No Permits, No Red Tape, No Going Back

You have dreamed about striping your own bike lane on your most-traveled routes. You got your street closed off for a block party. Maybe you even spent the afternoon feeding the meter on Park(ing) Day.

Go ahead. Do It Yourself. Photo: Building Green

You just may be the next tactical urbanist to join the ranks of those who make it their business to make their cities better. These aren’t necessarily the ones who sit in community meetings and focus groups, hashing out city-drawn plans that will sit on the shelves a few years (or decades) longer. Tactical urbanists are the doers. Some transportation chiefs like Janette Sadik-Khan and Gabe Klein are doers, but you don’t need to have a top job in a major metropolitan transportation department to transform your street. You just need to be a bit of a badass.

Mike Lydon of the Street Plans Collaborative is sort of the godfather of the tactical urbanism movement. Some people can’t visualize change until they see it themselves, he told a packed forum yesterday at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. But once they see it, they don’t want to go back.

Well, you may be thinking, it’s all fine and good to get your ya-yas out for a day by doing some guerrilla gardening or what have you. People who are serious about improving their cities are just going to have to suffer through those community meetings and go through the proper channels. But Lydon says DIY urban improvement isn’t just immediate – it can be lasting, too.

In fact, most of the time, these overnight streetscape changes are made to get the attention of officials with the power to make them permanent. Even Portland’s Depave group, which literally takes a jackhammer to asphalt they don’t like, now gets funding from the city. Is there a danger of cooptation when the government starts funding and partnering with these guerrilla movements? No, Lydon says: Most of the time, getting the attention and support of people in power is the whole idea.

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Greater Atlanta Continues to Treat Walking Like a Crime

Despite the national outrage over the Raquel Nelson case, officials in metro Atlanta continue to treat pedestrians like criminals.

Simply crossing the street can, and often does, land Atlanta area pedestrians a citation. Photo: Creative Loafing

Last Wednesday, a 35-year-old woman was hospitalized after being struck by a vehicle while attempting to cross a road in northwest Atlanta. A local Fox affiliate reports that the woman suffered injuries and is in “stable” condition. But police have already decided she, not the driver, was at fault. The victim is being charged with ”pedestrian in the roadway,” a legal term for “jaywalking.”

Sally Flocks, director of Atlanta’s pedestrian advocacy organization, PEDS, says it is not unusual for police officers in the region to cite and fault pedestrians involved in collisions, even as they’re lying in hospital beds.

“For the cops, I think it gives them closure” to fault one of the parties, she said. “They could cite the driver for failing to show due care. They tend not to do that.”

Part of the problem is that Georgia has one of the most draconian pedestrian laws in the country. Last year, the Georgia legislature passed a law that made it illegal for pedestrians and runners to use the roadway if there are sidewalks on the road.

“It’s being interpreted by police officers to make it illegal to cross the street,” Flocks said.

The sad fact is that many of Atlanta’s sidewalks are in terrible condition; the city had to pay $4 million in injury settlements last year as a result. Meanwhile, in the suburbs, pedestrians get cited for crossing the street outside of a marked or unmarked crosswalk. But “jaywalking” laws aren’t really designed to be applied outside of downtown areas, Flocks said.

PEDS documented at least one case earlier this year where police misinterpreted the law and wrongly charged a pedestrian. The organization has since begun a campaign to properly inform police officers and judges that every intersection is a crosswalk, even if it’s not marked. Under Georgia law, pedestrians are only required to be inside a crosswalk if they are between two signalized intersections, Flocks said.

Even worse, despite discrimination claims around the Raquel Nelson case, local pedestrian advocates have reason to believe the law is being applied unevenly. Flocks said the citations tend to be concentrated in low-income and Hispanic neighborhoods. Streetsblog has submitted a public records request with the Atlanta Police Department inquiring about the races of those cited for “pedestrian in a roadway.” We will report those results when we receive them.

Atlanta was named the 11th most dangerous metro for walking last year by Transportation for America.