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Where Are Drivers Most Likely to Yield to Pedestrians?

Will drivers yield? That depends, in part, on a few factors. Photo: Hans-Jörg Aleff on Flickr

Will drivers yield? Experts say that depends on a few factors. Photo: Hans-Jörg Aleff/Flickr

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.

You’re approaching an un-signalized crosswalk. How likely are drivers to obey the law and stop to let you cross the street?

According to a national survey of experts, that depends on a few factors, including the width of the road you’re trying to cross, how many other pedestrians are in the area, and even what part of the country you happen to be in.

Robert Schneider, professor of urban planning at the University of Wisconsin, and his co-author Rebecca Sanders interviewed almost 400 professionals from the fields of public health, planning and engineering, and safe streets advocacy around North America. They asked them to assess the likelihood of a motorist yielding to a pedestrian in their town at different kinds of crosswalks that do not have traffic signals.

Some interesting patterns emerged. Here are the three major factors that, according to respondents, influence whether drivers show courtesy to pedestrians.

1. The Width of the Road

This was the most often-mentioned factor: The number of lanes. Everything else being equal, the local experts said drivers are less likely to yield on wider roads. Because more street width means higher traffic speeds, it’s just a matter of physics that drivers will be less likely to react and yield to pedestrians.

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How to Breathe Cleaner Air While Biking: Ride at 11 MPH

Portland State University Ph.D candidate Alex Bigazzi has been biking around Portland with a $300 homebuilt air quality monitor. His goal: to get a sense of how much pollution he was breathing and how to minimize exposure to harmful fumes. Bigazzi has recently been sharing his findings around Portland.

Riding on the slow side reduces the amount of pollution you breathe. Image: Alex Bigazzi via Bike Portland

On a flat (zero percent) grade, riding at 11 mph minimizes the pollution you breathe. On uphills, the optimum speed is slower. Graph: Alex Bigazzi via Bike Portland

Michael Andersen at Bike Portland reports today that Bigazzi’s first tip is to not ride very fast:

The biggest contributor to pollution intake, Bigazzi found, isn’t actually how dirty the air around you is. It’s how much of it you breathe.

“Ventilation completely dominates the exposure differences,” Bigazzi said. “The exposure differences are not that big.”

That creates an interesting mathematical puzzle: the harder your body works, the more pollution you breathe in. But the faster you move, the less time you’ll spend in the dirty air.

So assuming you’re headed to a place where the air is cleaner than it is along a roadway (Precision Castparts commuters, take note), here’s a curve Bigazzi constructed that shows the optimum speed to ride for various bikeway slopes. It’s expressed in kilometers per hour; the 17.5 kph “minimum ventilation speed” for a flat 0 percent grade is 11 mph.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Senate to Vote on Phasing Out the Gas Tax (The Hill)
  • Biden Busts Out the White Board for Infrastructure Lesson (WaPo)
  • DOT Calls for “New World Order” on Oil Train Safety (Politico)
  • Austin Transit Supporters Take Risks With “My Way or the Highway” Approach (CityLab)
  • What the New Silver Line Means to Reston, VA (Reston Now)
  • The Right Transit and Zoning Can Break Down Walls Between Rich and Poor (Vox)
  • Mobilizing the Region: Encourage Equitable TOD With Land Banking
  • Animation Tracks 32 Years of Bike Growth in DC (GGW)
  • The Social and Economic Benefits of Mixed-Use Development (City Fix)
  • BRT for Englewood, NJ? (NorthJersey.com)
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A New Take on Hitch-Hiking Brings Real Ride-Sharing to Small Town USA

CarmaHop combines dry erase boards with mobile apps to encourage hitch-hiking and make it safer. Screenshot from ##http://www.shareable.net/blog/ridesharing-takes-a-hint-from-hitchhiking-in-rural-america##Lawrence OnBoard## promotional video.

CarmaHop combines dry erase boards with mobile apps to facilitate hitch-hiking and make it safer. Screenshot from Lawrence OnBoard promotional video.

Amid the buzz about the “sharing economy,” you’d be forgiven for missing one key element: Most “ride-sharing” is really just a slicker, app-based version of the old-fashioned taxi cab.

Ride-sharing at its best takes cars off the road by connecting people who need to make similar trips (rather than dispatching drivers to pick them up). The word “hitch-hiking” is out of fashion, but now it’s being re-branded as “roadside ride-sharing” — and it could help people in small, rural towns get around without depending so much on their own car.

That’s the mission of Jenny O’Brien, who launched Lawrence OnBoard last year in her Kansas town. She sent 23 volunteers out with dry-erase boards announcing their destinations. Ninety-five percent of them got a ride in less than half an hour, and the average wait time was less than seven minutes. That told her she was onto something, and she set about operationalizing the concept.

She met the head of Carma, a new ride-sharing start-up that was looking to solve its “critical mass problem.” In a post for MobilityLab, O’Brien explains how her concept meshed with Carma’s needs:

Its carpooling app is wildly successful in cities like San Francisco and Austin, but it takes a lot of effort to build that momentum. A roadside approach sidesteps the need for an initial critical mass, and works especially well in the very places where traditional ridesharing programs don’t.

They call their hybrid service CarmaHop: a hitch-hiking app where passengers still use good old-fashioned dry erase boards to flag drivers but also get an added layer of safety, since they can create a profile and document the trip. The app also processes the payment.

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Arizonans Driving Like It’s 1994

Image: Arizona Public Interest Research Group

As in the rest of America, per capita driving in Arizona started to drop years before the Great Recession hit. Graph: Arizona Public Interest Research Group

Here’s more evidence that there’s a shift underway in how Americans get around: The Arizona Public Interest Research Group has released a new report [PDF] showing that residents of this sprawling Sun Belt state are driving less and taking transit more.

Between 2005 and 2012, the average number of miles driven by each Arizona resident declined 10.5 percent, according to PIRG. They are now driving fewer miles per capita than they did in 1994. These trends closely track national driving declines, and show the phenomenon isn’t limited to compact coastal metro areas.

In notoriously sprawling Phoenix, people are starting to ditch their cars. Between 2006 and 2011, the share of households with two or more vehicles decreased 2.9 percent, PIRG reports. And the total number of cars and trucks on the state’s roads is dropping, even as the population grows. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of registered vehicles in Arizona declined 4 percent.

The authors attribute these trends to a combination of factors, including the economic downturn, the retirement of Baby Boomers, rising gas prices, increases in telecommuting, and the changing preferences of Millennials.

“It is unknown whether this increase in carless households is the result of changing preferences or economic hardship, but it does represent a dramatic reversal of the national trend toward increased vehicle ownership since at least the 1960s,” write authors Serena Unrein and Diane E . Brown.

Meanwhile, transit ridership is on the rise in Arizona’s major cities. In Phoenix, between 2005 and 2010, total transit trips increased 16 percent. Part of the increase is certainly due to the opening of Phoenix’s light rail system in 2008. That system has been outpacing ridership projections. In the Tucson area, growth has been more dramatic. During the same period, total transit trips in metro Tucson increased 25 percent, PIRG reports.

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Building Cloverleafs Won’t Inspire Americans to Pay More for Transportation

This post by Ben Ross was originally posted at Dissent.

The federal transportation fund is running out of money, threatening the country with potholes, stopped construction, and economic downturn. Congress, which has kept the program solvent with short-term patches for years, now finds itself unable to do more than buy a few months’ time.

Mainstream opinion pins the blame for this state of affairs on partisanship and anti-tax extremism. But the crisis has a deeper cause. In transportation, as in so many areas of American politics, the terms of debate are controlled by an elite that has lost touch with the rest of the country.

Voters on both the Tea Party right and the urban left have lost the desire to pay higher taxes for new roads. Yet powerful highway bureaucracies and their political allies insist that added revenues must go toward ever more cloverleafs and interstates. They keep searching for money to build what voters don’t want to pay for, a quest doomed to end in futility.

The roots of the congressional deadlock are best seen far from Washington.

When Texas Governor Rick Perry took office in 2000, he found himself caught between campaign contributors’ yearning to build expressways and conservative hostility to tax increases. He sought a way out with an aggressive program of toll-road building.

But when the highways opened, drivers rebelled against the stiff fees. Revenue fell far below forecasts, and grassroots activists launched an anti-toll campaign. At last month’s state Republican convention, the insurgents triumphed. The state party platform now calls for no new tolls (as well as no new taxes).

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Talking Headways Podcast: Square Footage

Welcome to Episode 29 of the Talking Headways podcast. In it, we evaluate the potential of Boston’s attempt to “gentrification-proof” the Fairmount Line, building affordable housing to keep transit from displacing people with low incomes. Too often, the allure of transit raises rents, bringing in a new demographic of people who can pay them — and who, ironically, usually have cars.

podcast icon logoOne innovative way to build affordable housing — and keep your not-quite-grown kids under your watch at the same time — is to build accessory dwelling units, or backyard cottages. They’re a great way to increase density without bringing a lot of cars into the neighborhood, but see if you agree with our conclusion that they have limited utility.

On the other side of the spectrum is the McMansion, object of desire and scorn in equal measure. You might be surprised to hear Jeff’s defense of the 3,000-square-foot house. And as a bonus, you’ll get his distance runner’s analysis of the difference between runability and walkability, in which he circles back yet again to the idyllic nature of his McMansiony suburban upbringing.

Tell us about your childhood and your square footage in the comments. Check us out on iTunes and Stitcher, or sign up for our RSS feed.

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Why People Who Love Nature Should Live Apart From It

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If you care about the natural environment, where should you live?

Surrounding yourself with the trappings of nature, writes Shane Phillips at Better Institutions today, is a far cry from respecting and protecting the wilderness: 

Much like the flower, for many of us, to love nature is to destroy it. We move from the city to the suburb or the rural town to be closer to nature, and to make it habitable (for us) we clear-cut it for new development, pave it over and turn woods and grasslands into manicured lawns, pollute it with our vehicles, etc. In our efforts to possess a small slice of “nature,” we change the meaning of the word, leaving us with something beautiful, perhaps, but far from natural. This strain of thinking is very popular in places like the Bay Area, where there’s a belief that we have to sharply limit development in cities in order to preserve some semblance of nature — ”how can a place so gray possibly be green?”

But environmentalism is about much more than surrounding ourselves with greenery; in fact, its true meaning is exactly the opposite. Real environmentalism means surrounding ourselves with steel, concrete, and other human beings, leaving nature to itself instead of attempting to own it and shape it to our own selfish needs. What makes cities so important is that they allow us to express our love and appreciation for nature in a healthy way: from a distance, as a societal and environmental resource that can be preserved far into the future.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Seattle Transit Blog says the city’s efforts to secure a streetcar are gaining momentum. The Transportationist prices out the economic costs of slower-than-expected travel times on the Twin Cities’ new Green Line. And This Big City looks at the impact of AirBnB on cities.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Senate to Vote on Highway Trust Fund This Week (The Hill)
  • With the Bill, Congress Gives a High-Profile Example of Kicking the Can (Politico)
  • Could a Carbon Tax Help Replenish the Fund? (The Energy Collective)
  • Remembering a Failed Anti-Freeway Crusade in L.A. (City Lab)
  • Libertarian Think Tank Agrees With Tolls Funding Transpo Projects (The Hill)
  • In Denver, $200M Extension of Southeast Rail Moves Forward (RT&S)
  • 10 Different Views on California High-Speed Rail (Atlantic)
  • Grist: Good Public Transpo Doesn’t Have to Be Just an Urban Thing
  • Repairs Slated for Failing MetroNorth Bridge (The Hour)
  • Florida Works to Connect SunRail to Orlando Airport (AP)
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Getting Rural Kids Walking and Biking: A Case Study From Northeast Iowa

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.

Nationally, more than 14,000 schools have taken part in Safe Routes to School programs. Though dedicated federal funding was stripped out in the current transportation law, SRTS funds have helped improve sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, and other infrastructure near schools, as well as education and enforcement. However, most SRTS projects are in urban and suburban settings. Rural areas have their own distinct challenges when it comes to walking and biking.

Six counties in Northeast Iowa benefit from an unprecedented push for Safe Routes to School. Image: ##http://uerpc.org/uploads/PDF_File_64511658.pdf##UERPC##

Six counties in Northeast Iowa participated in the push for Safe Routes to School. Photo: UERPC

One rural region is trying to overcome those challenges. Ashley Christensen, the regional SRTS liaison for a six-county area in northeastern Iowa known as Upper Explorerland, says that when the state DOT and the non-profit Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative started the region’s Safe Routes program in 2008, there was no information out there with guidance about how to build a SRTS program in a rural setting.

“We know no other region in Iowa had worked on one when we started and are pretty confident that statement holds true for the rest of the U.S., too,” Christensen told Streetsblog.

With distances between home and school far longer than in urban areas and safe walking infrastructure far less common, Upper Explorerland’s SRTS program had its work cut out for it. “Rural areas typically do not have the sidewalks, crosswalks, etc. that urban settings do, so SRTS work in a rural setting has the unique challenge — or opportunity, as I like to think of it — of utilizing what is available and advocating for more pedestrian accommodations,” Christensen said.

The Northeast Iowa schools do similar activities to other Safe Routes locations: walking school buses and bicycle trains chaperoned by parents; bike rodeos to teach bicycle safety and road skills. But they also use techniques that might not be needed in denser areas, like remote drop-offs. A remote drop-off functions like a park-and-ride, where parents meet in a parking lot and walk their kids the rest of the way to school. All told, the programs reach 10,000 students from 20 school districts and six private schools in a rural area the size of Connecticut.

While some of the schools in the Upper Explorerland SRTS jurisdiction are located in walkable communities, others are “located along major highways in the middle of a cornfield, miles away from the nearest community,” Christensen reports.

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