Thursday, July 29, 2010

"First ring" suburbs no longer fit for walking

Excellent video about pedestrian safety and the built environment, in particular the "first-ring" suburbs. The focus is on Buford Highway in Atlanta, but this could be any suburban community in the United States.

These first ring suburbs were built 30 to 40 years ago to accommodate the first wave of urbanites escaping the trappings of the inner cities, and they relied exclusively on the automobile to get around. Once hot growth spots, many of these communities have found themselves aging and declining, threatened by the pull of newer, farther out suburbs and gentrified inner cities.

The population of these communities is now made up of the low-income families (largely elderly and immigrants), many of whom cannot afford automobiles. Over the years, transit has been laid on top of these commuter corridors making them less safe. Kudos to organizations like PEDS and many others who are working tirelessly to make them less dangerous.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

China adopting alternative transportation solutions to meet crushing demand

China is learning very quickly what it took the U.S. decades to realize. You can’t solve traffic problems only by building and widening roads. In a New York Times story this week, Chinese cities are using BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) systems with elevated stations and lanes dedicated to the buses. Interestingly, it was the U.S. based Institute for Transportation & Development Policy that suggested the idea to the southern Chinese city of Guanghhou.

"And they are not adopting necessarily the same model that the U.S. has adopted in trying to solve all their mobility needs through the construction of highways and increasing the capacity of their road network…” – said a transportation engineer.

Los Angeles runs a BRT system, and Seattle has a partial system. The Atlanta Regional Commission is planning a BRT system with dedicated lanes and light rail from the suburbs.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

When crosswalks aren't enough, do more, not less

In a July 4 post, Atlanta columnist Maria Saporta, who was previously trained in urban planning, wonders about crosswalks and what they say about a city's commitment to a true pedestrian environment. Maria shows examples from around the world and brings her point home in Atlanta, where transportation engineers seem to treat pedestrians as second class citizens to the automobile.

Marie notes efforts by PEDS, a local pedestrian advocacy group that I chair, to fight a move toward removing crosswalks that aren't signalized.
...streets like Ponce de Leon could end up not having any crosswalks for blocks — a move that would increase jaywalking and the likelihood of accidents between pedestrians and cars. Certainly, that’s not a positive direction for us.
PEDS addressed the issue in a recent e-newsletter:
After reading GDOT's justification for removing a crosswalk on Roswell Road, we reminded District 7 engineer Bryant Poole that federal guidelines recommend that where crosswalks alone are insufficient to create safe crossings, transportation agencies need to do more, not less. High-speed multi-lane roads like Roswell Road account for 65 percent of all pedestrian fatalities nationwide. Removing crosswalks does not solve the problem of getting pedestrians safely across the street.

Instead of removing unsignalized crosswalks, we encourage GDOT to add rectangular rapid flash beacons. Following installation of these low-cost devices in St. Petersburg, Florida, driver compliance with crosswalk laws increased to 88 percent.