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walking

TRB Publishes Renaissance Report on Estimating Bicycling and Walking for Planning and Project Development: A Guidebook

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TRB Publishes Renaissance Report on Estimating Bicycling and Walking for Planning and Project Development: A Guidebook

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Capital Bikeshare rental station near McPherson Square Metro (WMATA) station, downtown Washington, D.C. The Transportation Research Board (TRB) has recently published Renaissance’s NCHRP Report 770: Estimating Bicycling and Walking for Planning and Project Development: A Guidebook.  The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) is a division of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies of Science, which sponsors peer-reviewed research on critical transportation planning and policy issues. This report represents a major step toward fulfilling a long-standing need for analytic methods that can effectively represent non-motorized transportation modes in the transportation and land use planning process. The guidebook provides a menu of best-practice methods that can be used by practitioners to estimate bicycle and pedestrian demand at various scales (regional, corridor, activity center, or project level) and to accommodate different analytic needs, skills and resources. Rich Kuzmyak of Renaissance was the project manager and principal author of the new guidebook.

The project team, which was led by Renaissance and included several recognized specialists in travel behavior and modelling from private consulting firms and a university. The resultant guidebook provides a menu of tools, including several pre-existing methods with particular value, plus three new tools developed by the NCHRP project team. These include an advanced tour-based mode choice procedure developed in Seattle, a strategically enhanced four-step modelling approach, and an innovative accessibility-based approach that relied almost exclusively on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data and tools. Renaissance was directly responsible for this third tool, through the efforts of Chris Sinclair, Alex Bell, and Nick Lepp, using data for Arlington County obtained from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Each of the new tools relies heavily on accessibility relationships to convey the key elements of the travel setting by jointly considering the prevailing land use along with the capability of the travel networks to provide access to those opportunities.  Through such a structure, it is possible to identify the relative importance of the built environment (density, mix, design) independently of the connecting infrastructure.  Thus, planners can identify the most cost-effective measures (land use and/or transportation) that will impact mode choice, vehicle trips, VMT and congestion.  The tools should offer much needed support for planning smart growth communities, transit and transit-oriented development, and cost-effective non-motorized transportation network improvements.

Renaissance is currently testing application of the GIS accessibility approach in a complex, multi-modal corridor for a state department of transportation. The Department of Transportation (DOT) sees value in the approach for reviewing transportation plans and proposals in relation to local land use plans, project prioritization, and engaging local jurisdictions and other stakeholders in the planning and decision-making process.

TRB is hosting a webinar on this research on August 18th from 1:00pm to 3:00pm, in which Renaissance's Rich Kuzmyak, Alex Bell, along with Mark Bradley (Resource Systems Group, Inc.) and Kara Kockelman (University of Texas at Austin) will be introducing the guidebook and describing some of the methods and models.

To participate in the TRB Webinar, register here!

Click here for the full report!

 

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Texting and Walking: A Cause for Concern for Planners?

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Texting and Walking: A Cause for Concern for Planners?

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Picture it, a person is walking on a sidewalk, head down, smart phone in hand, and then at the last minute looks up just before bumping into someone or walking into a street fixture. In today’s technology-driven world, smart phones and social media have become the norm in society. Smart phones allow people to constantly receive messages and phone calls from friends and family as well as stay up-to-date on the latest news and happenings. However, these devices have also found a permanent place in many people’s hands, creating a cause for concern for safety.

How many times have you looked around and seen people texting and walking? It has become a common sight in all sorts of places ranging from office buildings to shopping centers; however, the worst and probably most common place has become the sidewalk. People now feel compelled to check e-mails, schedule appointments, and update social media statuses all while walking en route to their destinations. This type of behavior has caught the attention of transportation planners due to the increased number of pedestrian/vehicle collisions that have occurred in recent years.

The Problem

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Texting and walking may seem like an easy task. However, a 2012 study conducted by a team of researchers at Stony Brook University has proved otherwise. The study found that participants who texted while walking veered away from their straight path destination by a 60 percent deviation, thus increasing their distance traveled by about 13 percent. Participants also took about 33 percent longer to reach their destinations while walking and texting.  Additionally, a 2009 study conducted by the University of Alabama-Birmingham found that children who walk while texting or talking on a cellphone are 40 percent more likely to get hit by an automobile due to their delayed reaction times and inattentiveness to traffic while crossing streets.

If you still do not believe that texting and walking is a cause of concern there are several stories that have recently been in the news involving texting and walking incidents including a woman walking off of a pier while updating Facebook and another woman walking directly into an icy canal while texting.

 ‘Mobile Motorway’: The Solution?

The City of London, England has taken to padding lamp posts to keep texters safer.

In 2007, the number of “texting while walking injuries” in Britain included a reported 68,000! Reported injuries included collisions with other people, lampposts, and even garbage bins. Injuries ranged from mild cuts and bruises all the way up to broken noses. Many people went so far as to claim that the injuries were more because of the “high concentration of street fixtures” and not the obvious reason: texting while walking and not paying attention.

Britain’s Brick Lane decided that it had seen enough of these injuries and wanted to do something about it. Thus, the world’s first ‘Safe Text’ Street was born. Essentially, the street contains lamp posts with padding wrapped around it (similar to what you would find wrapped around a football goal post). There have also been talks of creating ‘texting lanes’ similar to cycle lanes that would allow pedestrians texting to more easily navigate the street by relying on the line painted on the pavement; however, this idea has yet to become a reality as far as I know.

Bottom Line: Texting + Walking = Bad

As the ownership of smart phones continues to rise in all parts of the globe, I am sure stories of people walking off of streets and piers while texting or updating social media statuses will continue. If there is anything to take away from this post it is the following.

If you absolutely must text and walk at least check out the Transparent Screen, Android-powered application (Sorry iPhone users, not sure if a similar application is available yet), that uses your smart phone’s camera to show you what is directly in front of you while walking and texting. I tried the application out just for kicks and giggles and it actually does work really well. You can turn the application on when you start walking and use any other applications or functions while it is on. Then whenever you feel you can devote your attention to the actual real world you just turn Transparent Screen off.  Who knows, maybe it will save you from veering off a pier one day when you are sharing a really crucial status update to the world.

–Amanda Douglas, Cities That Work Blog

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Contemplating the Urban Oasis

keywest Harry Truman solved his problem. Seeking escape from the "White Prison" of Washington, D.C., he discovered the Little White House on Key West in 1946 as his oasis from the international post-WWII storms, political gamesmanship and scandal that roiled his first term as Roosevelt's successor.

He never liked the White House and its trappings, and endured more than his fair share of criticism as president while making critical and accountable decisions during years of crisis. "If you want a friend in Washington," Truman was to have said, "get a dog." After his initial foray to Key West in 1946 for doctor-prescribed R&R, he spent 175 days there during his 2nd term, mostly working in the company of aides and dignitaries, with an occasional poker game with the boys and a fishing trip when his wife and daughter visited.

Harry Truman understood the importance of down time. Between today's constant 24/7 pull of the Internet, social media, "breaking" news updates and demands for professional service and work deadlines, I find myself having a greater need for time spent alone, with family or in the company of friends in some type of public open space setting. The trouble is, it's getting harder to take the big two-week vacation, unplug and disconnect in some wonderful or remote setting. And the long, stressful days leading up to and immediately after that big event make it barely worthwhile. Rather, I've come to appreciate much more the snippets of time over a weekend or on a day here, half day there basis relaxing and recharging in some contemplative urban oasis amid dense foliage, rippling streams, walking paths and strong on-shore breezes perfectly made for contemplation.

Valuing Open Space

We often think of cities as great gathering places offering high levels of accessibility for people to interact and innovate by sharing ideas. But in addition to creating walkable, transit-oriented places, an important part of making cities livable is access to public parks and natural spaces. There is a growing body of research showing that public parks and open space reduce stress, improve health and contribute to economic prosperity of neighborhoods and local governments. While factors like distance and level of maintenance matter, a typical example is a recent study conducted in Greenville, SC, which found that small and medium parks have a positive influence on neighboring property values. This, in turn, can result in higher assessments and thus higher property tax revenues for local governments, potentially off-setting the capital and maintenance cost of greenways, parks and the like. It's certainly wise to try to monetize such benefits in this era of fiscal accountability, but let's not overlook the social and personal value of creating places for people to appreciate nature, get away from the constant marketing and the impersonal institutional surroundings of our daily lives. We all need our escapes.

The Morikami Experience

Buddha in repose at Morikami Gardens

A short drive west from I-95 in Delray Beach, FL amid sprawling six-lane roads and gated suburban enclaves, you'll find The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. Dedicated in 1975 and maintained by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department, the Morikami features 200 acres of scenic vistas, walking trails traversing six distinct sculpted natural gardens, and a fine Japanese café, museum and classrooms. The gardens provide ample places to stroll alongside streams or sit beside waterfalls and flowering tendrils of Firebush, Mexican Petunias and Alamanda.

A stream flows through the Morikami Japanese Gardens in Palm Beach County, FL.

Like many suburban communities, Palm Beach County has been slow to recognize the importance and value of streets as livable places. As with all of Florida's big urban counties, roads are public places ceded primarily to the speed and efficiency of private automobile travel. Residential and even commercial land uses are generally hidden behind dense buffers of vegetation or walled and gated barriers designed to separate the impersonal public realm from private enclaves. Amid the sprawl and "thou shalt not" feeling of restricted public right-of-way and private gated communities, the Morikami and places like it provide a valuable and rewarding respite of communal open space designed to transport people away from the cacophony of traffic and commercial striving.

Innovative Open Space

While the Morikami is a "drive to" garden oasis that is a true regional and even statewide resource, urban open spaces ranging in size from pocket parks of a few hundred square feet to a few hundred acres improve livability and walkability.

The Trust for Public Land has a nice report on "Shoehorn Parks," covering innovative strategies to squeeze green spaces out of crowded cities. My personal favorite is the use of cemeteries, which served as the principal open space in cities before parks as we know them today. Rooftops, school yards, stormwater channels and streets all can function as usable, enjoyable open space.

The Key West Cemetery dates to 1847 with 75,000 people interred on 19 acres in the "dead center" of Old Town.

The Key West Cemetery is an eclectic bit of history on 19 acres in the heart of Old Town built on the island's highest natural point. The cemetery dates to 1847 after a hurricane forced its reconstruction, and it includes markers commemorating the sinking of the battleship U.S.S. Maine in 1898 and graves of numerous other military veterans, as well as sections for Key West's Jewish, Catholic, Protestant and Cuban residents. Even on a hot day in mid-summer, a late morning stroll through the cemetery provides a peaceful and fascinating view into the lives of so many different people. These urban places, both big like the Morikami or small like the Key West Cemetery or neighborhood pocket parks, offer a welcome respite from the stress and anxiety of everyday life, making our communities more livable.

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I am not a sheep

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I am not a sheep

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pedestrian_xwalkThere is a long overdue move afoot in Central Florida to promote walkability and enforce pedestrian safety, particularly at intersections and crosswalks. The goal is to transform the Orlando metro area from a "killing field" for pedestrians, evidenced by successive years at or near the top (along with other Florida metros) of places ranked the worst for pedestrian and bicyclist safety. As trends continue toward creating more walkable places and complete streets for economic development and livability, and people - particularly older and younger folks - are driving less and seeking places to live and work that are more accessible by means other than driving a car - this is an incredibly important initiative. We've long been far too complacent in marginalizing those who walk, bicycle or take transit in favor of speed and convenience for autos and trucks. While community design plays a big role in pedestrian safety, culture can play an even bigger role in whether people comply with laws protecting pedestrians and practice basic courtesy and common sense. Motorists need to look for pedestrians and expect them to be present on any surface street. Elected officials and public agency staff need to make pedestrian accessibility and safety a priority. Law enforcement needs to take violations seriously and take part in both education and enforcing laws. The Florida Department of Transportation is stepping up to do its part.

A Cultural Blind Spot

A dangerous intersection in Winter Park, FL when pedestrians do not use the signal properly.

But it's the culture that is the most pernicious challenge. We're a nation of mostly ignorant pedestrians and aggressive auto drivers, which is a bad combination.

Many walkers cross a street wherever convenient, even if they are mid-block just a few feet from a signal crosswalk. Too busy to wait with the 64 oz soft drink from the Circle K store? Too many of us stare into our phones as we step from the curb. Many motorists, for their part, accelerate through yellow lights, using only the narrowest field of vision centered on the tail-lights of the vehicle in front of them.

It has been said that driving is a fundamentally moral endeavor. People expect others to follow the rules of the road; to yield the right-of-way, move to the right when driving slower, and to signal their intentions. Why should non-motorized traffic be different?  Yet, for whatever reason, I am often castigated by some co-workers and colleagues as being a sheep when I go a few feet out of direction to use crosswalks or wait at the intersection for the pedestrian signal. It's somehow lame to wait at the intersection. The same is also true of many urban cyclists who ignore traffic signals, ride willy-nilly on sidewalks, drive through parking lots to cut the corner, etc. Is it because they are too busy or just too cool for school?

Then we have the timid pedestrians, who are too fearful that cars will not stop to assert their proper right to enter a crosswalk with the signal, even on slow speed, pedestrian-oriented streets, so they wait until the coast is completely clear or a large gap occurs in traffic. This creates confusion and risk, and conditions motorists into believing they do not need to yield to pedestrians.

Your Inalienable Pedestrian Rights

I think the remedy is to re-assert the primacy of pedestrian right-of-way, and to do so in keeping with the laws and moral rules of the road. I take the initiative to be an assertive pedestrian and cyclist who boldly steps into the crosswalk when walking - first making eye contact and using hand signals when necessary to make my intentions clear - and controlling the traffic lane when bicycling to my destination. When walking or bicycling, it's important to model the rules of good behavior because so many people ignore the rules, confuse the situation for everyone, and often put themselves at risk. Yes, I want to do what is legal, but I'm no sheep. Walkers have their rights and their responsibilities.

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I'll take the ribbing and roll with it, but it underscores a fundamental issue with our culture and peer pressure that subtly undermines efforts to make our streets safer for all users.

It's good to question authority and, when necessary, flout the rules of authority when you believe the rules are arbitrary, punitive or petty. It's a grand tradition of Americans to challenge the authority of those who would govern our behavior and rights as free citizens. But that doesn't apply to traffic laws and our rights and duties as users of the transportation network. Whether we drive, take tranist, walk or bicycle, thee system functions best when we accept and follow the rules of the road and acknowledge the array of social mores that go along with them.

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