In planning and designing for pedestrians, sidewalks are often a good start but rarely make a place walkable on their own. Measuring pedestrian accessibility (the topic of a recent SSTI webinar) depends on two important pieces of information: 1) where destinations are located, and 2) the quality of the walking network connecting to those places. This second point is the focus of two studies.
A national coalition of prominent health organizations issued a failing grade to the country as a whole and the vast majority of states when they looked at whether community designs and policies support walking. At the same time, recently-released traffic safety data show a rising number of pedestrian fatalities at a time when driving is increasing.
Two recent studies reiterate what makes safer walking environments: more pedestrians, according to one; and well-connected networks of local streets, according to the other. Taken together, these studies build upon growing evidence that the safety benefits of cities designed for walking and biking are self-reinforcing and extend to drivers as well.
Recent research examines equity in road fatalities and finds significant disparities across racial/ethnic, income, and geographic lines. The researchers geocoded and analyzed crashes both in terms of where the crash occurred and the home zip code of the driver, a departure from previous roadway safety research that has focused exclusively on the crash locations. The findings of the research have significant equity implications.
New applications in big data could soon let us understand precisely how people move around by bike and on foot, for all types of trips, almost anywhere in the country. SSTI has worked with several providers to better understand the available trip data and its useful applications. We recently tested preliminary pedestrian data, provided by StreetLight Data, with promising results.
While cities and developers have recognized the value of transit oriented development for quite some time, the advantages of proximity to and amenities building on active lifestyles and transportation are just beginning to emerge. Active Transportation and Real Estate: The Next Frontier, a new report from the Urban Land Institute, looks at the rise of residential, office, and mixed-use developments built around active transportation infrastructure and amenities.
The Alliance for Biking and Walking has released its biennial benchmarking report, providing a wealth of information on programs, policies, data, and case studies from all 50 states, the 50 largest U.S. cities, plus 18 additional medium-sized cities. At the same time, a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association released a report on the alarming rise in pedestrian fatalities from 2014 to 2015.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently released a “call to action” encouraging Americans to walk more as a way to improve health and wellbeing, and to spur improvement in the walkability of American communities. In a blog post about the report’s release, Emily Badger, at the Washington Post, notes that policies of the federal government during the last century—subsidies for suburban sprawl development, low gas taxes, and highway investments—bear a large responsibility for making walking more difficult.
The National Association of Realtors, in collaboration with researchers from Portland State University, just released the results of their 2015 Community Preference Survey. The survey reinforces other reports that younger generations are driving less and prefer communities with multimodal transportation options.
When $17 million in funding was set aside for a new interchange on NJ Route 42 in suburban Camden County in 2005, NJDOT’s design concepts involved traditional clover leaf and diamond designs to improve automobile level of service and mobility. However, after engaging the community in a dialog about their vision for the future of the area—which focused on increasing development near the interchange and creating a more walkable environment—planners and designers settled on a more context-sensitive solution that would slow traffic, preserve land for development, and set the stage for a grid roadway network.