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Posts from the "Elderly & Disabled" Category

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Enrique Peñalosa Urges SF to Embrace Pedestrians and Public Space

Enrique_small.jpgPhoto: Matthew Roth
Celebrated Colombian urbanist and former mayor of Bogotá Enrique Peñalosa told a standing room audience of more than one hundred people at the San Francisco Public Library last night that San Francisco can be friendly to cars or to people, but not both. Further, he argued that there is no fundamental technical reason why streets have to function only as free-flowing arteries to move cars, but that the state of our cities in America is a political decision that we can overturn and that American's perceptions of what is possible in cities will follow suit.

"I don't say this as a car-hater--I have a car, I think cars can be wonderful to go to the countryside--but clearly the faster cars go in a city, the wider the roads are, the less pleasant is it to be around. The narrower the street, the slower the speeds, the wider the sidewalks, the better you can feel. High-velocity urban roads are sort of fences in a cow pasture."

Road space, he argued, is the most valuable asset in a city and it is a resource that society can use as it pleases, distributing it between all transportation modes or only one. He stated what is obvious, but what seems to rarely be acknowledged by traffic engineers and politicians in San Francisco: less space for cars will mean less cars. "There is no such thing as a 'natural' level of car use in a city. There is nothing technical about how much space you should give to cars or to pedestrians. It's not like you have to ask a transport engineer permission. What is clear is this is a political decision."

Peñalosa's trip was underwritten by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) and was part of the kick-off of the Great Streets Project, a join initiative between the SFBC, SPUR, Project for Public Spaces, and The Livable Streets Initiative (parent company of Streetsblog). Peñalosa earlier in the day met with Mayor Gavin Newsom, which he said went quite well.

"I think [Newsom] was very sensitive to all these issues and he even told some of his people to look into how these things are being used in other cities, the designs that are being used to improve the pedestrian and bicycle spaces there," he said.

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AARP Joins Campaign to Reform National Transportation Policy

AARP_bike.jpgPhoto: AARP
AARP announced today that it will join the Transportation for America campaign to advocate for a "broad restructuring" of national transportation policy. In a letter sent to Congressional leaders last week [PDF], AARP said that it is "working to enable older adults to live independently in their homes and communities throughout their lifespan, and transportation is critical to maintaining the community connections that make that possible."

Forty million Americans over the age of 50 belong to the organization, which is increasingly focused on the next federal transportation bill. "America is aging rapidly and transportation policy and spending must acknowledge this demographic shift," said AARP's Nancy Leamond in a press statement. "The upcoming transportation authorization can help the nation prepare both for its graying years and a greener future by making roads safer for drivers of all ages and also offering more user friendly options for pedestrians and transit users."

AARP's publications have been turning an eye toward the benefits of reducing car dependence and making streets safer for older Americans. Recent articles in the AARP Bulletin have examined Safe Streets for Seniors programs and the need to invest stimulus funds in infrastructure for walking, biking, and transit. An ongoing collaboration with Project for Public Spaces produced a series of three books about how citizens can improve their streets.
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Media Too Often Blame the Victim in Pedestrian Crashes

Geary_crosswalk.jpgAt-grade pedestrian crossing on Geary Blvd
The SF Examiner published an excellent editorial from Walk San Francisco Director Manish Champsee today that calls on the city and the media to improve conditions for pedestrians and not immediately blame the victim in crashes.  When a vehicle killed 87-year-old Victor Cinti in mid-December, the Examiner ran a front-page headline "Jaywalker Killed."  Sells papers, sure, but the headline and the article missed the details of the story and found culpability where they shouldn't, argues Champsee.

The solution to avoid this kind of tragedy at intersections with a pedestrian bridge is not to crack down on “jaywalkers,” but rather to allow people to cross at street level. We also need to calm the traffic in this area and make it more inviting to people walking at street level, rather than trying to separate people from the street.

Though papers like the Examiner aren't likely to be sensitive to subtleties, it added insult to death by running an online poll with the article asking readers whether the police should crack down on jaywalkers. 

The jaywalker in question was an elderly man who used a walker, both of which were strewn in the middle of the street in the original grisly photo run by the paper.  No attention was paid to why Cinti would have calculated that the risk of crossing the busy street was preferable to using the pedestrian bridge over Geary Boulevard at the scene of the crash.

Cinti was killed on the west side of the street, while the bridge is on east side. This means that in order for Cinti to have used the bridge he would have had to cross Webster Street twice just to cross Geary Boulevard on the bridge, in addition to climbing up to cross. That’s a lot of extra effort for someone using a walker.

If the intersection of Geary and Webster allowed crossing at the street level, city standards would dictate more time to cross than what is currently the case. They would also dictate pedestrian countdown signals, along with pedestrian refuge islands in the medians, so someone who couldn’t cross the entire length of the street in one light cycle could continue at the next cycle.

Flickr photo: awcole72