Last March, Adam Choit decided to make a video showing pedestrians trying to run across Sunset Boulevard in a particularly dangerous stretch where crosswalks loom far in the distance from one another. The video received a lot of attention from people who were alarmed by pedestrians taking such risks to cross the street – people like Los Angeles Walks founder and the city’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee Chair Deborah Murphy who sent the video to colleagues at the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.
In response, the Department of Transportation has added the intersection featured in this video to a list of new city crosswalks to be painted in the next fiscal year. Choit said that he thought this was a win for a more pedestrian-friendly Sunset Boulevard and says that he plans to make additional films that affect change in the city. Choit says: It’s definitely rewarding to know that hard work and having a vision can pay off, and one person really can make a difference.”
The AARP Public Policy Institute (AARPPPI) is studying how seniors get from one destination to another. Do they walk, do they ride public transportation, can they travel independently, how far away do they live from their destinations and how long does it take them to get there?
AARPPPI partnered with Streetfilms to highlight work that is being done in Arlington, Virginia to create a more walkable, accessible community where you can spend the entirety of your life. AARPPPI says that when you are “planning for older adults, you’re planning for an entire community.”
Planners and policy makers in Arlington have tried to create residential and commercial development that is oriented around access to public transportation (also knows as Transit Oriented Development) and to incorporate urban design improvements that address issues important to seniors including smooth and connected sidewalks, perceptions of safety at public transit stations and bus stops, and the connectivity of and distances between the residential and commercial neighborhoods.
AARPPPI found that Arlington seniors (75 in older) make 22% of their trips on foot and that their number of trips taken on public transportation was four times higher than seniors living in other suburban communities. They also found that when public transportation wasn’t accessible, seniors didn’t use it. This conclusion may seem obvious, but it is still important to acknowledge and is always helpful to think about when making policy, planning and design decisions that impact our communities.
At some point, you may have found yourself wondering why it can take so long to get a seemingly simple repair, amenity (bicycle racks, benches, bus shelters, etc) or design change made to our city streets. Huma Husain, a graduate planning student at the University of California Los Angeles created this wonderful diagram which could provide a very helpful answer to that exact question.
As you can see, Ms. Husain has labeled the Los Angeles city managing agency which oversees different portions of our streets, sidewalks and amenities. While each city has differing managing bodies and management roles, here in Los Angeles, as this diagram illustrates, any change could be a difficult process and large-scale changes (like design modifications that can help our streets become more friendly to bicycles and pedestrians) could be very challenging.
In addition to working with the number of managing agencies involved in street projects, our underground infrastructure (pipes, tubes, wiring, etc, which provides us with our utilities and services) as well as the time and labor needed for these projects can create further delays.
But understanding how our streets are managed is important because it also let’s you know which agency should be held accountable when change needs to take place.
A New York-based group of teenagers called the Bronx Helpers who work to enhance the quality of life in their community have recently successfully lobbied the City of New York to improve the safety of E 172nd Street and Townsend Avenue by removing some parking spaces near the intersection to increase visibility of pedestrians and vehicles. The Bronx Helpers convinced the city of the necessary safety improvements after three years of advocacy.
After the city rejected a plea from the Bronx Helpers for a stop sign at the dangerous intersection (for which the activists had collected over 1,000 signatures of support), they convinced city officials to come and tour the neighborhood in hopes of finding another solution. This tour convinced the city that something should be done.
Congratulations to this passionate group of activists who worked hard to make their voices be heard and in doing so, succeeded in improving the safety of their neighborhood.
The Dutch city of Utrecht has installed a slide (or what they humorously call a “Transfer Accelerator”) at a local subway station. Often we talk about successful public space project “activating” spaces and this happens through movement, engagement and conversation and this slide accomplishes all three. How fun! And what a wonderful way to spend time waiting for a train or to slide your luggage instead of carrying it down those stairs. = )
Watch a video about the Transfer Accelerator below: