Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
So what’s the point here? Well, walking, while under the influence of alcohol, remains orders of magnitude safer than driving, and it’s still the way to go when inebriation is in the picture. As with all safety concerns, though, a little education and awareness could go a long way. Should you find yourself on an intoxicated trek by foot, try to bring along a sober companion to keep an extra set of eyes on the road. If you see a drunken friend walking off somewhere alone, offer to accompany them. Be aware that your judgment is impaired and err on the side of caution. Commercial areas with slow-seeming traffic circulation could become deadly if you’re not watching out for yourself.
Pedestrian safety, as ever, is not a one-way street (pardon the pun). Motorists should always be aware and sufficiently in control to avoid hitting a pedestrian, no matter how erratic the potential victim. They should take particular care when driving near nighttime commercial hotspots where people are more likely to be drinking. And of course, remember to never get behind the wheel yourself if you’ve been drinking alcohol; a drunk driver and a drunk pedestrian in the same location is truly a tragedy waiting to unfold.
Walking is still the safest way to get around under the influence, but don’t play the dice— always take steps to keep yourself and your companions safe.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
LivableStreets Street Party!
Celebrate our 5th anniversary!
Thursday, July 22, 5-8 pm (rain date 29th)Enter at 100 Sidney Street, Cambridge (map), and play on car-free Tudor St open to all
includes food, drinks, and raffle ticket
Members: $15 to $150+
Non-members: $50 to $150+.
[$50 = annual membership = $4, or 2 T Rides, or 1 beer per month!]
Volunteer your way to free admission. Sign up in advance at email@example.com.
In celebration of their efforts to create safe, convenient and affordable transportation for all people in the Metro Boston area we are presenting awards to: Boston Transportation Commissioner Thomas J. Tinlin for his advocacy on the Massachusetts Avenue bicycle lanes & State Representative Marty Walz for her advocacy on the Longfellow Bridge for more walking and bicycling space.
Chance to Win: New Bicycle
Weekend stay in Maine
Free stay at Hotel Veritas
Free movie tickets
Gift certificates to local bookstores
Urban AdvenTours bike jersey/tune up
Gift cards to local restaurants
and much more!
Food / Drinks:
Games / Activities:All on car-free Tudor Street!Hopscotch
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Sidewalks are not just spaces that should be designed with safety in mind, Jacobs argues, they are safety-creating devices. Cities, unlike towns and suburbs, are literally full of strangers. However, sidewalks, when operating well, create an environment that makes you or me feel safe sharing the street with the city's strangers.
Jacobs speaks quite approvingly of Boston's very own North End neighborhood, writing that its streets are some of the safest one could ever experience (and the North End was quite different in her day). Its sidewalks work so well because they are populated at all times throughout the day. People in the North End use the sidewalks before, during, and after the work day; they use them for pleasure strolls, performing errands, socializing, and going out for a meal, a drink, or a pastry. The North End is what planners call a mixed-use neighborhood—many activities perform there, all in close contact. As a result, there are almost always what Jacobs calls “eyes on the street.”
A place like the North End rarely needs closed-circuit television monitoring or doormen to watch the street. Instead, through its day-and-night activity, the North End has built-in eyes—the activity all along its sidewalks.
Monday, June 21, 2010
The next day, though, I was at another evening event that required driving to, and on my way back home, I was in a big rush, because I had a someone waiting for me at home. This time, I noticed how much worse a driver I was due to my impatience. Every other car on the road seemed to be driven by my arch enemy, getting stuck behind a bike for a short distance while waiting for my opportunity to pass infuriated me, and every crosswalk where I had to stop for a pedestrian made me want to shake my fist at the people who were getting in my way.
Okay, this is something I've noticed before, and it goes to something that I'm fond of saying, which is that being a user of all modes makes me a better user of all of them. Even when I'm impatient and cranky, I stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk, because I understand the hows and the whys of what makes that important.
But I noticed something else about the difference between chill driving and rushed driving: Not only was I a worse, less attentive driver when I was in a hurry, but I was also more tempted to take out my phone. That feeling of being in a hurry meant that stops in traffic, whether for a backup or for a traffic light, felt more like dead time, and long, relatively non-conflicted straightaways on the highway felt like, "Hey, I'm not using my whole brain for this, and I really DO need to send this text ..."
Because I feel strongly about not using my phone when I'm driving, I resisted the temptation, but it was interesting to discover the difference in the temptation to do so in different states of mind. I can see how, driving and getting stuck in traffic on a daily basis, where time in the car is not luxurious relaxation but an impediment to the rest of your life, the lure of the phone and other distractions must get increasingly strong.
The pleasure of commuting by foot is that the travel is itself a satisfying activity. And, of course, there's less danger associated with texting while walking (as long as I take my eyes off my phone while I'm crossing the street!) The frustrations of daily driving for utility create and perpetuate bad habits that impact (literally) all of us.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Nevertheless, the fear for children's safety, whether the perceived threats are real or imagined, plays a huge role in the decisions parents make for their children, and how other parents respond to those choices.
So, I'm fascinated by the concept of designing cities for children. We're not talking, here, about cities full of ball-pits and bouncy-castles (though who wouldn't love THAT?) but rather, cities whose physical infrastructure is safe and inviting for kids to navigate on their own, to get from home to playground to school:
As its main objectives, the project seeks autonomy, participation, safety and mobility for children in the city, to make it possible for them to leave their home without being accompanied by an adult so that they can meet friends and play in public spaces of the city: from courtyards to sidewalks, from public squares to parks.
This has me thinking about how utterly people friendly a kid-friendly city would be. If a child can safely navigate a city's streets, then the vast majority of adult users will be able to do the same. If a city's streets are vibrant and inviting to curious young people, they will probably be welcoming and intriguing to adults of all ages.
What do you think a kid-friendly city would look like?
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
And, yet, here's a second outdoor mobile treadmill device. This one, at least, looks a heck of a lot more maneuverable than the previous one.
Friday, April 16, 2010
I'm fascinated with all of the happiness research that's happening these days, and it's always nice when I learn something that can help me inform current and future choices. Here's one of those: The daily activity most injurious to happiness is commuting.
No kidding. As any of you who have had a painful commute know, this is pretty soul-sucking. Oddly, if it weren't for the occasional day when it goes smoothly, it wouldn't be quite as painful, points out Jonah Lehrer. But, if you think about it, an hour commute each day works out to more than a full day of work of time each week when you don't get to choose what you're doing. And I certainly know that nothing drives me to frustration and depression the way stop-and-go traffic can.
My commute, these days, is about 15 minutes of walking and 15-20 minutes on the subway, and I really like it. I like getting to a different part of the city every day, and I like the balance between walking time and relaxing on the train time.
How long is your commute? Do you feel it impacting your day-to-day happiness? What's the longest commute you've had? The shortest?
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Dear Secretary LaHood,
WalkBoston is delighted with your new Federal Department of Transportation policy statement in support of bicycle and pedestrian facilities. We hope you will follow up in encouraging – even pressuring – state and local agencies to take action with the federal funding to recognize biking and walking as equal with other modes, rather than as afterthoughts to roads projects.
For millions of Americans, walking is not purely recreational and this number is rising. Many people walk to work and school, to trains, to transit, and for social purposes, though the data is poorly collected. The collection and use of more inclusive and comprehensive data would further support this excellent policy.
WalkBoston is the nation’s first pedestrian advocacy organization, advocating for Massachusetts pedestrians for more than 20 years. We see your statement as a huge step toward making US transportation policies meet the needs of the future. Walkable communities are welcoming to a broad range of people, resilient in the face of economic and environmental adversity, good for health and fitness, and for our children.
We are writing to thank you. We intend to encourage our U.S. Representatives and Senators to support your policy It has been a long time coming and we are grateful for this and your numerous other sensible strong positions.
Friday, April 2, 2010
Yesterday, one of our interns was raving to me about a book he recently discovered about the design of public spaces: Jan Gehl's Life Between Buildings. I didn't previously know about this book, but it's immediately clear that it was visionary and continues to influence people-friendly designs and thinking about the public realm. Since we're WalkBoston, Phil highlighted this excerpt for me (emphasis added):
It is important that all meaningful social activities, intense experiences, conversations, and caresses take place when people are standing, sitting, lying down, or walking. One can catch a brief glimpse of others from a car or a train window, but life takes place on foot. Only "on foot" does a situation function as a meaningful opportunity for contact and information in which the individual is at ease and able to take time to experience, pause, or become involved.I love this so much, both because it's something I believe and because it's something I experience. My whole life is changed by the neighborhood I live in, and my relationship to my neighborhood relies on my moving around it on foot on a regular basis. I know more neighbors than I would if I only traveled by car. I have casual, incidental contact with people I know at varying levels of intimacy, and each one improves my day, even on the grouchy ones!
I recently used the T stop exit farther from my house so I could finish a conversation with my friend before we went to our homes (in opposite directions from the square). As I crossed the plaza that sits above the T station, I ran into a group of friends who were hanging out. I have since resolved that when the weather is nice, I should always take the long way out of the T station on the off chance that I'll run into folks in the plaza by doing so.
I figure that when I'm 70, I'm more likely to remember and value that happy moment of unexpected socializing than getting home a couple of minutes earlier.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Also, we got a nice little writeup in the Globe over the weekend. Click here and skip about halfway down the page to "Walking group has a major footing in transportation".
Friday, March 5, 2010
You may be aware that studies show that drivers using cell phones to talk or text are as impaired as drivers who are legally drunk. While there are obviously characteristics that make cell phone impairment different from chemical impairment -- most notably the ability to put the phone down when traffic seems to be getting more complicated. Other studies show that cell-phone impairment exists even when using a hands-free device.
Because pedestrians are often overlooked by drivers (have you ever zipped by a pedestrian waiting to cross at a crosswalk, either because you didn't see them in the busy urban environment or because you didn't feel like stopping? I have, I'm sorry to say!), and are small and slow as compared to other cars, WalkBoston sees pedestrians (and bikes) as being at special risk from distracted driving. So, this week we wrote state senators to say:
I’m writing with regard to S.2290, the safe driving bill. WalkBoston, Massachusetts’ pedestrian advocacy organization, and our membership of over 2500, strongly supports a ban on cell phone and electronic communication devices by drivers. We ask you to vote in support of this bill. Distracted driving is a danger to pedestrians and all users of our streets and roads, and banning the use of cell phones and other such devices is an important piece in the safety puzzle.
Studies have shown that hands-free devices do not significantly reduce the distraction provided by electronic devices, so we additionally support future legislation that limits drivers’ use of hands-free devices as well.
Thank you very much for your support of S.2290 and your attention to the safety of all residents and visitors of the Commonwealth.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
You wouldn't expect your neighbor to clear the snow on the street in front of his house, so why would you depend on him to clear the sidewalk in front of it?(From Phil's Blog)
In Massachusetts, we get most of our snow in February and March, so I'm anticipating some big storms in the next few weeks, but we've had a couple of notable ones already this year. Last week's dud notwithstanding, last night walking home from Davis, before most of my neighbors had shoveled their walks, I found myself slipping and sliding all over the place! That's not exactly the kind of excitement I'm looking for on my walk home.
How is your neighborhood doing on snow clearance? Does your city have a snow clearing ordinance?
Monday, February 1, 2010
Streets for whom?
by Barbara Knecht, Director of Design, Institute for Human Centered Design
Thurs, Feb 4, 7-9 PM
@ LivableStreets office, 100 Sidney St, Cambridge
Open to the public. Suggested $5 donation. Complimentary beer provided by Harpoon.
Should Segways be allowed on sidewalks? Should all bicycles travel only in designated bike lanes? Should motorized scooters be treated as if they are wheelchairs? Where should roller blades, skateboards, adult tricycles, bikes with trailers or kick scooters travel? The world of personal mobility is expanding. But all those other modes are having a hard time finding their place on the streets and sidewalks of our cities. It seems someone always thinks one or more of the alternatives is unsuitable. The solution becomes clear if one applies a universal -- human centered -- design approach to the problem. It isn't simple, it is just clear. It ends the discussion about vehicles. It starts a discussion about people and how they can get around in the city. Barbara will discuss the concept of human-centered design and showcase examples of streets in South America, the US and around the world. A Q&A discussion will follow the talk.
Barbara Knecht, R.A. is Director of Design at the Institute for Human Centered Design. She is also co-director of the IHP "Cities in the 21st Century" and a consultant to Westhab, Inc., an affordable housing and community development organization. Ms. Knecht holds a BA from UC Berkeley and a Master of Architecture from Columbia University. She was awarded a Kinne Fellowship, a Loeb Fellowship, and received a Graham Foundation grant. She serves on the Metropolitan Life/Enterprise Foundation Awards for Excellence in Affordable Housing, the Board of Directors of Care for the Homeless, and the Streetscape committee of the Municipal Art Society.
Hosted by LivableStreets Alliance.
For more information: www.livablestreets.info/node/2450, 617-621-1746, firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, January 8, 2010
The first wave of these “infotainment systems,” as the tech and car industries call them, will hit the market this year. While built-in navigation features were once costly options, the new systems are likely to be standard equipment in a wide range of cars before long. They prevent drivers from watching video and using some other functions while the car is moving, but they can still pull up content as varied as restaurant reviews and the covers of music albums with the tap of a finger.I don't think I have anything to say about this that you can't think of yourself. It's a terrible idea to put more distractions in front of drivers, especially bright distractions that require them to take their eyes off the road for seconds at a time. This is bad for drivers, bad for pedestrians, bad for cyclists, and has the potential to be bad for buildings and signposts as well.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Certainly Disney's Goofy has some experience with this: Goofy in Motor Mania!
Putting ourselves in other people's shoes is one of the trickiest, and frequently, most easily overlooked elements of sharing space with others. When I'm on a crowded sidewalk, everyone around me is walking too slowly and seems totally oblivious to how they're blocking the sidewalk. When I'm standing talking to friends, I'm annoyed at the person brushing by me in a hurry.
In fact, switching modes makes us better at all of the modes we use. By changing our perspective on the road, we can become more aware of all the elements of the travel environment and the factors that are most prominent to each. When I'm on a bike, I'm acutely attuned to how closely cars pass me, so, now, when I'm in a car, I give cyclists more space, for example.
Do you use multiple modes on a regular basis? Has it made you better at moving around in the urban environment?
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Did you or someone you know get stuck in Tuesday night's transit nightmare as a result of the red line train derailment? Were you relying on the red line to get you home, or on one of the buses that got pulled off its regular route in order to scramble for the tens of thousands of people who normally get around on the red line? Did you, perhaps, miss your commuter rail train, which runs infrequently after prime hours, due to the delays all over the system? Or were you in a car, and found yourself mired in gridlock as people who normally commute by public transit fled to cabs and private vehicles?
However you feel about the MBTA, effective and reliable public transportation is essential to the daily functioning of the greater Boston metro area. You don't even have to use it for it to make your life better, because if the more than one million daily trips currently served by the MBTA switch to cars, you can believe your commute would not be improved. Our roads don't have the capacity to serve all those trips by car, and our land mass doesn't have the capacity to expand roads to serve them, even if we did want to become Los Angeles.
If public transit makes your life better, call your legislators and the Governor's office today to insist that they fund an effective and reliable public transit system. To find your legislators' information, click here and enter your information. You want to call or write to your Senate and Representative in General Court. Governor Patrick's contact information is at the bottom of this post.
When you call, say that you rely on public transit, and that you want better funding and/or debt relief for the MBTA.
Okay, now I'm going to get into some nitty gritty about the MBTA and its history and why, even if you think it's been mismanaged in the past, it needs more money going into the future:
Also, why do I care? How does this relate to pedestrian advocacy? A robust and reliable public transportation infrastructure supports and encourages the use of walking as a primary or secondary mode of transportation. As a dedicated walker who hopes never to have to own a car in order to function in my life, I'm deeply invested in seeing public transit work well for broad swaths of the population. In Boston and surrounding communities, as in many other cities across the country, this hope is threatened by significant disinvestment in public transit by state and local governments.
In general, the MBTA is pretty great. Oh, sure, I have some of the same complaints that many people do, including poor late night coverage, doubts about effective management, frustration at rising fares without improvements, and annoyance at poor communication with riders when things go wrong. Still, I'm able to use it as my primary mode of urban transportation for distances further than a couple of miles (which I typically walk.) The fact that I and others can rely on it that way often goes unremarked as we focus on our complaints, but it's worth remembering that part of the bad rap the MBTA gets is simply that we're all more likely to be vocal about complaints than compliments.
Why will more money make things better?
In the major transportation reorganization in the state this year, many of the issues people pointed to regarding mismanagement were addressed. Compensation rules are in line, now, with other state transportation departments, and upper management of the MBTA is being reorganized, as well, to improve the agency.
Since 2000, the MBTA has suffered increasing debts due to a change in funding structure. Prior to 2000, the state covered the difference between MBTA revenue and expenditures (and before you complain that public transit needs to pay its own way, I'd like you to show me any road in the state of Massachusetts that does the same -- and most of them are free!!). Starting in 2000, the MBTA started receiving money from sales taxes collected. Unfortunately, due to a slower economy than predicted and the increase in internet spending at that time, these revenues were lower than expected. Paired with Big Dig debt that was shifted to the MBTA, this made a bad situation worse.
Today, one third of every dollar the MBTA spends goes to debt service. This is an immense amount of money. Think what public transit could do with 30% more money! One long-term solution to the problem of funding the MBTA is to reduce their debt load so that money isn't going down the drain every day. But where will that money come from? Increased taxes, naturally. Governor Patrick tried this summer to increase the state gas tax, some of which revenues would have given the T an immense boost. He couldn't muster the political will to make that happen, however, so instead, tens of thousands of people yesterday paid with their time after a train derailment, just as people every day pay with their time when the green line is slow, or there's a switch problem at JFK or a bus doesn't come as scheduled.
I don't care about the MBTA as an agency, but I care a heck of a lot about public transit in the Boston area. It needs more money to work better now and to keep working in the future. Across the country, transportation infrastructure, including transit (like the MBTA), roads and bridges, is suffering deterioration and years of underfunding. Now is the time to change that pattern, and giving mass transit in Massachusetts a boost is part of the solution. Call your legislators and the governor today to encourage them to make forward thinking the bottom line.
Also, consider joining the T Rider's union to advocate for better public transit in the Boston metro area.
Boston, MA Massachusetts State House
Office of the Governor
Office of the Lt. Governor
Boston, MA 02133
888.870.7770 (in state)
Thursday, December 17, 2009
According to our Holiday Calorie Calculator, if Santa had a cup of carrot and celery sticks at each household instead of cookies and milk, he would only consume 50 calories at each house and would only be eating 4.6 billion calories. Because he is burning off 13 billion calories by walking, he would actually lose all of his weight and disappear. A combination of veggies at most households and cookies or skim milk every few households would keep him in energy balance.