Unseen barriers

I went to Hastings because I had heard about its awesome farmers’ market. I hadn’t realized that the said market was about 30 minutes on foot from the city centre, where the bus dropped me. Didn’t matter, I just set off to walk – sounds like a good idea, on a lovely Saturday morning.

All along the way, walking on Caroline Road, the difference of treatment between pedestrians and traffic was striking. The traffic was using wide, maintained and continuous infrastructures. On the side, the footpath was maybe just over 1m wide, occasionally invaded by the nearby vegetation, and/or covered with leaves or fruit fallen from the street trees. And I should also mention that this infrastructure is to be shared “with care” between pedestrians and bicycle users.

So it is all fine, but if you are blind, you might get whacked in the face by a branch, will need to figure out what the difference of the surface is, and will be surprised by a bike rider you were not expecting. If you are using a mobility aid, you will struggle to progress and the space won’t allow you to go past two people walking side by side in the opposite direction.

The paramount was however the intersection Caroline Rd / Frederick St, which I would qualify of uncrossable. In appearance, there is nothing too special to that intersection, standard design ticking the traffic layout boxes. But when you’re on foot, it’s a different story, as you can see here.

There will be a considerable effort into assessing and retrofitting the inherited infrastructures. But I believe this effort is necessary if we are to support walking and participation of people of all ages and abilities.

 

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Dangerous by design

dangerous-by-design-T4America

Pedestrian fatalities are stagnating in US, as they are in NZ. Bridget Burdett, Accessibility Specialist and Principal Researcher at TDG, reminded the fact lately, saying that “whatever we are doing, we are doing it wrong”.

The 2 countries are comparable by a strongly car-oriented environment. In the US, some 4,600 people die every year while walking, struck and killed by a driver. The inequity is strong, with poor communities experiencing comparatively more dangerous environments, relying more on walking as a cheap transport mode, but also having lower rates of insurance coverage, and suffering therefore higher consequences of crashes.

People walk along these roads despite the clear safety risk. This is not user error. Rather, it is a sign that these streets are failing to adequately meet the needs of everyone inĀ  community.

Dangerous by Design 2016 is Smart Growth America’s review of the epidemic of crashes involving pedestrians, in the US, and the cities’ and states’ action.

Without surprise, the recommendation is to (finally) take pedestrians into account, in the planning, design, and redesign. On major arterial roads (NZ has a lot of them, cutting through towns, neighborhoods and communities), they recommend better footpaths, better and safer crossings, and lower speeds.

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All equal?

4x4-vs-ped-TarasGrescoe-tweet

I would like to think so. Fact is, though, the left hand side moves along with a 2-t privacy bubble, possibly at speed, possibly threatening the right hand side, and possibly also using the public space and altering the environment for other users (if it was parked, and a child was to cross the street, he/she would have no visibility until stepping on the carriageway, for instance).

(Picture from unknown source)

Speed vs humans

speeds-consequences

The evidence is over-whelming: speed kills. All residential areas, everywhere, should have max speed limit 30Kph/20Mph or less. No excuses. – Gil Penalosa

And lower speeds also allow people to cross the street and interact more easily, and provide environments that feel safer for cycling (and again, accessing the school, shop, or friends’ house).