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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Sidewalks ARE Covered by Disabilities Act, says prior White House attorney. Nashville, do you hear?

When you live in a city of almost 1 million people where only about 1/3 of streets have a viable sidewalk, typically on only one side of the road, you realize very quickly that it is frankly not safe to walk. 

If your pedestrian death rate matches, which it most certainly does in Nashville, you take note that taking a walk could literally mean your life. 

Nashville, this is unacceptable and likely illegal. 


Sidewalks are covered by disabilities act, says prior  White House attorney

June 3, 2003 -- "Laying and maintaining a network of walkways, or sidewalks, for pedestrians to move about is one of the first and most elementary functions of a municipality," wrote U.S. Solicitor General Theodore B Olson, the White House attorney, urging the Supreme Court last week to deny Sacramento's request that the high court hear a case on whether "sidewalks" must be made accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"Providing and upkeeping a network of walkways for pedestrians to get around town is a quintessential, not to mention ages old, government service."

In March, the high court had sought the administration's views on the issue. Sacramento, joined by over 200 other cities, asked the Court late last year to hear its appeal in a case it had lost at the Ninth Circuit, in which disabled individuals had sued the city for failing to install curb ramps or to maintain them, saying it refused to remove obstacles --benches, sings, wires protruding from walkways -- that made sidewalks impassable or dangerous, and that it had refused to even develop the "transition plan" required the law. The case, which has been in litigation for years, is now close to settlement. The Court has not yet announced whether it will take the case.

In the brief, the Solicitor General argued that the Ninth Circuit opinion was "correctly decided," and that it did not conflict with any prior Supreme Court decisions or opinions in other circuits -- thus, there was no reason for the high court to hear the case.

Activists who have been watching the case, called Barden v. Sacramento, expressed hope that, based on the Justice Department's brief, the Court would now refuse the case, keeping the ADA Title 2 out of the high court for now. A number of advocates praised the administration for its views on the matter -- that "sidewalks are for everyone."

In the lawsuit and in the appeal to the Supreme Court, Sacramento and other cities argue that sidewalks are not a "service" of governments as defined by the ADA.

Not true, said the Justice Dept.; ADA regulations clearly provide "that newly constructed or altered sidewalks and intersections must include curb ramps" -- citing 28 C.F.R. 35.151(e). And while this may indeed incur costs for cities, it said, "in enacting the ADA, Congress made a determination that the societal benefits of promoting community access to those with disabilities outweigh the societal costs of complying with the ADA."

Earlier, Lex Frieden, head of the National Council on Disability, a government agency, had urged Olson to advise the Court that the ADA covered sidewalks. Frieden added, "Substantial federal funding is available for making sidewalks accessible to people with disabilities," citing The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), which authorized the use of Surface Transportation Program funds for the installation of "pedestrian walkways," and the modification of public sidewalks to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"In addition," said Frieden, "public responsibility for making sidewalks designed and built with public funds accessible to people with disabilities did not begin with the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Technical guidance on making sidewalks accessible has been available since 1961."

Read "Disabled gain key ally in ADA suit" by Michael Doyle from the May, 30 Sacramento Bee

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Nashville has Designed Roadways for Cars but not Pedestrians --- what can be done? A look at San Diego's similar issues.

Nashville feels like it has designed our roadways for cars and maybe bikes but definitely not for walkers.  Like public schools, post offices, roads, courts, and libraries, decent sidewalks are a basic civic right and yet Nashville is coming in woefully deficient with only 37% of our roadways set up with sidewalks. 

Other cities are being served with lawsuits for lack of safe infrastructure.  The article below is about how San Diego is being sued for lack of safe bike infrastructure despite a big push to bike more in order to curb traffic and pollution. 

Sound familiar?  We, in Nashville, have had many similar messages these past years to get moving via foot or bike but with an alarming pedestrian death rate to match.  This alarming pedestrian death rate is likely closely tied to our lack of sidewalks.

Maybe a lawsuit is in order as there is seemingly no other way to get Nashville to provide. 

Nashvillians have certainly been complaining about the lack of safe interconnected walking options for many years and yet our current sidewalk funding will make the job complete in 1000 years.   Not a typo:  ONE THOUSAND YEARS. 

And, what about the many walkers who have died this year walking in Nashville?  We have an alarmingly high rate of pedestrians killed on foot.  A walker is killed every 21 days here in Nashville.  We have speed limits of 30+ in residential neighborhoods.  We have little to no enforcement of pedestrian laws.  We have horrible lighting conditions and very few sidewalks making Nashville an incredibly deadly environment for walkers.  Frankly, we have a city that does not care about walking and it is a shameful and possible illegal situation.   There are federal laws that cities must comply with and we do not seem to be getting even close.

San Diego facing three new bicycle injury lawsuits in wake of $5M payout

Eight months after San Diego paid nearly $5 million to a bicyclist severely injured by damaged sidewalk, the city is facing three more lawsuits from injuries related to bicycling.
One suit blames the city for a bicycle-on-bicycle crash in a Balboa Avenue eastbound bike lane, which is frequently used by cyclists traveling both directions because the city hasn’t built a westbound bike lane on the street.

Another suit blames the city for a bicyclist being launched by damaged concrete in a bike lane in Carmel Valley. And the third suit blames the city for a man getting electrocuted by a bike rack on El Cajon Boulevard in Talmadge.

The lawsuits come as San Diego is encouraging more people to commute by bicycle to fight climate change, reduce traffic congestion and ease parking scarcity.  They highlight the city’s lack of adequate infrastructure to accommodate a sharp surge in bicycling commuters, a problem city officials say they are focused on fixing with a regional network of bike lanes that’s being slowly constructed.

Cycling advocates say the network will fix a glaring oversight by city planners, who designed streets in San Diego with specific places for cars and pedestrians but no designated travel lanes for bikes.

San Diego is also grappling with cyclists using sidewalks on streets that lack bike lanes because they feel safer there.

The man who got $4.85 million from the city in March was riding on a tree-damaged Del Cerro sidewalk city officials had been notified about five months before the September 2014 crash.

The crash left Clifford Brown with torn spinal cord ligaments, several lost teeth and brain damage that makes him incapable of functioning independently.

The man injured in the Balboa Avenue bicycle-on-bicycle crash describes similar injuries in his lawsuit, which was filed in September.

The November 2016 crash into another bicyclist allegedly threw Douglas Eggers backward and caused a serious brain injury when his head struck the ground on Balboa near Tecolote Canyon.
He was hospitalized for six weeks and then transferred to a neuro skills facility in Bakersfield where he is still being treated.

Eggers’ lawsuit says the city is at fault because the bike lane it built on Balboa Avenue in 2008 is ripe for head-on collisions.  That’s because the street has only one bike lane that is designated for eastbound cyclists, but westbound cyclists also frequently use the lane to avoid the dangers of riding on such a busy street.

His lawsuit says the city should have created a wider bike lane on the north side of Balboa with a divider to accommodate two-way traffic, or the city should have constructed a separate westbound bike lane on the south side of the street.

The suit also notes that the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee has received complaints about the lack of a westbound bike lane on Balboa.

The injured cyclist in the second lawsuit, Michael Cizaukas, describes somewhat less severe injuries he suffered after being thrown from his bicycle by a two-inch “launching ramp” in a Carmel Valley concrete bike lane buckled by a tree.

Cizaukas says he suffered fractured bones, a separated shoulder, muscle tears, hearing loss and a concussion from the crash, which took place in May 2016 on Carmel Canyon Road near Tarantella Lane.

The suit, filed in August, says the city is obligated to provide cyclists with a hazard-free bike lane and that the city should have known about the raised concrete and fixed it.

In the third lawsuit, also filed in August, Jasper Polintan says he was electrocuted while locking his bike to one of three blue metal bike racks on El Cajon Boulevard near 50th St. in Talmadge.
His suit says he suffered damaged to his upper extremities and other injuries that have reduced his earning capacity.

Polintan says the city failed to provide adequate safeguards and should have either properly installed, repaired or maintained the bike rack.

In preliminary responses to the suits filed with the court, attorneys for the city say city officials were unaware of the problems and that the injured cyclists didn’t take proper precautions.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Nashville is an 'F' in regards to Walkability and Part of that is a Funding Issue - maybe another lawsuit is the next appropriate step?

A recent Tennessean article highlighted the woeful underfunding of new sidewalks in Nashville.

Our current Mayor started by stating her commitment to building sidewalks but, with our current rate of progress, it is projected to be 1000 more years before Nashville is fully sidewalked.  That is far from a true commitment to walkability.

To me, walking is a basic human right.  In my city, where I pay taxes, I should be able to walk safely from point A to B.  I should be able to allow my children to walk safely, too.  But, in Nashville, you literally cannot walk in a safe and comfortable fashion.  We only have sidewalks on 37% of our streets. 

It is also turning out to be the deadliest year on record for Nashville pedestrians with more walkers killed this year already than all of last year.  Just this morning, another pedestrian has been struck and taken to a local hospital.

A reminder to all Nashvillans, our city was sued for American with Disabilities Act Non-Compliance and settled around the year 1999.  As a result, the Strategic Sidewalk Plan came out in 2002 with a master plan.  It has, sadly, never been properly funded. 

60 Million in funding is just not going to cut it.  I give Nashville and Mayor Barry an F for walkability and our statistic support it. 

Maybe another lawsuit is in order?

This is a bus stop near a busy shopping district in Nashville which is literally unwalkable. 

New sidewalk construction by Metro Nashville Public Works
    January 2016 - October 2017: 3.5 miles (1.9 miles/year average) with 1900 miles to go....

    2015: 1.4 miles
    2014: 2.0
    2013: 1.9
    2012: 0.8
    2011: 1.7
    Source: Metro Nashville Public Works, Tennessean analysis

Percent of streets with sidewalks
Minneapolis 92%
Seattle 71%
Austin 50%
Nashville 37%
Source: Metro Nashville Public Works, WalkNBike Draft Plan (2016)

L.A. agrees to spend $1.3 billion to fix sidewalks in ADA case

Apr 01, 2015 

Los Angeles is pledging to spend more than $1.3 billion over the next three decades to fix its massive backlog of broken sidewalks and make other improvements to help those with disabilities navigate the city as part of a tentative deal being described as a landmark legal settlement.

The proposed agreement would resolve a lawsuit filed by attorneys for the disabled, who argued that crumbling, impassable sidewalks and other barriers prevented people in wheelchairs or others with mobility impairments from accessing public pathways in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The final terms must still be approved by a federal judge, but attorneys described it as the biggest agreement of its kind in U.S. history.

City leaders said the proposed deal marks the beginning of a sorely needed effort to eliminate one of Los Angeles' most intractable neighborhood nuisances: the ugly and treacherous obstacle courses created by miles of buckling walkways.

City officials and advocates for the disabled praised the agreement at a news conference. Communities Actively Living Independent and Free Executive Director Lillibeth Navarro, whose group was among those suing the city, called it "a major win" for people with disabilities who had suffered frustration and injuries trying to move around the city. Councilman Paul Krekorian said it was a historic victory not only for people with disabilities, but also for the elderly and "anyone who is ever a pedestrian."

Under the terms of the proposed settlement agreed to by the City Council and announced Wednesday, the city must spend $31 million annually on sidewalk and other improvements beginning in the next budget year. That amount would gradually increase to $63 million in future years to adjust for rising costs.

The settlement doesn't identify any new source of funding. But City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana noted that the deal does not limit the type of funding Los Angeles can use to pay for the repairs, meaning the city could seek various grants for the work.

It's unclear whether the promised money will completely eliminate the backlog. The Bureau of Street Services has estimated that about 40% of city sidewalks need repairs. At one point, the price tag was estimated at $1.5 billion. But Santana said there is no reliable estimate for the full cost.

UCLA urban planning professor Donald Shoup said: "It's sad to think that the only thing that has caused any movement in 40 years is a lawsuit.… But of course I'm glad they're doing it."

Even with the promised spending, he added, "It would take decades to fix our sidewalks."

Mayor Eric Garcetti said he believed the spending would be enough to stay ahead of any ongoing deterioration of aging city sidewalks. Attorney Guy Wallace, one of several lawyers representing plaintiffs in the case, said the record agreement was larger than a major, $1.1-billion settlement reached several years ago with Caltrans, the state transportation agency.

The Los Angeles suit alleged that lack of public access for Angelenos in wheelchairs "relegates them to second-class citizen status" and prevents them from being independent. Wallace said at a news conference that more than 200,000 Angelenos with mobility disabilities had struggled to navigate "dysfunctional and inaccessible" sidewalks. Tim Fox, a Denver-based attorney who is on the national board of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the settlement represented an unprecedented move by a city to broadly improve access to its sidewalks for the disabled.

The city plans to start by repairing sidewalks around parks and other city facilities, but will also fix walkways in other areas that are heavily trafficked, close to hospitals or workplaces, or requested by people with mobility challenges, including those alongside homes, Santana said. The only sidewalks that would be categorically left out are those next to buildings run by other government entities, including the Los Angeles Unified School District or federal or state agencies.

Funding to fix sidewalks has been haphazard over the years, and the city abandoned any systematic sidewalk repair program after the recession hit seven years ago. As the economy has improved, the city has revived its program and budgeted $27 million for repairs this year.

So far, Los Angeles has focused its efforts on walkways next to parks and other city facilities. Some council members have also devoted money from their discretionary funds to fix sidewalks in their districts. But the problem remains glaringly obvious in many areas and has cost the city more than $6 million in trip-and-fall payouts in less than four years, according to the city attorney's office.

Kathleen Law, 73, a Hollywood resident whom the city paid $50,000 after she tripped on a jagged sidewalk and shattered her right knee cap in 2008, said the plan was overdue.

"It's absolutely a must," said Law, adding that she still suffers pain from her injury and has had to drastically curtail her preferred form of exercise — walking. "There are some streets I just can't walk on because it's too risky."

The deterioration of city sidewalks is tied to a historic tug of war over who is responsible for fixing them. Los Angeles once held property owners responsible for fixing the adjacent sidewalks, conforming with California law. But decades ago, with federal funding in hand, the city took on responsibility for fixing sidewalks damaged by city trees.

That federal money quickly dried up and Los Angeles voters proved unwilling to pony up more tax money to continue repairs. In 1998, a move to authorize $769 million in bonds for sidewalk work was rejected. Last year, lawmakers abandoned a plan to ask voters to hike the sales tax to pay for street and sidewalk repairs.

Shoup argued that the city should pursue additional measures, including requiring owners to fix broken sidewalks next to their property when they sell.

The proposed settlement is silent on who is legally responsible for sidewalks next to private property — leaving the door open for that kind of program, Shoup suggests. Santana said city lawmakers still have to grapple with those types of issues.

Under the terms announced Wednesday, the city can reduce its annual spending slightly — to $25 million — but it must make up for it within the next three years.

With the City Council's approval of the settlement terms, city lawyers can present a final agreement to the court.
In addition to the $1.3 billion pledged for repairs, the city will pay $15 million in attorneys fees and costs. Wallace said the city is also creating a position to monitor the work and will draft reports on its progress twice yearly.

L.A. agrees to spend $1.3 billion to fix sidewalks in ADA case
A buckled sidewalk at 4th and Main streets in downtown L.A. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Must Read! An Accounting of Sidewalks Production in Nashville, the good, the bad and the ugly

This is a must read if you live in Nashville and care about pedestrian safety and sidewalk production.  An accounting of sidewalks production in Nashville, the good, the bad and the ugly...

Nashville has allocated $60 million for sidewalks. What has the city accomplished?


One of Mayor Megan Barry’s first major announcements after taking office in September 2015 was to devote more funding to sidewalks, which Nashville sorely lacks.

She allocated $30 million in each of her first two years in office, more than her predecessors. Her ambitious public transit plan depends on people walking to bus and light rail stations.

So what has the city done with the money? It built 3.5 miles of new sidewalk, in addition to making repairs. That’s slightly more than the average built during the previous five years, but less than half the pace set out by the city’s recent pedestrian and bikeways plan. At that clip, it would take more than a millennium (to be clear, that is 1000 years!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) to line all of Nashville’s streets.

City officials say they've spent the last two years refining their sidewalk plans and designing difficult, time-consuming projects. Besides the completed miles, they have an additional 2.4 miles under construction and 4.9 miles scheduled for construction. Also, real estate developers have built more than 20 miles since January 2016. But critics contend that Nashville’s Public Works Department spends too much on high-priced consultants, over-complicates some designs and is understaffed for the sidewalk surge.

It’s pretty frustrating how slow it’s going,” said Nora Kern, executive director of Walk Bike Nashville, a pedestrian advocacy group. “I’m sure I can speak for a lot of people when I say that.”

While many residents look at sidewalks as quality-of-life amenities, they’re also key to safety, experts say. Pedestrian deaths in Nashville have reached a record high this year, with 19 people killed so far – up from 16 in all of 2016. As new residents move here expecting "walkability" and long-time residents have grown tired of waiting for sidewalks, Barry and others have emphasized new construction. Barry, through a spokesman, declined to be interviewed.

Nashville lags behind comparable cities. Nearly two-thirds of the city’s streets have no sidewalks, according to a Metro consultant’s plan released this year. Austin, not a shining example, has half of all streets covered. Seattle has 71 percent.

With the scope of the problem laid bare, Metro officials have spent much of the past two years developing a system to prioritize which sidewalks to build first. Some projects, officials also say, are taking longer to design because they’re more complicated than those built during previous administrations.

“There’s perception that sidewalks are pretty easy to do, and sometimes they are, but sometimes they’re like mini road projects,” said Michael Briggs, the Metro Nashville manager of multimodal transportation planning. “The real reason we’ve slowed down is we’re getting to a lot of the harder projects.”

Metro tries to strike a balance between new construction and repairs

Earlier this year Metro finished its WalkNBike plan, which identified 91 miles of high-priority stretches of roadway. The priority sidewalk segments are along transit routes, dangerous roadways, near schools, and places with glaring sidewalk gaps. The total bill for those projects was estimated at $550 million. In total, Metro has 1,900 miles of streets without sidewalks.

We’re in the process of trying to turn the ship around,” Briggs said.
He pointed to one project being planned in West Nashville, at Davidson Road between H.G. Hill Middle School and Hillwood High School. Engineers had to design curbs, gutters, and maneuver the sidewalk path around major utility poles. In the past, Briggs said, Metro was more likely to tackle simple residential streets, or to build stripped-down walkways.

They weren’t good quality sidewalks,” said Metro Councilwoman Angie Henderson, a longtime sidewalk proponent who represents Forest Hills and Oak Hill. “They were narrow, they were on the street. Those were frankly taking the easy path.”

Henderson was the lead sponsor of a bill that passed this year requiring more residential developers to add sidewalks when they build new single-family homes and duplexes, or to pay into a Metro sidewalk fund. It took effect in July.

While new sidewalk construction has taken a back seat to planning, Metro has repaired about 40 miles of damaged sidewalks since January 2016, outpacing the average for previous years. It spent roughly $10 million on repairs during that time, and $22 million on new construction.

That ratio of repairs to new construction is a departure from previous years, officials said, when it was closer to half-and-half. Officials are prioritizing new construction, but have just been slow to spend the money. More than $21 million is unencumbered from the $30 million fiscal 2017 budget.

As the backlog of projects accumulates, some have suggested that Metro could look for less expensive, less elaborate designs. Other cities rely on more “green” infrastructure -- using grass and other permeable surfaces to absorb runoff, instead of concrete. Metro officials say they are considering more environmentally-friendly, less expensive alternatives.

“It’s striking the balance between the quality of infrastructure and the speed of infrastructure,” said Henderson. 

Are contractors boosting sidewalk costs?

Another drain on time and sidewalk resources, critics say, is Public Works’ reliance on contractors. After the 2008 financial crisis, Metro slashed its engineering staff when the capital improvement budget dwindled. Metro officials say they haven’t staffed up to build more sidewalks because of unpredictable funding. The sidewalk budget fluctuated between $8 million and $25 million, for instance, in the three years before Barry took office.

Instead, they’ve relied on an outside firm to manage the sidewalk program, with one full-time Public Works employee managing the contractors (others in Metro handle sidewalk projects part-time). Nashville-based Civic Engineering and Information Technologies signed a $10 million, five-year contract for sidewalk and bikeways project management in 2013. 

Civic charges $160 per hour for a program manager, while Nashville’s on-staff sidewalks manager makes roughly $44 an hour, including health and retirement benefits

Metro officials say outsourcing allows them to ramp up the program quickly, and to scale back, depending on the funding. Also, if a given project is especially difficult, Briggs said, “it’s easier to shift contractors around from job to job if there are challenges.”

But some observers question if the city is getting the most for its money. Besides the complex project designs, contractors handle relatively low-skilled tasks: they attend community outreach meetings, interact with council members, and work on the project budgets.

“There’s a lot of non-engineering stuff that happens in the management of these contracts,” said Adams Carroll, a former Nashville planner who now directs Pittsburgh's bike share program. 
He surveyed four other cities to see how much they budgeted per linear foot of new sidewalks. The average from Memphis, Louisville, Denver and Austin was $135, compared to Nashville’s estimate of more than $1,000 per foot. Metro officials point out their figure includes stormwater infrastructure costs and the cost for acquiring rights-of-way from adjacent property owners. It’s not clear whether the other cities factored in those costs. 

Carroll said the comparison may not be perfect, but it points to another one of Nashville’s challenges: The city lumps a lot of expenses into the sidewalk budget besides sidewalk construction — from gutters to sewers, trees, and layers of consultants.

Metro Councilman John Cooper said he believes that Nashville’s sidewalk construction costs are roughly four times that of comparable cities. 

“We haven't really come to terms with why,” said Cooper, who also questioned the use of contractors. “There is very little formal accountability.”  

A representative from Civic did not respond to a request for comment.

How to measure progress?

The Public Works Department and the Planning Department are creating an online sidewalk progress tracker, so the public can see what is being built, and when. It will match the WalkNBike priority scores with cost estimates, to determine which segments will be built in the next few years. Expected to be completed months ago, the tracker has hit some technical snags, but officials are still hoping to complete it by the end of the year.

Councilwoman Henderson said she has been waiting for the tracker to evaluate if the city is building new sidewalks at a reasonable pace. Up to this point, Metro has not set a goal for sidewalk construction each year.

“We have to have measurable goals,” she said. “If we don’t have measurable short-term goals, how do we measure our long-term progress?” 

Kern, the sidewalk advocate, says the tracker will satisfy a more fundamental need: “Most people have no idea what’s coming or how the money is being spent.”

New sidewalk construction by Metro Nashville Public Works
    January 2016 - October 2017: 3.5 miles (1.9 miles/year average)
    2015: 1.4 miles
    2014: 2.0
    2013: 1.9
    2012: 0.8
    2011: 1.7
    Source: Metro Nashville Public Works, Tennessean analysis

Percent of streets with sidewalks
Minneapolis 92%
Seattle 71%
Austin 50%
Nashville 37%
Source: Metro Nashville Public Works, WalkNBike Draft Plan (2016)

Friday, October 6, 2017

Friday, September 22, 2017

Why Media Reporting Matters When it Comes to Walkability

Link to article

Link to Nashville Pedestrian Death Registry

In Nashville, we have a pedestrian killed every 21 days.

Why You Shouldn’t Trust Media Coverage That Blames Pedestrians for Getting Struck

When a driver struck a 14-year-old girl in a crosswalk outside her Philadelphia-area high school last week, the local media pounced. Headlines highlighted police accounts that said the victim, Kelly Williams, was using FaceTime on her phone at the time of the crash.
Here’s how the local CBS affiliate led its story:
A 14-year-old girl was injured Wednesday afternoon in Abington when police say she walked right into the path of a passing car — because she was video chatting.
The implications were clear: Williams was at fault. She was irresponsible. No need to give any thought to how the driver’s actions contributed to the collision.

Local police went on to lecture people about the dangers of distraction while walking. “I just hope people will realize the dangers of being engrossed in your cellphone, or your tablet, or whatever you’re carrying, and not paying attention to what you’re doing,” said Abington Police Chief John Livingston.

A week later, Williams is still in the hospital recovering from severe injuries. And a very different account of what happened is emerging.

According to a report by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the man who struck Williams, James H. Clark IV, 32, was driving 21 mph over the speed limit — 46 in a 25 mph zone. In addition, she was “half way across a marked crosswalk” at an unsignalized intersection when she was struck — entirely in the legal right-of-way.

The driver told police he was in a hurry, glanced at his watch, looked up and saw a flash, hitting Williams. He is being charged with “reckless endangerment” and assault, and law enforcement is belatedly sending a much better message.

“Distracted driving and speed are a deadly combination,” District Attorney Kevin Steele told the Inquirer. “Drivers owe it to the community and to our young people to exercise extra caution and pay special attention to their surroundings in and around our schools.”

Still, why was the original account so wrong? Rather than wait until all the facts were gathered, police and local TV stations chose to assign blame to a gravely injured child. Wagging your finger at kids for using FaceTime must make for good ratings.
Leonard Bonarek at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia says this kind of reporting is far too common when a driver hits a pedestrian:
The coverage of is unfortunately quite common in the media: implying that a 14-year-old who was walking exactly where she was supposed to be walking, in an area that most have been trained since before they can remember to believe is “safe,” was at fault for the tragedy. Many youth today don’t watch broadcast TV, and evening news viewership trends older every year, but treating this tragedy as a “kids these days” type of story does considerable disservice to our public discourse, while also causing additional pain to a family that must be suffering tremendously, and to a youth who may never fully recover from this incident.
More recommended reading today: The City Fix shares new research showing the productivity advantage of urban density, as well as how housing and transportation policy can ensure the benefits are broadly distributed. And the State Smart Transportation Initiative explains a new report that attempts to draw a clear distinction between the kind of congestion that helps cities and the kind that damages them.

How can you help?  Consider being a PACE Car in Walking Districts! 

I will have bumper stickers me at & I'll mail one to you.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Walking District Op-Ed!

Thanks to John Harkey who works tirelessly for better walking and better biking in Nashville...

How Nashville walking districts work

Recently, I needed to pick up my bike, which had been in the shop for repairs. It was 3 miles from my house to the bike shop so I decided to walk over.
As I walked out of Elmington Park I saw a new sign indicating I was entering a “Walking District.”
Walking district?
It is a new idea being implemented in three locations in Nashville including the Hillsboro West End Neighborhood, south and west of Vanderbilt University. The idea is to encourage walking by making it safer and more enjoyable in residential neighborhoods where sidewalks are few or where through-traffic is heavy.
The plan will introduce signage lowering speed limits to 20 mph on residential streets and 25 on collectors, from the current speed limit of 30 mph. Other traffic-calming features will be introduced, including stepped up enforcement, improved crosswalks at major intersections, educational flyers, educational sessions with neighbors and more.
So, what can you do to help implement this new idea?

Walk more 

If you live in or near the designated neighborhoods, or anywhere, walk more. Restaurants, theaters, grocery stores and a hardware store are all within walking distance for residents of this area, as is the city’s largest traffic destination, Vanderbilt University and Medical Center.
Your walking speed is typically 3 to 4 m.p.h., meaning a mile takes you 15 or 20 minutes to walk. Walking at the more vigorous 15-minute pace with a round trip of 2 miles gets you more than your minimum daily exercise requirement, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. So, you get most of your daily exercise without a trip to the gym and while going where you need to go anyway.

When driving, become a pace car 

When I first heard the concept of “pace car,” I scratched my head. Are we running a race?
No, you are establishing good driving norms. A pace car is one that does not exceed the speed limit, even if other cars stack up behind you. Most Americans view the speed limit as a minimum rather than a maximum.
The pace car, in contrast, observes the speed limit, helping establish the new standard and a new way of looking at speed limits. You can even stick a card in your back window advertising that you are a “Walking District Pace Car.”
Cars are becoming more of a nuisance than a solution to getting around town in the denser parts of the city and near large employers like Vanderbilt. The walking district recognizes this development and encourages people to get out of their car and try walking. It also recognizes how vehicle speed kills. Recent studies have found that a pedestrian hit by a car at 20 mph has a 5 percent chance of killing the pedestrian, while the risk at 40 mph is more than 80 percent.
The walking district idea was brought to Nashville by Dr. Stacy Dorris, a Vanderbilt physician whose medical practice includes getting people to walk more.  Dr. Dorris also has a blog, Shade Parade, which highlights the walking experience in Nashville and she has established the Sidewalk Foundation to help fund walking projects.
Jenny Cheng and Nora Liggett of Hillsboro-West End Neighborhood Association developed the concept, and, with the support of Metro Councilmember Burkley Allen, worked with Metro Public works to bring the idea to fruition. Metro Public Works is collaborating with the Metro Nashville Police to implement the program.
John Harkey is a “mostly retired” health sector researcher, consultant and publisher.