Pedestrian Fatality Map

Check out the map of pedestrian fatalities at Smart Growth America. Here’s a screen shot drilled down to Springfield:

ScreenHunter_24 May. 21 09.49

 

There’s nothing surprising here. Pedestrians tend to take the hits on arterials with high volumes of traffic and higher speeds.

The city has been building and improving sidewalks all over town. That’s a good thing. The problem, as I see it however, is not a matter of sidewalks but a matter of priority. Motorists and their machines are the primary consideration of our traffic designs. Gotta keep ‘em rolling at speed because anything else is just unthinkable. You just won’t hear any solutions that include making motoring more difficult or inconvenient.

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Interesting

There is a new sign on the parking garage near the Heer’s Building:

Are there many electric vehicles in Springfield? Do there need to be in order to start offering services such as this? Will this encourage anyone to buy an electric vehicle?

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Video Just For Fun in Downtown SGF

Here’s a draft of a little thing I’m working on — entirely produced on the iPhone:

The soundtrack is just something I found for free on YouTube. The final version of this will have something more noir ;-)

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Positive (local) Economic Benefits

Check out this infographic from the recent American Planning Association conference (via Planetizen):

So, basically, in general, the fewer cars people own the better it is for local economies.

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Culture Studies and Disciplinarity

I earned my Ph.D. in the interdisciplinary program at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. When asked my discipline, I simply say “rhetoric” because that’s entirely true, and it’s a shorter answer than explaining I also took courses in communications, linguistics, and political science because, well, you know, rhetoric is a really big thing encompassing all of human communication and therefore all of human action, and so I ended up studying why it’s important for students in the humanities and social sciences to write publicly.

Yeah, rhetoric.

I’m the quintessential interdisciplinary academic animal.

So I’m totally down with the idea that urban planning is/should be interdisciplinary.

Let me suggest another discipline that ought to be considered in planning the “equitable” city (or any other kind of city that strikes your rhetorical fancy): culture studies.

Because … the study of culture explains things that, say, engineering cannot (just as engineering explains things culture cannot). One of the things that culture studies explains is why, for example, the Dutch ride bicycles so much for basic transportation. I have argued many times (with success?) that their mode share has less to do with infrastructure (especially the terrible stuff in Amsterdam) and more to do with culture (I don’t agree with the spin of this article, but the importance of culture comes shining through).

So listen up urban planners: culture studies. Check into it.

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Going Down Hard

It’s tough to be a pedestrian.

But three cities are getting grants to make walking safer. From the USA Today article:

Every two hours, on average, a pedestrian is killed. One is injured every seven minutes.

“This is not something that just happens in some other place,” David Friedman, acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), said in an interview. “That’s somebody’s child, somebody’s grandchild, somebody’s grandparent.”

As more and more people choose to walk, federal transportation safety experts are trying to figure out how best to keep them safe.

On Friday, the NHTSA and the Federal Highway Administration will award grants totaling $1.6 million to Louisville, Philadelphia and New York for public education and enforcement programs designed to improve pedestrian safety.

The hope is that programs developed in those cities will eventually serve as models for other cities, Friedman said.

While the article almost certainly does not mention all the strategies under consideration, the ones mentioned seem to me to be more of the same ol’ same ol’. In other words: More pasting of stuff onto a car-centric system. Examples: pedestrian education, designated safe walking routes, better enforcement of crosswalk laws, police training, and social media alerts about dangerous areas.

It is the system itself — the car-centricity — that’s the problem. It’s the culture that believes that streets are for cars, not people, that’s the problem.

We have to be willing, as a culture, to inconvenience motorists more.

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Spotted in the Wild 2

Something I saw this morning on my way to work (I was on my bicycle):

Heading east into the rising sun on Elm this morning, I came upon a policeman starting his campus bicycle patrol. I was controlling the lane for an extra reason this morning: The shadows at the edge of the road can hide you from motorists squinting into the sun. As I passed the officer, I saw him in my mirror pull into traffic, also heading east — hugging the gutter so tightly that he appeared almost attached to it.

:-(

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Spotted in the Wild

Something I saw this morning on my way to work (I was on foot):

A woman in normal clothes riding a “townie” bicycle (i.e. upright seating, fenders, chain guard, rack) on Walnut. She stopped at the light at Kimbrough. Then she continued east on Walnut avoiding the door zone. And she didn’t dip to the right in areas where there were no parked cars.

:-)

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How to Celebrate Earth Day

Live in a place like this…

vandelay

…and use 1/3 the energy of a suburban home.

It’s like getting a raise ;-)

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On The Record

Just FYI:

In the bicycle advocacy world, I am a traffic safety advocate as opposed to a participation advocate.

Participation advocate: A person whose primary goal is increasing the number of people who ride bicycles (aka. mode share). A participation advocate’s primary measure of success in advocacy is increased mode share.

Traffic safety advocate: A person whose primary goal is teaching and encouraging those who ride bicycles to drive their bicycles in traffic as traffic. A traffic safety advocate’s primary measure of success in advocacy is change in bicyclists’ behaviors.

Obviously, there are many advocates who cross this dichotomy and many others who would reject the dichotomy or offer other dichotomies. I point out this dichotomy because I like it, and I fall squarely on the traffic safety side of things. I do not care if another person takes up bicycling. I care that the ones already on the streets drive safely. If mode share can be increased in ways that promote traffic safety, the rules of safe movement,  and proper driving behavior, then that’s wonderful.

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Downtown Needs A Full-time Farmers’ Market

market_goodiesI spend my money downtown. If you want my money, then open your business downtown — or at least in Springfield’s urban core, an easy walk or bicycle ride from downtown.

That’s not to say I do not spend money elsewhere. I do because I must in some cases. But I work hard to limit those cases.

I have not yet visited the new(ish) Farmers Market of the Ozarks. I’m not likely to go anytime soon. It’s a suburban amenity. If I spend money there, it’s a vote for placing such businesses outside the urban core. And I don’t go to the Greater Springfield Farmers Market for the same reason.

I do go to the C-Street Market on Commercial Street.

I’d rather walk, however, to one downtown. It’s time for Springfield to seriously consider the attractiveness of a permanent downtown market — especially as developers continue to build loft apartments (and student housing) and the population continues to grow.

Check out these 10 characteristics of successful city markets. Everyone of them could be reproduced downtown through an infill redevelopment project. Here’s a truncated list from the article:

  • Full-day hours of operation — because people need food everyday all day, not just as few hours per week.
  • Accessible, central location — because, well, obviously.
  • Protection from the elements — because a market should be a comfortable hang-out, a destination.
  • Affordable — most markets hereabouts seem to be.
  • Food service and seating — again, think hang-out and destination.
  • Integrated with public space — again, think hang-out and destination.

And go visit the Soulard Farmers Market in St. Louis. It meets all ten characteristics from the article. It’s a hang-out, a destination. How cool would that be here in #downtownSGF?

Perspective

One of these is illegal, considered an eye-sore, and will be removed asap. The other — not so much.

import 2import 1

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What Downtown SGF Needs

(The following is an edited and expanded version of something I wrote last year for another venue.)

Next month we’ll mark one year of life in downtown Springfield living in the Union Biscuit Lofts on Market Ave. So my wife and I have had plenty of opportunity to walk the streets and observe the goings-on. We’ve had plenty of opportunity to live our lives and deal with all the pleasures and frustrations of living downtown.

On balance: This is the best move we have ever made. I now wish we had done it a long time ago — even with raising a child. Part of what this blog will do in the months ahead is examine our experiences in the context of an apparent return to American cities.

Now, let’s get on with the point of this post. There is a lot of retail space under development downtown, yet there’s much space still sitting (embarrassingly) vacant. As empty-nest baby boomers, there are a few things we’d like to see fill some of those spaces based on what we’re not finding within walking distance (because one of the big reasons to live in a downtown is the whole walking thing). With all the loft development downtown (e.g. Heers and The U), it seems to me that the area is ripe for the economic pickings.

So here are a few preliminary suggestions (i.e. nowhere near an exhaustive list) in case you may be looking for a business idea:

  • Drugstore. There’s nothing downtown. That’s a gaping hole in the retail environment looking for someone to fill it. Empty-nesters buy drugs. So do college students. And toilet paper. And everything else carried by your average CVS and not carried by the Bistro Market.
  • Dry cleaners. The closest, according to my Yellow Pages iPhone app, is a mile away. I’ll walk or ride a bicycle one mile — no sweat. I’d rather walk around the block.
  • Laundry (with drop-off laundry service). The closest, according to my Yellow Pages iPhone app, is a mile away. Because, yeah, we empty-nesters can pay for it and will pay for it.
  • Business/school (i.e. college) supplies — the small stuff you need everyday.
  • Bookstore/news stand, because, well, boomers read stuff on paper (despite this). And, apparently, there are few (or no) news boxes downtown (more on that soon)
  • Trader Joe’s (or similar). If you’ve ever shopped at one there’s no need to explain ;-)

In case you’re considering opening another cupcake shop, please, for the love of all that’s good and decent, please, let me talk you out of it. And coffee? We’re covered. Totally covered. Well covered. You can’t do better than the Mudhouse, Coffee Ethic, or Kingdom, so don’t even try. Bars, restaurants, and other entertainment venues? Covered (although it would be good to get the old GastroPub and Rebecca Grille spaces filled). Wedding shops? Covered. Event spaces? Totally, completely, thoroughly covered. Bicycle shops? Ditto.

Com’on, there are more and more people living downtown everyday. There are only so many weddings we can have and cupcakes we can eat. Let’s start thinking basic goods and services.

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Danger and Difficulty

girls_on_bikesI gave a luncheon talk at the Midtown Library today about bicycling in traffic as traffic for basic transportation.

The big sound-bite: If it were difficult or dangerous, I wouldn’t be doing it.

That happens to be entirely true. I’m interested in neither difficulty nor danger.

The talk consisted mostly of explaining the rules of safe movement and why living a in a flat town with a grid street system creates natural bicycle friendliness.

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Participation Is Easy(er)

Nope. Not talking bicycle mode share here.

Remember, today is the Carbon Trace re-launch. As I wrote earlier, the topics of this blog will now fit the broader context of urban life — especially in small to mid-sized cities.

Today, I’m talking the SATO48 Film Challenge.

I entered the contest — one of 110 teams this year — and actually managed to finish a film. Handed it in on time, too. The Moxie will be showing all the films April 25th to the 27th. Here’s a shameless self-promotion I cooked up:

sato

The headline indicates something that I had no idea about before moving into a loft downtown almost a year ago: I used to find participating in civic sorts of things a bit of a chore. You work all day. Get home. Start relaxing, but only if you don’t have house chores (stop snickering). Cut the grass. Fix a window. Who wants to do anything after that.

Our move downtown has been the best move of our lives — for many more reasons than I had a first supposed. Carbon Trace will be about some of those reasons because I think Americans will need to begin moving into such living arrangements in greater numbers in the years ahead. That trend has already begun. I intend to follow it here.

One reason I will highlight today as the new direction of Carbon Trace begins: participation. When I’m not worn out with the job of living in a suburb, I find myself wanting to be out of Vandelay and in the streets doing something. I am energized by my new living arrangement.

I hope to capture the buzz of urban life on Carbon Trace. Bicycles will continue to play a role because mine will continue to get me where I want to go.

Oh, Vandelay is the name we gave our loft ;-)

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