Tag Archives: #Walkability

Safe Streets and Walkability for Seniors

28 Jul

A recent article on curbed.com brings attention to the issue of walkability for our growing older adult population.  Older adults surveyed by A Place for Mom said that it was important for them to live in a walkable neighborhood.

But in many communities being able to do so safely is an issue of design.  The traditional multi-generational communities that the survey also showed older adults preferred are not always age friendly and need to do some more work on road safety.  Some of the issues identified in a Transportation Alternatives, Safe Routes for seniors article are:  pavement is uneven and there are obstacles that could lead to tripping, seniors are unable to cross with the walk cycle, and cars do not stop for seniors walking in the crosswalk.  Because of these design issues, many seniors find themselves isolated because they don’t feel safe going out, walking or biking.  And their fear is not unfounded, an NJ State police report shows that in 2016, 166 pedestrians lost their lives, and 44 of them were 65 and older.

In some communities, like ours, there are car services available for seniors such as our Ride Provide program and the Princeton Crosstown Service. These help seniors get to a doctor appointment and do their grocery shopping, and socialize. And while this is a great service, seniors should be able to just go out for a casual walk in their community without worrying about tripping or being able to cross the street. After all leading an active lifestyle improves their quality of life.

So how can we make that possible? The Safe Routes for Seniors intiative had the following recommendations:

  • Make streets flat and have smooth transitions to the curb
  • Install shelters and benches at bus stops
  • Create wide median refuge area with benches and shelters on wide streets
  • Extend crosswalk
  • Add more pedestrian space
  • Drivers should be required to stop 15 feet from a junction

Given the fact that more and more seniors want to continue living in their communities, making these changes would make that possible.

Regardless of whether such accommodations are available, seniors who want to go out for a walk should always keep in mind the following safety tips:

  • Use paths and sidewalks when available
  • Plan your routes so you have crosswalks and crossing signals
  • If you can’t tell how much time you have to cross the street, wait for one light cycle and cross when you get a “fresh green”
  • When crossing the street look right, left, and right again
  • Look for traffic even if you are crossing with the light
  • When crossing, pay extra attention at the curb, drivers may not be able to see you until you are on the roadway
  • Be careful in parking lots, look for backup lights and engine noise
  • Wear bright clothes
  • Walk with a friend so you can watch for each other

And drivers can also help make our communities safer for pedestrians no matter their age by following these practices:

  • Follow posted speed limits
  • Lookout for pedestrians and stop at crosswalks
  • Look for pedestrians before you back out of alleyways and parking lots
  • Do not pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk
  • Do not drive while intoxicated

These small changes can help make our communities more accessible to seniors, more “age friendly,” and safer for everyone.

 

Sources:

https://one.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/olddrive/SteppingOut/getting_started_safely.html

https://www.transalt.org/files/news/reports/2009/Safe_Routes_for_Seniors.pdf

https://www.transalt.org/issues/pedestrian/safeseniors

http://exchange.aaa.com/safety/pedestrian-safety/tips-pedestrian-safety/

https://www.curbed.com/2017/7/25/16025388/senior-living-walkability-survey

 

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Why Walking is Worth the Effort for Me

27 Jan

This week’s post comes from a www.strongtowns.org Pathfinder, Michelle Erfurt. Michelle’s story shows how beneficial it is to find a time to walk.

I love following along with the work of John Simmerman of Active Towns who shares examples of towns that support a culture of activity. The practice of getting fresh air by taking a walk every day is something that should be easy for me to do… I work from home, my house is in a town with sidewalks, near a big park, beside a historic district, and two blocks from a quaint downtown. I’m not lacking in things to see or places to go.

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Michelle walking her son Eddie. Photo credit: Michelle Erfurt

But working from home on my computer and taking care of a 3-month-old always takes a higher priority and before I know it, the day is over and I haven’t gotten outside. Let’s just say that I’m completely on board with the philosophy of Active Towns and Strong Towns, but the practice is challenging. I have two kids and a job, I’m often tired and seldom alone, so taking time to be active outside feels like a big hassle. Then, the next edition of the Active Towns newsletter lands in my inbox and I’m reminded that I really need to get out there.

We had really nice weather the other day so I decided to walk to pick up my 4-year-old from school instead of drive. I put the baby in the baby carrier and walked him, the stroller and myself to day care. It’s about a mile away.

When I picked up Eddie (the older kid), he did not want to walk. He said he wanted to “ride in his car”. As we went, he hugged every parking meter and after a block, he decided to ride in his stroller. In his stroller, he talked non-stop commenting on how big the trees were, how he loves trees, pointing out all the newspapers in front of people’s houses, and talking, talking, talking. He talks a lot and at a very loud volume. I was happy to not have to constantly remind him to use his inside voice. Eddie has a speech delay and gets speech therapy twice a week. It’s very hard to understand him most of the time but the more we practice, the better it gets. Finding opportunities where speech practice can naturally occur is really important. And this walk was full of them.

When we were almost home, a little girl came out of a house saying “Eddie! Hi Eddie!”. It turns out that she is in Eddie’s classroom in the mornings and her grandmother lives down our street. She hangs out with grandma in the afternoons. Maybe I finally found a neighborhood kid for him to play with this summer.

Picking up Eddie like this takes me a full hour. When we got home I was sweating, the stroller and baby attached to me became heavier and heavier. It would definitely be much less shorter in the car and would take a lot less effort on my part. But the benefits outnumbered the challenges: I got outside, the baby got outside, Eddie practiced his speech, we got to do something fun together and we met some neighbors. I felt really proud of myself too! The active lifestyle looks different for everyone.

The next day, Eddie told his dad “I want mommy to walk me home every day”. So, I guess he liked it too.

Thank you Michelle and Strong Towns for this article! Michelle Erfurt is a Strong Towns “Pathfinder” and a mother of two.

This article originally appeared on www.strongtowns.org and was reprinted with permission,” followed by the permanent link to the blog post. http://www.strongtowns.org/contributors-journal/michelle-erfurt