Tag Archives: #walkableplaces

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

 

Complete Streets Workshop Resources

3 Mar

On Tuesday, February 28, Greater Mercer TMA and the American Heart Association sponsored a Complete Streets Workshop in Ocean County.  The workshop featured panelists from the American Heart Association, AARP, AAA Northeast, NJDOT, Sustainable Jersey, FHWA, Bay Head and Brick Township.  Presenters discussed how and why complete streets improve livability, community health, safety, and congestion, while furthering sustainability and creating greater equity. Bay Head’s Mayor showed how complete streets have improved walkability and bicycling conditions in his community and Brick Township’s planner showed how Safe Routes to School programming contributed to the addition of thousands of feet of new sidewalks in Brick. The American Heart Association talked about the link between the increase in chronic heart disease, and the lack of sufficient physical activity in communities where walking and bicycling is not safe.  The workshop provided lots of information and resources to help anyone interested in implementing complete streets.

img_20170228_094708

We are very excited about the great interest in implementing complete streets, and we wanted to share some of the resources available to those interested.

  1. Complete Streets Toolkit from AHA and Voices for Healthy kids http://voicesforhealthykids.org/complete-streets/
  2. AARP Livable communities resources, making streets safer for older adults http://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/archives/info-2014/complete-streets.html
  3. FHWA Residents Guide for Creating Safer Communities for Biking and Walking http://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/archives/info-2014/complete-streets.html
  4. NJDOT policy and implementation guides http://www.state.nj.us/transportation/eng/completestreets/resources.shtm
  5. New Jersey Complete Streets funding and other resources http://njbikeped.org/funding-2/

We hope you find these resources useful! Please let us know if you have any questions or would like us to assist you with complete streets actions.

Active Transportation and the Health of Our Communities

20 Jan

Project for Public Spaces (PPS) released a new report, The Case for Healthy Places, in December 2016 in which they highlight key areas that support healthy placemaking.  According to PPS one’s zip code is a better predictor of health than genetic code. Where we live and where we work matters and we can see that from research highlighting health disparities among low-income communities and high-income communities.

buildings-1853891_1920

We already know that Americans have some of the highest rates of diabetes, heart disease, asthma and certain cancer types.  Americans also suffer from poor mental health and all of these conditions are linked to insufficient physical activity among other factors. Insufficient physical activity is directly related to the way our communities are designed.   PPS states issues such as sprawl, unwalkable communities, poor air quality, unsafe street design for walking and biking, all have a negative impact on our physical and mental health.

One of the key areas named in the PPS report is Walking and Biking. According to research cited by PPS, placemaking supports more walkable and bikeable communities which leads to improved safety  and accessibility of streets,  a sense of community, increased physical activity, support of local economies, and reduced air pollution. And we now have enough evidence that physical activity helps reduce the risk of chronic disease.

street-351548_1920

So what would encourage more physical activity? According to the American Planning Association cited by PPS report, there are nine features that encourage active transportation:

  • Sidewalks
  • Bike lanes and racks
  • Traffic calming measures
  • Crosswalks and signals
  • Aesthetics and placemaking efforts, such as public art and fountains
  • Public space including parks and plazas
  • Street trees
  • Green infrastructures, including greenways and rain gardens
  • Street furniture, including benches, bus shelters, and signage

The report shows that active transportation is not only good for our health but also for the health of our local economies. And studies show that physically active kids have better concentration, mood, self-image, self-confidence, and fewer chronic health problems.

What do you think about the walking and biking conditions in your community?  What do you like? What would you like to change?

Let us know; you can comment on our social media or write a guest blog.

You can find the full report here and the report release article here.