People walking at UCLA

A family walks around Ackerman Turnaround during Commencement 2008. Source: Dsopfe/Flickr.

Yesterday, I got to attend Metro’s Pedestrian Symposium and afternoon Bicycle Roundtable. After the jump, I’ll provide a brief summary and two take-aways that are relevant for UCLA commuters.

Metro’s Pedestrian Symposium

Over seven and a half hours (most of which I sat through minus the break I took to sneak in some coffee), a long series of speakers and panelists expounded first the reasons why communities should promote walking and later showed case studies of how this can be done. It was the kind of event that my friend and ped activist Katie at Where The Sidewalk Starts would have loved.

The two takeaways I want to share with you from the symposium:

1) If you’ve managed to integrate 30 minutes daily of walking (or other moderate exercise) into your life, be it to work, the store, to school or church, to chase after your kids, or sprint to the bus/your car/even your vanpool, then… give yourself a pat on the back. You represent just one out of every four Angelenos who attains enough exercise. One of the presenters said that 365,000 people die premature deaths through lack of physical activity and poor nutrition.

I know it may not always be easy, or very tempting to walk (lets’ face it, the urban design in many communities in Southern California are not very desirable walking environments), but walking – which seems so rudimentary – can be such a key way to maintain your health.

2) One of the biggest deterrents to walking is people’s need for personal safety, as emphasized by Jeremy Nelson MA ’03 of Nelson/Nygaard Associates. People, Jeremy said, strongly sense that it’s “dangerous” out there. He suggested that this fear was overblown by showing data that indicated that people are just as likely to be killed by a car as they are to be killed as a victim of crime. I regret not asking Jeremy to respond to other determinants of safety which impede people’s willingness to walk, particularly at night.

The Bicycle Roundtable

I decided to stay for the Bicycle Roundtable because I wanted to have a better handle on the dialogue between cyclists and Metro (for, you know, the sake of being your head blogger). Metro first briefed us on their solutions to cyclist concerns and complaints since the first Roundtable (which included doing a series of bike counts, now underway around LA). Then the roundtable leaders had us do this exercise of critiquing a strategy for addressing the lack of bike facilities at the Hollywood/Vine station as a group in order to scaffold us on we could potentially be doing during a Roundtable subcommittee meetings. Next, Metro introduced us to the subcommittee leaders (planning and policy; implementation; and operations). And finally – oh finally – people got to ask questions/yell.

Takeaways:

1) Metro’s intentions were so earnest. So earnest. The Chief Planning Officer, Doug Failing, was even there 45 minutes early helping with set-up. But the scaffolding exercise was confusing (why have us critique a strategy that would never get implemented, for one?), and it served to incense several people.

2) I think I might volunteer to serve on one of the Roundtable subcommittees, although I haven’t decided which one, and if you have some time, so should you. If are interested in collaborating and working with Metro on one (or all) of the bike themes enumerated here, you can email Jennifer Gill at gillj at metro.net.