Feb 052011

The time was about 11am (PST) and I was on my way to the Sprint store to exchange an old smart phone case for a new one (Evo 4G in case you were wondering).  I was on the wrong end of the traffic signal timing on my normal route so I decided to take a different route to my destination via Vista Way in Oceanside.  In hindsight I’m glad I did this.  I drove past an old woman walking west on the north side of Vista Way.  As she was about to cross Via Esmarca, I looked ahead and saw that the landscape sprinklers were spraying away not only on the landscape but also onto the adjacent sidewalk in front of her as well.  I pulled into the nearest lot, got out of the car, crossed through some bushes, and arrived on the sidewalk by the bus stop where she was patiently waiting for the next bus.

Pedestrian walking through wet sidewalk to arrive at bus stop

I introduced myself and explained my livelihood.  When asked about the wet sidewalk she said she has taken this route a number of times and this is the first time the sprinklers were on at this time of day.  “Why can’t they set them to go on early in the morning?” she asked.  I was about to jump back in my car when I saw another woman approaching the same intersection and looking to cross Vista Way to get to the strip mall to the south.

Pedestrian crossing Vista Way @ Via Esmarca (Oceanside, CA)

This woman glanced at the sprinklers to her right as if to be thankful that she didn’t have to continue westbound.   I proceeded to my car to head onto my predestined appointment with the Sprint store when I came across the gentleman below just a few hundred feet down the same road.

I wondered how his traveling experience could be made better.  Covered bus stops, perhaps?  Note the badly deteriorated asphalt concrete road shoulder and the accompanying ponded water.  Ponded water + frequent bus stops = concrete bus pads!


Rancho Cucamonga Sidewalk Inventory Study

 GIS, Infrastructure Management, Risk Management, Walkability/ADA  Comments Off on Rancho Cucamonga Sidewalk Inventory Study
Feb 032011


Sidewalk availability in proximity to schools

Sidewalk availability in proximity to schools

An innovative sidewalk inventory program implemented for the City of Rancho Cucamonga, CA, is not only resolving safety concerns but will help with various infrastructure improvements and long-term development projects.

Rancho Cucamonga, with a population over 150,000, is located in western San Bernardino County, CA, about 40 miles east of Los Angeles. During the 1970s, the unincorporated communities of Alta Loma, Etiwanda, and Cucamonga experienced rapid and uncontrolled growth due to Los Angeles and Orange County families seeking affordable housing.  Citizens were concerned about managing development and voted to incorporate as the city of Rancho Cucamonga in November 1977. In 2006, Money Magazine’s annual ‘Best Places to Live 2006’ ranked Rancho Cucamonga as #42 nationwide.

According to Associate Engineer Walt Stickney, the city needed to obtain an inventory of missing sidewalk links primarily on its non-local roads.

“When the city was incorporated more than 30 years ago, for various reasons there were a number of developed and undeveloped areas lacking sidewalks,” said Stickney.  “The community of Alta Loma, for example, was established over a century ago and was predominantly agricultural, consisting of citrus groves and vineyards.  Prior to incorporation, being a rural area, development did not always trigger a requirement for sidewalks.  Now, being nearly built out, these segments of missing sidewalk are a high priority to the city.”

Stickney added that there were two key reasons for conducting the inventory – safety and convenience.  The city also plans to use the collected data to improve overall community walkability.

“When you have schools, retirement centers, community centers, and other such facilities requiring pedestrian travel, you provide safe paths of travel where possible,” said Stickney.  “Along with being safer, paved sidewalks are more user-friendly and encourage walking.  This city is very proactive in providing avenues for the public to walk and bicycle, having recently completed a first class trail main-line along the abandoned Southern Pacific Railroad corridor.  The joining of sidewalks can also foster economic development in commercial areas.”

Carlsbad, CA-based VanderHawk Consulting, LLC was retained to conduct the sidewalk inventory, analyze network-wide coverage and generate required reports.

The goal was to create a centerline representation of sidewalk coverage using a 2009 aerial orthographic photo as a reference point for current sidewalk locations.  Unfortunately, the aerial photo was almost two years old and some sidewalk or missing sidewalk segments weren’t visible due to resolution quality or tree canopies.  Other visual impediments like shrubs, fences, and K-rails made it challenging to determine if a sidewalk was actually present or not. So field spot checks were performed as an additional quality control measure.

The sidewalk polylines were cleaned up and spliced in specific locations to represent any missing links and segmentation breaks that corresponded to the city’s MicroPAVER pavement management segmentation.  A green line represented a concrete or asphalt sidewalk; a blue line was used for decomposed granite community trails; and a red line indicated a missing sidewalk link.

Each sidewalk segment contained the following attribute information:

  • Street name and From/To limits
  • Sidewalk presence
  • Street light presence
  • MicroPAVER section ID
  • Calculated length
  • Estimated width
  • Estimated surface area (can also be used for GASB 34)
  • Location Type- Hospital, library, school, senior centers/ housing, malls, etc.
  • Location Proximity- 500’, 1000′, and 1500′ buffers created around key locations.
  • Reason(s) for missing sidewalk
  • Installation Priority Ranking

Stickney said the data gleaned from the sidewalk inventory is proving invaluable and has revealed some unusual scenarios.

“In older areas of the city the necessary right-of-way may never had been dedicated,” he said.  “In these situations the property owners sometimes have extended their walls or other improvements into a future sidewalk alignment.  The right-of-way costs and physical obstacles add greatly to the cost of improving the sidewalk.  As such, we have to address these occurrences when prioritizing a work program.”

As one example, a homeowner built a wall extending to where a proposed sidewalk will be installed.  The city will have to determine and resolve this particular right-of-way issue before the sidewalk and other improvements are installed.

Stickney added that the sidewalk inventory is also providing proximity criteria to high-pedestrian zones such as malls, schools, mass transit, hospital, court house, retirement homes and other facilities.

“We’re developing a priority matrix that will help the city plan for these improvements.  Included in this priority matrix are proximity attributes which are derived from a series of concentric buffer zones around these facilities,” he said.  “In addition, the type of nearby facility will be assigned a ranking.  This can give a greater ranking, or priority, for where to add missing sidewalks.  VanderHawk is coordinating its resources with the city’s GIS department in developing these buffers and priorities.  Of course, developing a work program is not as cut and dry as crunching numbers.  We will attempt to consolidate the extent, or limits, of a capital project to avoid being spread throughout the city.  This will help in keeping contractor’s bids lower, and also reduce wasted travel time for the city’s inspectors.”

A sidewalk installation program report, scheduled to be delivered to the city in February, will include a segment-by-segment breakdown of installation costs and will summarize data based on factors such as priority ranking, maintenance zone and proposed year of installation.

“We are excited about the development of this useful tool which will enable the City to both quantitatively and qualitatively prioritize sidewalk projects for inclusion into our CIP,” said Mark Steuer, Director of Engineering Services/City Engineer for Rancho Cucamonga.

“The bottom line is that this inventory program will provide a master plan toward addressing the construction of missing sidewalks,” added Stickney.  “The realities of the budget process results in these construction projects being a multi-year program.  The first step in most inventory projects is to establish how the inventory will be maintained and current.  With this inventory, the quantity of missing sidewalks will only be reduced over time.”

Pedestrian Ramps to Nowhere

 Infrastructure Management, Risk Management, Walkability/ADA  Comments Off on Pedestrian Ramps to Nowhere
Jan 312011

Pedestrian Ramp to Nowhere

Many may have heard the common “bridge to nowhere” phrase.  Well this is an ongoing catalog of pedestrian ramps (often incorrectly called wheelchair ramps here in the States) that are not fully connected to other pedestrian infrastructure.  One can’t complain when funds are allocated for important pedestrian infrastructure.  However, leaving things incomplete doesn’t do much for encouraging pedestrian travel and improving safety – especially for those with wheelchairs, walkers, or other physical impairment(s).

There are a number of reasons why only pedestrian ramps, and no adjoining sidewalk or other pedestrian infrastructure, are/were installed.  Sometimes even the ramps themselves have been left incomplete.  Most reasons revolve around cost or the fact that certain communities or portions of communities were developed a long time ago.  It’s encouraging that more and more public agencies are realizing the many benefits of walking and biking and are changing the way they design new communities and improve existing ones…especially in these challenging economic times.

We’ll be adding more photos as we go and we welcome viewers to submit their own photos of problematic pedestrian ramps to the email address listed on our Contact page.

Sidewalk Presence, Pedestrian Safety, and Encouraging Walking

 GIS, Infrastructure Management, Risk Management, Uncategorized, Walkability/ADA  Comments Off on Sidewalk Presence, Pedestrian Safety, and Encouraging Walking
Jan 252011

Lacking sidewalks, pedestrians risk safety by walking in the roadway

It can be frustrating at times to hear the promotion of public transit and you look around and see uncovered and generally down-trodden bus stops everywhere.  The temperature here in Southern California can often reach into the 100’s.   A little bit of shade can go a long way towards encouraging more interest in public transit.

A similar concept can be applied towards the presence or lack of presence of sidewalk infrastructure.  Promoting walkable communities and the many health and economic benefits of walking is fine, but there needs to be adequate infrastructure in place to back up the talk and (pardon the pun) “walk-the-walk.”  Adequate infrastructure for walkable communities starts with adequate sidewalk coverage.  (Note- City planning and design are crucial as well and entire topics unto themselves.  This discussion focuses on improving upon existing community designs).

Below are some common reasons why a community may be lacking sidewalk infrastructure:

  • City ordinance requires sidewalk on only one side of the street
  • Development of adjacent property hasn’t occurred yet
  • Lack of sufficient public right-of-way
  • Lack of funds
  • There’s no clear idea of how much sidewalk is missing
  • There’s no clear plan of how best to prioritize and install missing segments

A good starting point is to perform a network-level assessment for sidewalk presence using a geographical information system (GIS).  Mapping out sidewalk infrastructure is an invaluable tool that can be used for analysis and planning, as well as for presentations to management and the public.

Defining what an agency considers acceptable sidewalk material is also an important factor.  Some agencies might only consider concrete sidewalks of a certain width to be acceptable, while others might accept sidewalks made of asphalt concrete (AC) or community trails made of decomposed granite materials.

Analysis of sidewalk presence and developing a cost plan for installation are the next steps.  Using a GIS allows agencies to analyze and prioritize missing sidewalk segments more efficiently and objectively.  Layer(s) that contain the location of schools, senior centers, public transit stations, malls, etc. are highly useful in this process.  Parcel layer data can also be valuable in sorting out private property/public right-of-way issues.  a methodical plan for sidewalk installation can be spread out over a certain period of time based on availability of funds.

Gone are the days of the “We don’t want to know what’s wrong because then we have to fix it” attitude, where nothing ends up getting fixed until somebody gets hurt and a lawsuit is filed.  It is not reasonable to expect an agency to fix all of their missing sidewalks in one swoop.  Conversely, simply ignoring the problem carries it’s own price tag in the form of lawsuits and lost business revenues.

A logical solution is for agencies to take a proactive approach in dealing with their missing sidewalk infrastructure.  Such an approach should include assessment, analysis, planning, installation tracking, and public outreach.

Next topic(s): ADA pedestrian ramps, trip/fall hazards…