A study of 205 blocks in high-crime areas of Los Angeles suggests that increasing residential zoning in blocks that are otherwise zoned for commercial can reduce crime. The study, published in the February issue of University of Pennsylvania Law Review, finds that city blocks zoned exclusively for residential uses, as well as those zoned for residential and commercial (mixed) uses have less crime than blocks that are zoned solely for commercial use. The research shows that single-use commercially zoned blocks have expected crime rates that are about 45 percent higher than blocks with residential uses mixed in.
Arverne-by-the-Sea, on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, surprised many residents by its resilience to Superstorm Sandy. While many nearby neighborhoods were heavily damaged or destroyed, the new urban Arverne, one of the largest current developments in New York City, was little damaged. Conservation of protective dunes and a heavy-duty drainage system were design factors in resilience of the project, designed by Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn, now called EE&K, a Perkins Eastman Company. See the article in the January-February 2013 issue of Better! Cities & Towns.
More than 700 people in Chicago died during an extreme heat wave in July, 1995. Two adjacent neighborhoods, both poor and predominantly black with the same microclimate, demonstrate how social connections can save lives, according to a report in The New Yorker by sociologist Eric Klinenberg. The Englewood death rate was 33/100,000 population, among the highest in the city. In Auburn-Gresham, where a "viable social infrastructure" survives with small commercial establishments that draw the elderly out of their homes into public life, the death rate was 3/100,000 — among the lowest in the city. Public discussion focuses on physical infrastructure to protect us from natural threats like climate change, Klinenberg says, but social systems are just as important in times of crisis and everyday life. The average life expectency is five years higher in Auburn-Gresham than Englewood, which suffered severe abandonment in the latter part of the 20th Century.
During the first decade of this century the US suburban homicide rate rose 16.9 percent while declining 16.7 percent in cities, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Overall, crime dropped sharply in the US from 2000-2010. "The decline in homicides nationally has overshadowed a countertrend: rising murders in the suburbs, the communities that ring cities and have long been promoted as havens from violent crime," says the Journal. Criminologists and public officials cite weaker and more resource-strapped law enforcement in the suburbs as one cause. "That, in turn, attracts criminals who focus on suburbs, because they are looking for easier places than relatively well-policed cities to commit crimes," the article says. Twenty-five percent of US murders now take place in suburbs, up from 20.7 percent in 2001.
Bicycling is on the rise in the US, reports TheEconomist. Twice as many commuters used bicycles in 2009 compared to 2000. The share of total trips by bicycle has gone up by two thirds since the late 1970s. The trend is linked to bicycle facilities added to roadways and probably to the rise in gasoline prices — up six times the rate of inflation since 1998. Bikeshare programs in recent years are adding impetus to the trend. The latter target both sexes, and women lag way behind men in bicycle use in the US. As bicycling grows in popularity, safety rises substantially. In Philadelphia, where bicycling has doubled since 2002, total traffic crashes involving bicyclists have amazingly fallen by nearly 50 percent. Traffic safety in general may also rise, research suggests. As 48 percent of trips are under 3 miles, there's tremendous potential for bicycling. Yet the US continues to lag far behind Europe, "where the proportion of local trips done by bike can be as high as 30%," The Economist notes.
Chicago unveiled a pedestrian safety plan (pdf) this week that includes implementation of traffic calming measures like pedestrian islands, chicanes, and midblock curb bumpouts, Streetsblog reported. The pedestrian refuge islands (photo above) have been shown to reduce pedestrian crashes by 56 percent. Chicago DOT director Gabe Klein says the city aims to cut pedestrian deaths from the current 50 annually to zero in 10 years. The city will tackle four dangerous intersections annually, based on crash data. The program includes enforcement and driver education. “We want pedestrian safety to be at the forefront of everything we do,” Klein told the Chicago Tribune. “Everyone in the city is a pedestrian.”
More than 360,000 New Yorkers have a severe visual impairment, and some of them feel threatened by the city's growing number of bike lanes and pedestrian plazas, The New York Times says. Groups like Lighthouse International and the PASS Coalition have responded by requesting an increase in accessible pedestrian signals, which broadcast audible information at intersections, and detectable warning strips, whose bumpy surfaces supply a tactile marker of a sidewalk’s end. Janette Sadik-Khan, the City's transportation commissioner, says her department has installed accessible signals at dozens of intersections; traffic-related pedestrian deaths have fallen steadily over the past decade. But advocates for the visually impaired say greater attention to those with little or no sight is needed.