Safe Routes for Seniors
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What is Safe Routes for Seniors?
Safe Routes for Seniors is COAST’s latest project, beginning in June 2012. Funded by Measure A and the Santa Barbara Foundation, the purpose of this project is to improve pedestrian infrastructure for seniors and the handicapped in Goleta and unincorporated eastern Goleta Valley.
COAST will be doing a 2 year survey consisting of public outreach and research to put together a comprehensive matrix of future projects in the area. Neither jurisdiction has a pedestrian master plan, so they will rely on this study to assess the state of the current facilities and the needs that need to be filled. The resulting matrix will guide the agency when deciding where future capital projects are most needed.
How will you do it?
COAST will conduct a needs assessment project for them that incorporates extensive public outreach. The work will be done by COAST with guidance from these government agencies. The goal is to improve the access and safety of seniors and handicapped who are among the most vulnerable road users.
Our job would be to find out where they are going and what obstacles there might be. Missing ramps, cracked and missing sidewalks, crossing signals that don’t give enough time for seniors to cross, and other unsafe crossing conditions. We would also assess the needs of bus riders.
Our approach to pedestrian safety is based on public outreach. We will go to places where seniors and handicapped live or congregate and survey them about their needs.
Using the information we glean from surveys and conversations with people, we would develop maps of the walking routes that people take, highlighting places that are in need of improvements. In a time of limited resources, it is important to target our efforts in those place that get the most use.
Other places of interest are those where seniors/handicapped congregate. Locations such as Alpha Resource Center, the Calle Real shopping center, the Goleta Valley Community Center, Encina Meadows, Maravilla, etc.
The results of this public outreach will be supplemented by our own surveys of facilities, pedestrian counts, and observations of pedestrian and driver behavior. Our Project Director, Caitlin Carlson, was trained in these techniques in a program offered by the Office of Traffic Safety and is a certified expert in bicycle and pedestrian safety.
Why is it important?
The danger is real: On Calle Real, 90-year-old Mary Robles was killed on September 12, 2011 when crossing the street at Kingston Ave in Goleta.
Supported by new mobility technology and federal law, there are more handicapped people who are leading active and normal lives. The same goes for seniors. People today are living longer and staying active longer. In the United States, people over 65 today comprise 13% of the population, up from 4% in 1900. This is estimated to increase to 19% in 2030. Santa Barbara has an even larger share of seniors because people like to retire here.
Seniors also walk more than others. They know it is healthy for them, and in their retirement, are less in a hurry. Many walk out of necessity and need to get safely to and from bus stops as they are no longer able to drive. Being able to walk safely and use public transportation can enable seniors and handicapped to live independently when they otherwise might not be able to do so.
At the same time, seniors and handicapped are especially vulnerable as pedestrians because they are slower than their younger counterparts and may have physical limitations. Older people, when they do get hit by a car, are more likely to die of their injuries: The percentage of pedestrian crashes resulting in death exceeds 20 percent for pedestrians over age 75, compared to less than 8 percent for pedestrians under age 14. As our population ages, this problem will only increase.
Our streets were often designed to move cars, not people on foot. We need to restore the dignity of pedestrians, especially those who are aging and vulnerable.
Has there been anything like this before?
The only thing close to what we’re doing has been in New York City. New York City has had a Safe Routes for Seniors program since 2003. Transportation Alternatives, an organization much like COAST based in New York City, started it until the City took it over. As a result of their work, New York City has installed curb extensions, refuge medians, longer walk phases, and other safety measures to help an aging population.
How else can Safe Routes for Seniors help our community?
The approach of working with a group of stake holders, surveying their needs and developing maps for certain centers of activities, was pioneered by the Safe Routes to School movement. It can be applied to other vulnerable populations, such as seniors and handicapped. It can also be applied in other jurisdictions. Moreover, while the results are specifiic to a certain place, this approach of community outreach approach is portable.
We will also be watching for patterns that may emerge, problems that are pointed out again and again, and this may be transferrable to other jurisdictions. Walking, by definition, is local, but the problems encountered by walkers may well point to a regional pattern. This could be helpful to other jurisdictions that are facing the same problem: There are ever more older and handicapped people in the streets.
Want to get involved? Have some questions?
Please contact Caitlin Carlson at email@example.com or call (805) 875-3562. We hope to hear from you!
Source for Statistics: