What We’re Reading 3/22/19

 Pedestrians cross at the intersection of Slauson and Western Avenues in Los Angeles on April 14, 2015. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times).


For the month of March, WALKSacramento has been reading some timely articles that discuss the disparities in our built environment that affect people on a micro level with macro effects. The following all shape our daily life and impact our health; the air we breathe, our route to school, the trees in our community and Automated Vehicles in our communities. These articles highlight how socioeconomics impact our air, our streets, our trees and new technology. Central to the mission of WALKSacramento is helping address these disparities in a productive and inclusive manner.

A High-Crime Neighborhood Makes It Hard to Show Up for School

This article looks at the Baltimore school district who shares similarities with the Sacramento Unified School District, both being urban school systems. The article highlights the key findings from the study by Julia Burdick-Will from John Hopkins University. The study found that due to the way the transportation system is designed and how crime is distributed across the city affects students. Student who have to walk along routes that have a higher rate of violence or crime are more likely to be chronically absent. This highlights the connection that the Sacramento Unified School District has made, that have safe, reliable routes to school can help combat chronic absenteeism. The article concludes by highlighting the Safe Passage program in Chicago as an example of what cities are doing to address the safe transport of children to and from school. This article highlights the national need for safe routes to school for children of all ages to invest in education and the future. Read more about the study here.


The Troublesome Connection Between City Trees and Income Inequality

An article from 2015 that still holds relevance today, specifically highlighting the tree canopies in Sacramento this article explores tree canopy distribution. Street trees have many healthy and economic benefits such as increasing property values and reducing the urban heat island effect. The article talks about why the link between street trees and income is so strong and persistent across the seven studies in the study, Sacramento being one of those cities. Trees are an amenity that need prolonged investment in maintenance and the article calls to action cities to invest in their disadvantaged communities and make the long term investment to provide green space for all. Read more tree canopies and income inequality here.


A new study finds a potential risk with self-driving cars: failure to detect dark-skinned pedestrians

Automated vehicles are a hot topic in the transportation world, but these vehicles might be furthering systemic bias. The article summarizes a study that aimed to discover how automated vehicle detects people from different demographic groups. The vehicle was 5% less accurate detecting people in the dark-skinned group in the study, and while the study has yet to be peer-reviewed the findings offer an alarming truth for the future of automated vehicles. The results could be a result of the implicit bias of the creators and the article suggests that these algorithms need to be tested for explicit bias. The study adds to a larger discussion of automated vehicles and equity, are people of color once again be disproportionately affected by larger systems of bias? Read more here.


Study Finds Racial Gap Between Who Causes Air Pollution and Who Breathes It


Most people facing the effects of air pollution are not the main contributors, they bear the burden for the real polluters. This article reviews a study that expands on this statement. The study first established that the main people contributing to pollution are white American consumers and their goods and services. The study expands on an already established fact, that communities of color disproportionately experience air pollution, but brings in the consumer layer. The study gathers data and makes complex connections from emission and consumption of a good. The hope that this study will help create a new angle for addressing emission reduction, economic activity and consumption. There is a lot of work to be done to address the unfair burden that communities of color face but the article leaves an important point to be addressed, we need to think about our dependence on automobiles and how are cities are growing. Read more about the study here