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|Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 66· No. 2 > Walking the Safety Walk|
Walking the Safety Walk
by Ann Do
With an estimated 78,000 pedestrians injured or killed in 2000 in motor vehicle crashes, the need for increased pedestrian safety in the United States is urgent. In 2000, a total of 4,763 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle crashes, representing 11 percent of total motor vehicle deaths nationwide. Although statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that the figures have declined in recent years, there is little reason for optimism. The decline is a result of a decrease in the relative number of people walking—not necessarily due to a safer walking environment. As cities continue to grow and the average vehicle miles traveled continue to increase, U.S. transportation and planning specialists have been left with a daunting challenge: to reduce pedestrian deaths and injuries while promoting increased walking.
Enter the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Pedestrian Facilities Users Guide Providing Safety and Mobility, designed to help transportation engineers, planners, and safety professionals make cities safer and more pedestrian-friendly. The Users Guide is one component of a larger FHWA study, "Evaluation of Pedestrian Facilities," conducted by FHWA's Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Research Program. The Users Guide provides useful tools to identify the causes of pedestrian crashes, implement countermeasures to prevent future crashes, and enhance the walkability and enjoyment of communities. Individual pedestrians also may use it to improve their own safety and mobility.
More specifically, the Users Guide includes:
The Big Picture
One of the key factors that affect pedestrian crash problems in the United States is alcohol impairment. Although alcohol-related fatalities have decreased by an impressive 25 percent since 1990, alcohol impairment continues to be a serious problem for pedestrians as well as drivers and passengers in motor vehicles. NHTSA estimates that alcohol was involved in 40 percent of fatal crashes and 8 percent of all crashes in 2000. In the same year, the intoxication rate for drivers in crashes where pedestrians were killed was 13 percent, while 31 percent of fatally injured pedestrians had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 or greater.
Speeding is another contributing factor, playing a part in 29 percent of all fatal crashes involving pedestrians in 2000. At higher speeds, motorists are less likely to see a pedestrian and are even less likely to be able to stop in time to avoid hitting one. A pedestrian hit at 64.4 kilometers per hour (40 miles per hour) has only a 15 percent chance of survival, whereas a pedestrian hit at 32.2 kilometers per hour (20 miles per hour) has a 55 percent chance of survival. At 49.9 kilometers per hour (31 miles per hour), a driver will need about 61 meters (200 feet) to stop, which may exceed available sight distance; at a speed of 30.6 kilometers per hour (19 miles per hour), the stop time is halved.
The time of occurrence is another factor. Pedestrian crashes are most prevalent during morning and afternoon peak periods, when traffic volumes are highest. Fatal pedestrian crashes typically peak later in the day, between 5 and 11 p.m., when darkness and alcohol use are factors.
The type of area is a fourth key factor. In 2000, 71 percent of all fatal pedestrian crashes in the United States occurred in urban areas.
The specific location is the final major contributor. Sixty-five percent of crashes involving pedestrians occur at areas other than intersections. This type of incident is particularly true for young pedestrians (under age 9), primarily because of dart-outs into the street. For ages 45 to 65, pedestrian crashes are approximately equal for intersections and non-intersections, while those over age 65 are more likely to be struck at intersections than non-intersections.
Paving the Way to Safety
A key focus of the Users Guide is the identification of locations for safety treatments here pedestrian crashes have occurred in the past and are likely to occur in the future. The guide encourages planners and engineers to consider problem-identification methods, such as convening interactive public workshops, surveying pedestrians and drivers, and talking with police to identify safety problems in a given area.
Patterns of unsafe walking locations also may be identified by using geographic information systems (GIS) software to map reported crash locations. Once these high-crash and high-risk locations are identified, safety improvements can be targeted to appropriate neighborhoods, intersections, or street sections.
Another tool that can be used to analyze cases where data on the sequence of events leading to a crash are unavailable is the Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Analysis Tool (PBCAT). This software, sponsored by FHWA and NHTSA, enables the user to develop and analyze a database on pedestrian and bicyclist crash types. The software groups more than 60 specific pedestrian crash types into 13 general classifications. Based on the classifications, the software selects appropriate countermeasures to address the problems identified.
The PBCAT software and user's manual may be obtained from the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC), a clearinghouse for information about health and safety, engineering, advocacy, education, enforcement and access, and mobility. For more information on PBCAT, please visit http://www.walkinginfo.org/pc/pbcat.htm.
The 13 general classifications are included in the Users Guide. For each crash type, a matrix of pedestrian engineering and operational countermeasures is provided. The matrix is a convenient tool to help users select appropriate corrective actions to address specific problems in their communities.
Livable, Walkable Cities
The Pedestrian Facilities Users Guide is an effective tool for selecting measures to increase the aesthetic beauty of communities and enhance city living. Cities should aim to accommodate pedestrians and increase pedestrian activity. To this end, environments must be safe, comfortable, and inviting. For example, a safe walking environment should include sidewalks that are well-maintained and neighborhoods that are well-lit.
Another important feature to accommodate pedestrians is accessibility for all, including those with disabilities. Public transport should be provided with careful consideration given to how people will get from the transit stop to their destinations. Public transport trips should be as seamless as possible, and transit stops should be friendly and comfortable. To assist people with disabilities, designers and maintenance personnel need to avoid the placement of poles and signs in the middle of sidewalks, steeply sloped driveways, and broken or missing sidewalk sections.
To encourage people to walk, the Users Guide explains that planners must create interest in the environment. Sterile environments, even those with well-designed sidewalks and crosswalks, will not entice walkers and therefore will not reach maximum usability. The guide provides readers with creative ideas for producing such environments. Urban design elements and street furniture such as benches, bus shelters, trash receptacles, and water fountains enhance areas for pedestrians and enliven commercial districts by fostering community life.
Traffic volume is another key factor influencing walkability. High volumes of traffic can inhibit a person's feeling of safety and comfort, and also can affect community life. One San Francisco study showed that people living on a street with light traffic (2,000 vehicles per day) have three times as many friends and twice as many acquaintances on the street as do people living on a street with heavy traffic (16,000 vehicles per day). By designing streets that accommodate lower speed limits or by using traffic-calming approaches (e.g., curb extensions or roadway narrowing), designers and engineers can make streets more pedestrian-friendly. These changes also will benefit motorists and cyclists by creating streets that are safer.
Pulling It All Together
After laying down the basics on pedestrian and bicyclist safety and walkability, the Users Guide details 47 specific roadway and engineering improvements that can be made to the design of pedestrian facilities, roadways, and intersections, as well as traffic-calming measures, traffic management, and signals and signs. Ideas range from better design of sidewalks and curb ramps to improved roadway lighting, pedestrian overpasses, raised pedestrian crossings, roundabouts, and landscaping.
For each improvement strategy, the Users Guide offers practical information on the associated benefits, planning considerations, and estimated costs. The guide also provides useful tables that recommend specific improvements to achieve a variety of broad objectives, such as eliminating behaviors that lead to crashes or reducing motor vehicle speed. In this way, users can quickly identify the options that are available to achieve desired goals.
An extensive list of case studies is provided to illustrate practical applications of the Users Guide (see "Real-World Design for Safe, Walkable Cities").
The Users Guide also comes complete with ideas on how to involve the community in developing priorities, strategies for construction, and raising funds for improvements. For further information, the guide includes a bibliography of suggested readings and useful Web sites. The end result is a comprehensive guide for identifying, prioritizing, and addressing pedestrian and bicyclist safety, plus walkability problems for any neighborhood, town, or city.
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Roadside Design Guide, Washington, DC, October 1988.
Appleyard, Donald, Livable Streets, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1981.
Hunter, W., J. Stutts, W. Pein, and C. Cox, Pedestrians and Bicycle Crash Types of the Early 1990s, Report No. FHWA-RD-95-163, FHWA, Washington, DC, June 1996.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,Fatal Accident Reporting System 1989A Decade of Progress, Washington, DC, 1990.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, General Estimates System 1989A Review of Information on Police-Reported Traffic Crashes in the United States, Washington, DC, 1990.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts 2000, Washington, DC, 2001.
U.K. Department of Transportation, Killing Speed and Saving Lives, London, 1987. Using geographic information systems (GIS) software to map the locations of pedestrian crashes in neighborhoods, campuses, or cities, transportation engineers and planners can focus safety improvements on intersections, street sections, or neighborhoods where pedestrian crashes have occurred.
Source: NC DOT Crash Reports, 10/1/94 to 9/30/99
Total Campus Area Pedestrian Crashes: 57
Kernel Density Search Radius: 500 feet
Robert Schneider, UNC HSRC
Ann H. Do received a B.S. in civil engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA, in June 1987. She joined FHWA in 1997 as a highway design engineer. She currently serves as research highway engineer for the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, VA. Do has been the program manager for the FHWA Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Research since 2001. Her position is in the Office of Safety Research and Development, specializing in research related to safety effectiveness evaluations, pedestrians, bicycles, human factors engineering, and geometric design.
To obtain copies of the Pedestrian Facilities Users Guide Providing Safety and Mobility, contact Ann Do at 202-493-3319 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: The abbreviation used in the photo caption of the bridge crossing Tudor Road was incorrect. Instead of "Anchorage, AL," the text should have read, "Anchorage, AK."
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