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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-05-006    Date:  July/August 2005
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-05-006
Issue No: Vol. 69 No. 1
Date: July/August 2005


Internet Watch

by Keri A. Funderburg

New Web Site Helps Make Streets Friendly For Traffic and Feet

In recent decades, suburbanization with single-use, low-density land developments has created environments where walking to and from destinations may not be safe or feasible. Walking is an environmentally friendly mode of transportation, which has grown in popularity as the health benefits have become better known. However, pedestrian facilities such as multiuse paths and sidewalks to commercial areas need to “catch up” with development.

To create more walkable communities, planners and transportation professionals need to integrate land use and transportation planning, create more infill development, and encourage changes in zoning laws and other restrictions to allow for more pedestrian connections, such as sidewalks, easy-to-access crosswalks, and shared-use paths.

Several years ago, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) started encouraging transportation planners to help develop more pedestrian-friendly communities. In 2002 FHWA published a handbook, Pedestrian Facilities User Guide—Providing Safety and Mobility (FHWA-RD-01-102), that provides descriptions of engineering countermeasures and treatments that planners and engineers can implement to improve pedestrian safety and mobility. FHWA recently modified the handbook to create an online resource known as “PEDSAFE,” which includes a pedestrian safety guide and a countermeasure selection system. Located at www.walkinginfo.org/pedsafe, the new Web site features information from the 2002 user guide, along with a wealth of other resources and tools. Although FHWA designed the site primarily for engineers, planners, safety professionals, and decisionmakers, the public also may find it useful for identifying problems and recommending solutions in their own communities.

One Location, Many Resources

At the “PEDSAFE” Web site, users can access various resources and information on walkable communities. The background section, for example, contains information on the public demand for walkable communities, the link between walking and transit, the ways that streets and traffic affect pedestrians, and the relationship between the Americans with Disabilities Act and walkable communities.

In the crash statistics section, users can access data on pedestrian-related crashes and learn about the factors involved in pedestrian incidents. Darkness and alcohol use, for example, are common factors in fatal pedestrian crashes, which typically peak between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m.

A section on implementation provides users with information and resources on pedestrian-friendly measures. Here, users can download information, for example, on walkable audits—reviews of walking conditions conducted by community members along specified streets.

Finally, in the downloads section, users will find links to additional information on pedestrian-friendly environments, including links to dozens of other Web sites, handbooks, and guidelines for constructing sidewalks, walkways, and crosswalks.

Useful for Planners

FHWA designed the online tools to provide users with a comprehensive inventory of potential engineering, education, or enforcement treatments to improve pedestrian safety and mobility.

The selection tool enables users to input information on project objectives, location, and operational characteristics, and then provides a list of countermeasures that can make project sites more pedestrian friendly. The Web site also features interactive matrices that can help users choose the most effective countermeasures, according to varying crash types and performance objectives. By using the performance objective matrix, for example, users will view methods to improve pedestrian access and mobility by installing raised medians or barriers in the center of the street, which can serve as places of refuge for pedestrians.

This countermeasure, along with 48 others, is featured under the “PEDSAFE” countermeasures tool. Divided into seven categories such as traffic calming, roadway design, and signals and signs, the treatments and programs selected for inclusion in this part of the site have been in place for some time or were proven effective by the time FHWA produced the new Web site.

FHWA's new PEDSAFE Web site features a pedestrian safety guide and countermeasures selection system.
FHWA's new "PEDSAFE" Web site features a pedestrian safety guide and countermeasures selection system.

Case-by-Case Basis

In addition to the background information, resources, and tools available on the “PEDSAFE” Web site, users can review real-world examples of implemented treatments for creating walkable communities. Categorized by location and countermeasure group, each case study includes a description of the problem, relevant background information, a description of the implemented solution, any quantitative or qualitative results from evaluation studies or assessments, and a point of contact for further information.

The city of Bellevue, WA, for example, identified several problems that contributed to a reduction in safety for children walking to and from school, including a lack of sidewalks, excessive vehicle speeds in school zones, and vehicles parked too close to crosswalks. To remedy the problems at one location, the city installed a raised crosswalk to reduce vehicle speeds and improve pedestrian visibility. At 76 millimeters (3 inches) high and 6.7 meters (22 feet) in length, the raised crosswalk performs effectively as an asphalt speed hump. The city also installed crosswalk signs at the raised crosswalk and pavement markings on both sides to notify drivers about the raised roadway. In addition, planners added curb extensions to shorten the pedestrian crossing distance and improve sight distance for pedestrians, especially children. In addition, the planners developed an educational campaign for students at the nearby elementary school.

Since completion of the Bellevue project, the city has conducted studies to compare preproject and postproject vehicle speeds. During the hours before and after school, the 85th percentile speed dropped from 47 to 42 kilometers per hour (29 to 26 miles per hour). Field observations confirm that the project successfully eliminated parking near the crosswalk.

This example is just one of the successes featured on the “PEDSAFE” Web site. By providing detailed information and useful tools and resources, the new site will help ensure that streets in the future also consider pedestrians in the design.

Keri A. Funderburg is a contributing editor for PUBLIC ROADS.




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