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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 75 · No. 4 > Spotlight on Pedestrian Safety

January/February 2012
Vol. 75 · No. 4

Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-12-002

Spotlight on Pedestrian Safety

by Tamara Redmon, Dan Gelinne, Leah Walton, and Jeff Miller

FHWA's aggressive approach to reducing the fatality rate in 13 States and 5 municipalities is showing promising results.

Focus cities have installed high-visibility crosswalks, such as this one in Montclair, NJ, in a number of locations to improve pedestrian safety.
Focus cities have installed high-visibility crosswalks, such as this one in Montclair, NJ, in a number of locations to improve pedestrian safety.

For the past 7.5 years, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has been trying to aggressively reduce pedestrian deaths by focusing extra resources on the States and cities with the highest numbers or rates of pedestrian fatalities. In recent years, 13 States experienced pedestrian fatalities above 150 per year and above the national rate of 2.5 per 100,000 population. In 2003 those States were Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas. An increase in Nevada's rate later added it to the list, while Michigan dropped off in 2007. In addition, five cities had the highest number of fatalities per year: Chicago, IL; Detroit, MI; Los Angeles, CA; New York, NY; and Phoenix, AZ. Washington, DC, later went on the list, and Detroit dropped off (only to rejoin in 2011).

To address this challenge, FHWA's Focused Approach to Pedestrian Safety project began with a memorandum dated May 2004 outlining the goal of reducing pedestrian fatalities by 10 percent by the year 2008 (goal later changed to 2011). To address this performance goal, FHWA encouraged the affected States and cities to develop and implement pedestrian safety action plans. A previous article in Public Roads documented the early implementation of the Focused Approach to Pedestrian Safety (see "In Step With Safety" in the September/October 2006 issue).

"The focused approach to pedestrian safety has changed the way road owners and operators view pedestrians," says Elizabeth Alicandri, FHWA director of the Office of Safety Programs. "One of the reasons it has been so effective is we identified a need -- in some cases lack of knowledge of how to safely accommodate pedestrians in the roadway environment and in other cases how a public agency can transition from technical knowledge to implementation -- and provided targeted training and technical assistance to those who can really make a difference."

Before: This community center is located on the north side of Van Buren Street, a busy Phoenix arterial. A large mobile home park, home to a number of children, is on the south side of the street.
Before: This community center is located on the north side of Van Buren Street, a busy Phoenix arterial. A large mobile home park, home to a number of children, is on the south side of the street.

 

After: This multistage crossing resulted from a recommendation that came out of a Designing for Pedestrian Safety course. A Phoenix city crew moved the crosswalk from a nearby intersection to a midblock location that avoided some busy driveways and provided more direct access between the mobile home park and the community center.
After: This multistage crossing resulted from a recommendation that came out of a Designing for Pedestrian Safety course. A Phoenix city crew moved the crosswalk from a nearby intersection to a midblock location that avoided some busy driveways and provided more direct access between the mobile home park and the community center.

Laying the Groundwork For Action Plans

For some States and localities, the development of pedestrian safety action plans is a new task, and existing staff often lack experience in developing and implementing the plans. Accordingly, FHWA planned to fill that gap by creating a document that helps State and local officials know where to begin addressing pedestrian safety issues: How to Develop a Pedestrian Safety Action Plan (FHWA-SA-05-12). The agency completed the guide in 2006, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) updated it in 2009 to include sections on law enforcement and education.

In addition, FHWA began offering free technical assistance and training to each of the focus States and cities, including bimonthly webinars on subjects of interest. More information about the content of those courses (Pedestrian Safety Action Plan Workshop, Designing for Pedestrian Safety, Planning and Designing for Pedestrian Safety, and How to Develop a Pedestrian Safety Action Plan) is available on the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) Web site at www.walkinginfo.org/training/pbic.

New York City has been proactive about reclaiming space for pedestrians and creating a safe infrastructure for them, as seen here in Madison Square.
New York City has been proactive about reclaiming space for pedestrians and creating a safe infrastructure for them, as seen here in Madison Square.

First Case Study: Arizona

Several success stories resulted from the Focused Approach to Pedestrian Safety. Three that are detailed here illustrate the program's progress to date. The first is Arizona.

In 2005, Arizona ranked fifth in the Nation with a pedestrian fatality rate of 2.64 per 100,000 population. This status led to FHWA identifying it as a pedestrian safety focus State. In response to growing concern, the State received some of FHWA's first technical assistance courses and developed a timeline for producing and implementing an action plan.

One year later, the State hosted Designing for Pedestrian Safety courses in Phoenix and Flagstaff. Following these courses, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) developed A Guide to Developing a Pedestrian Safety Action Plan, an Arizona-specific supplement to How to Develop a Pedestrian Safety Action Plan. The supplement linked the national guide's recommendations with specific opportunities for implementation across the State and set a timeline for the development of a statewide action plan.

In June 2009, ADOT released the Pedestrian Safety Action Plan: Final Report. Setting a goal of reducing all pedestrian crashes by 20 percent by 2016, the plan identifies priority areas and recommendations for addressing those concerns. Some of the emphasis areas include reducing crashes in high-volume urban areas, incidents involving turning vehicles, and dart-out crashes at midblock locations. The agency prioritized locations using an index consisting of pedestrian demand safety, crash severity, and stakeholder input. Next, it matched the index with specific countermeasures, including pedestrian countdown signals, improved lighting, raised medians, and crosswalk striping. Finally, the plan includes specific policy and program recommendations to improve pedestrian safety, as well as agency partnerships that will work toward accomplishing the goals.

"The FHWA publication entitled How to Develop a Pedestrian Safety Action Plan and corresponding training in Arizona provided insight into the opportunities for statewide pedestrian safety improvements as well as the strategies and contents of an effective action plan," says Kohinoor Kar, transportation safety engineer at ADOT. "Based on the action plan's recommendations, ADOT performed additional evaluations on high-priority locations and developed safety projects with Federal funding [for example, installing a pedestrian hybrid beacon and enhancing roadway lighting on State Route 95 in Bullhead City, AZ]. Phoenix, one of the pedestrian focus cities, developed its own action plan and generated several projects to improve pedestrian safety as well."

Second Case Study: Pinellas County, Florida

Between 2002 and 2007, Florida experienced the second highest average pedestrian crash rate per capita in the Nation, averaging 2.99 fatalities per 100,000 persons, exceeded only by New Mexico. Comparable to this statewide rate was the crash rate in Pinellas County, which includes the communities of Clearwater and St. Petersburg. In September 2008, stakeholders in Pinellas County attended one of the first Pedestrian Safety Action Plan workshops. The workshop's conveners, FHWA pedestrian safety experts, used a template, based on the national guide, to help participating engineers, planners, law enforcement professionals, and other stakeholders develop a comprehensive plan for addressing pedestrian safety within Pinellas County.

After the workshop, the stakeholders collaborated with local consultants to develop the completed template into a final action plan, released in August 2009. The plan set a goal of reducing the county's crash rate from more than 13 to fewer than 10 severe crashes (defined as those resulting in a fatality or incapacitating injury to the pedestrian) per 100,000 people by 2020. Other goals include improving the transportation infrastructure to better accommodate pedestrians, changing the culture of pedestrians and motorists to encourage mutual respect, reducing real and perceived conflicts, and coordinating all activities with the support of local leaders. For each of these goals, the plan set specific objectives to improve safety using a four "E" approach: engineering, enforcement, education, and emergency medical services. Action items were included within each objective to help ensure that the plan would be realistic and achievable.

Pinellas County and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) invested more than $4 million in Federal, State, and local funds for numerous countywide pedestrian safety efforts, including countdown signals, high-visibility crosswalks, pedestrian and school safety audits, a midblock crossing study and improvements, a multimedia educational campaign, and a pedestrian law enforcement program. Support from area businesses and the public school system offered additional educational opportunities countywide, which were further reinforced through school resource officers, crossing guards, and community-supported events such as a jazz festival in Clearwater and an International Walk to School Day.

In addition, a cooperative effort between FDOT and FHWA resulted in the creation of an innovative and award-winning Design-Build Push Button (DBPB) contract to use Federal funds to address safety engineering improvements promptly. A DBPB contract is set up to streamline the process of installing certain types of engineering improvements more efficiently, such as signalization, median modifications, pavement markings, signing, and similar projects that typically do not require right-of-way restrictions. This DBPB contract has proven effective in reducing the work time for safety-related construction from the typical 3 years (under traditional design-bid-build contracts) to less than 9 months.

According to Peter J. Yauch, public works and transportation director in Pinellas County, "Per the latest traffic fatality data collected by FDOT, the number of pedestrian fatalities in Pinellas County has dropped annually from 2009. Pedestrian traffic fatalities in 2010 were reduced by 15 percent. For 2011, the pedestrian traffic fatalities are estimated to be reduced by another 20 percent."

Third Case Study: New York City

Between 2005 and 2009, pedestrians accounted for 52 percent of all traffic deaths in New York City. The city's identification as an FHWA focus city reinforced local agency goals to address the issue of pedestrian safety and create safe, walkable environments. In 2010, the city completed a comprehensive analysis of more than 7,000 pedestrian crashes to better understand its pedestrian safety issues.

In August 2010, the city released the results of that analysis with a detailed action plan. Among the findings, the New York City Pedestrian Safety Study and Action Plan reported that common problems include motorists failing to yield to pedestrians, motorist inattention while driving, high concentrations of crashes on major corridors, and speed. To respond to these concerns, the plan includes specific recommendations for programs, policies, and countermeasures to improve safety, such as the following:

  • Install more than 3,200 pedestrian countdown signals.
  • Redesign streets at high-crash locations to improve pedestrian safety.
  • Improve intersections to increase safety.
  • Launch pilot programs to enhance senior pedestrian safety, test lower speed limits, and assess other innovative approaches.

According to Janette Sadik-Khan, New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) commissioner, "[NYCDOT] aims to reduce by half [all] traffic deaths by 2030. In order to do this, the agency has collected and analyzed more data about the causes of traffic deaths and injuries and where they are happening. We are using this information to design better streets."

New York City has made a great deal of progress on its action plan to date, including redesigning 24 miles (39 kilometers) of high-crash corridors, installing countdown signals at targeted intersections, implementing neighborhood slow zones, completing implementation of left-turn safety treatments at 18 intersections, and issuing tickets to thousands of drivers for failure to yield to pedestrians and improper turns.

NYCDOT is using Section 402 funding through the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee for enforcement of high pedestrian corridors identified by the agency. In addition, NYCDOT used Section 402 funding to develop three public information campaigns: "LOOK," "Don't Be A Jerk," and "Can You See Me Now." The agency's pedestrian safety group is developing a K-12 curriculum, approved by the NYC public schools, which integrates pedestrian safety information into everyday educational curricula, such as health, environmental science, social studies, and mathematics.

NHTSA Education and Enforcement Efforts

In addition to funding a revision of How to Develop a Pedestrian Safety Action Plan, NHTSA provided grant funding to promote pedestrian safety education and enforcement programs in five of the focus areas: Chicago, Detroit, Florida, New Mexico, and North Carolina. In their proposals, the awardees outlined location-specific plans to implement pedestrian education and enforcement programs and strategies to complement existing or planned engineering treatments to improve infrastructure over the course of 3 to 4 years. The programs started in September 2009, except for Detroit, which started in 2007. The five city and State awardees based their project proposals on their active or draft pedestrian safety action plans and indicated how the grant awards would affect their ability to execute the educational and enforcement components of their plans.

Chicago. The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) completed phase I of its pedestrian safety action plan, and the grant funding is assisting with implementation of phase II. CDOT completed an indepth analysis of its pedestrian crash data from 2005-2009 and, based on those data, developed a pedestrian safety education campaign directed at Chicago motorists and pedestrians. The campaign includes messages about sharing the road, avoiding distracted driving, being visible, using the crosswalk, and being aware of vulnerable road users. This information complemented an ongoing campaign to educate youth and older pedestrians.

The city also supplemented its existing enforcement activities by developing a training program and increasing crosswalk enforcement, specifically at high-crash locations identified in the pedestrian data analysis. In October 2011, NHTSA administrator David L. Strickland attended a media event to wrap up the summer activities and highlight the outcomes of the combined education and enforcement programs. Administrator Strickland and CDOT noted the positive role that the Chicago Police Department played in protecting pedestrian safety and noted improvements in drivers' yielding behavior.

Detroit. Wayne State University in Detroit, MI, in cooperation with the City of Detroit, implemented various educational campaigns and enforcement operations to support the city's existing and planned pedestrian engineering treatments. The university directed the educational campaign toward schoolchildren, resulting in a 35 percent increase in safe pedestrian crossing behaviors observed at key locations. The city then implemented waves of enforcement activities during the fall (back to school) and spring (weather warming) to increase driver yielding and to reduce illegal pedestrian crossings.

In addition, due to the high level of pedestrian crashes caused by alcohol impairment, law enforcement partnered with bar owners to distribute information to bar patrons. Concurrently, the city implemented enforcement activities to help stop impaired drivers and pedestrians from injuring themselves or others.

Florida. FDOT District 7 focused its efforts on Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco counties (see related case study on page 14) to reduce the number and severity of pedestrian crashes. Through previous funding, FDOT had developed a major educational campaign delivered through a variety of media outlets. The campaign ran concurrently with the implementation of high-visibility crosswalk striping projects.

With the NHTSA funding, FDOT assigned special law enforcement details to those crosswalks to focus on observance of pedestrian and crossing laws by both motorists and pedestrians. Agency researchers collected data to determine the combined effect of the education, infrastructure, and enforcement campaign. The final results are not yet available.

Before: It was difficult to cross 4th Street (U.S. 92) safely to these dining establishments, which are across from Sunken Gardens, a popular tourist destination in St. Petersburg, FL.
Before: It was difficult to cross 4th Street (U.S. 92) safely to these dining establishments, which are across from Sunken Gardens, a popular tourist destination in St. Petersburg, FL.

 

After: To aid pedestrians in crossing 4th Street, the City of St. Petersburg installed a crosswalk, pedestrian warning signage, and a raised refuge area.
After: To aid pedestrians in crossing 4th Street, the City of St. Petersburg installed a crosswalk, pedestrian warning signage, and a raised refuge area.

New Mexico. The New Mexico DOT used its NHTSA grant funds to develop a statewide media campaign, "Look for Me," to educate high-risk pedestrians (males aged 40-44 and over the age of 64) and motorists. The campaign concentrated on the five cities with the highest incidence of pedestrian crashes. For maximum effectiveness, in conjunction with the educational campaign, the State also implemented enforcement operations at targeted intersections and crosswalks, and focused on reducing speeding in school zones and on neighborhood streets and rural roadways. The enforcement campaign started in October 2011 and will be evaluated to determine whether there were measureable changes in yielding behavior and citations.

North Carolina. The University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC) began working closely with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to implement educational and enforcement projects in the cities of Durham and Raleigh. The two cities have over-representation of African-American pedestrians involved in crashes. Many high-crash zones are in close proximity to high-use bus stops. The HSRC/NCDOT partnership will implement a multi-city pedestrian safety campaign in coordination with the regional transit services. Law enforcement efforts also will be conducted in areas with a history of transit use and pedestrian crashes. The efforts will aim to encourage motorists to yield to pedestrians at crossings and educate pedestrians on safe walking practices, particularly around transit stops. This effort is part of a broader NHTSA project that began in 2009 to examine pedestrian crashes and implement pedestrian safety programs in several North Carolina cities.

Evaluating the Focused Approach

To determine the effectiveness of the Focused Approach to Pedestrian Safety, FHWA has completed two evaluations. In 2009, Volpe National Transportation Systems Center completed an initial evaluation. Overall, the evaluation was positive and documented the changes that have come about in the focus States and cities as a result of the technical assistance provided in recent years. Changes include instituting new policies to improve conditions for pedestrians, equipping engineers and planners with information they can use to accommodate pedestrians and improve safety, and implementing engineering improvements at some of the locations recommended by participants in the pedestrian safety courses.

The study also found the following:

  • The focused approach showed overall positive results with far-reaching consequences, such as raising the visibility of pedestrian safety in focus locations, drawing attention to and generating momentum and resources for addressing pedestrian safety issues, improving participants' understanding of and attitudes toward pedestrian safety issues, increasing the ability of participants to advocate for pedestrian safety improvements, and providing them with practical tools and techniques for assessing and solving pedestrian safety problems.
  • Designation as a focus State helped raise awareness and added legitimacy to pedestrian safety approaches not previously employed.
  • The focused approach spurred changes in policies focused on pedestrian safety, such as California promoting the development of pedestrian safety action plans by local governments through the State, business processes such as Chicago's pedestrian safety staff working with the police department to improve the consistency and comprehensiveness of data collected at crash scenes, and institutional structures such as Chicago forming a multidisciplinary Mayor's Pedestrian Advisory Council that includes a pediatrician who specializes in traumatic injuries and fatalities in children.
  • Prior to participation in the program, some focus States had not used any targeted safety funding to address pedestrian safety. The focused approach helped draw attention to pedestrian safety and led to applying resources to pedestrian safety efforts.

A more comprehensive evaluation conducted in 2010 included a look at all of the FHWA focus areas and turned up additional encouraging results. In the States that had not been designated as pedestrian focus States, pedestrian fatalities between 2002 and 2008 decreased 4.7 percent and the overall fatality rate decreased 11.2 percent. During that same period, the fatalities decreased 12.1 percent, and the fatality rate decreased by 21.8 percent in the pedestrian focus States -- more than double. Although those declines cannot be attributed solely to FHWA's efforts in the focus States and cities, the agency believes that the $1 million total expenditure of contract money over the 6-year period was a sound investment.

In fiscal years 2010 and 2011, FHWA conducted a comprehensive evaluation of all bicycle and pedestrian safety activities. Although FHWA's evaluation of the Focused Approach to Pedestrian Safety found it to be an effective method for directing safety efforts toward a specific group of States, the evaluation of all pedestrian and bicycle safety activities recommended a change in the way pedestrian services and information are delivered.

The independent evaluation, conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton, recommended that FHWA work with its Federal partners to combine their safety-oriented resources and messages with design-, planning-, and operationally oriented resources to give State and local planners a more comprehensive look at all bicycle-pedestrian issues. The evaluation also confirmed that pedestrian and bicycle safety measures could be more successful if FHWA focused on expanding its range of services beyond safety planning to include assisting States in building more proactive and comprehensive pedestrian and bicycle safety programs. These suggestions, among others, will be a consistent priority for FHWA in the future.

Moving forward, FHWA also will be making a few changes to the Focused Approach to Safety. Both FHWA's and the independent evaluation found that pedestrian safety is more of an urban-local problem, often led through local efforts. So the agency has retooled the focused approach to concentrate on focus cities (rather than States). FHWA has identified cities that can benefit the most from being involved in the focused approach and will work with their State or local transportation agencies to deliver technical assistance, training, and other tools that can help drive a faster reduction in pedestrian fatalities.

A few of the current focus States will move off the list, and a few new ones will be added. Each State that has one or more focus cities will be invited to be a focus State. On September 27, 2011, FHWA announced 16 pedestrian focus States that represent the following 26 focus cities: Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Stockton, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa, Miami, St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Chicago, Louisville, New Orleans, Detroit, St. Louis, Newark, Albuquerque, New York City, Tulsa, Philadelphia, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Fort Worth, and the District of Columbia. Information on the Focused Approach to Safety and eligible States can be found at http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/fas.

"We will continue with the pedestrian safety focused approach as we move forward and expect to be even more successful with our revised emphasis on pedestrian focus cities," says FHWA's Alicandri. "As we move into a more performance management-based system, we will emphasize the need for evaluating baseline performance in each focus location to measure progress more accurately."

According to Gabe Rousseau, FHWA bicycle and pedestrian program manager and livability team leader, "It's important to ensure that we make all transportation modes, including walking, safer and more convenient. If people avoid walking because of unsafe roadway conditions or won't let their children walk to school, then we have important safety problems that need to be addressed, too."

Map. Map of the United States with highlighting on 16 States (Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas) and 26 cities: Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Stockton, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa, Miami, St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Chicago, Louisville, New Orleans, Detroit, St. Louis, Newark, Albuquerque, New York City, Tulsa, Philadelphia, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Fort Worth, and Washington, DC.

 

 


Tamara Redmon is the pedestrian safety program manager for FHWA's Office of Safety. She has worked for FHWA for more than 20 years and in her present position develops products and programs to help reduce pedestrian crashes, fatalities, and injuries. She holds a B.A. degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and an M.A. from Marymount University.

Daniel Gelinne is a project coordinator at UNC HSRC and program manager for PBIC. He received his B.A. in geography and environmental science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Leah Walton is a highway safety specialist at NHTSA, where she has been since 2006. Walton serves as the agency expert on pedestrian safety programs and serves on the NHTSA Youth Traffic Safety Team. Prior to her employment with NHTSA, she worked on underage drinking programs for Mothers Against Drunk Driving at the national and State levels. She holds a B.A. from Hamline University.

Jeff Miller serves as team leader for analysis and evaluation in FHWA's Office of Safety. His team is responsible for analytical processes and tools for safety decisionmaking, data analysis, the focused approach, and program evaluation. Before joining FHWA in 2009, he worked for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the United States Capitol Police, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He holds a B.A. in political science from Bridgewater College and earned an M.A. in government from Johns Hopkins University in December 2011.

For more information, contact Tamara Redmon at 202-366-4077 or tamara.redmon@dot.gov, Dan Gelinne at 919-962-8703 or gelinne@hsrc.unc.edu, Leah Walton at 202-366-4969 or leah.walton@dot.gov, or Jeff Miller at 202-366-0744 or jeffrey.miller@dot.gov.

 

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