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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-16-004     Date:  May/June 2016
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-16-004
Issue No: Vol. 79 No. 6
Date: May/June 2016

 

Leading The Charge for Safer Streets

by Tamara Redmon

Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx has initiated actions to make walking and bicycling more secure and comfortable.

Photo. A pedestrian crosses the street in a midblock crosswalk with an activated rectangular rapid-flashing beacon. Cars are stopped to allow the pedestrian to cross safely.
The safety of all transportation users is USDOT’s top priority. The Safer People, Safer Streets initiative encourages communities like this one to make improvements to keep pedestrians and bicyclists safe.

Despite a decrease in overall roadway fatalities in recent years, injuries and fatalities of pedestrians and bicyclists have been generally increasing since 2009. In fact, from 2011 to 2012, pedestrian deaths rose 8 percent, and bicyclist fatalities went up more than 7 percent.Accordingly, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx has taken action to reverse this trend through a comprehensive initiative that addresses infrastructure safety, education, vehicle safety, and data collection.

On September 10, 2014, Secretary Foxx announced the Safer People, Safer Streets initiative at the Pro Walk, Pro Bike, Pro Place conference in Pittsburgh, PA. This biennial conference is one of the largest gatherings of transportation engineers, city planners, and professional bicycle-pedestrian safety advocates and practitioners in the country.

When announcing the initiative, Secretary Foxx said, “Safety is our highest priority and that commitment is the same regardless of which form of transportation people choose, including walking and biking. This initiative is aimed at reversing the recent rise in deaths and injuries among the growing number of Americans who bicycle or walk to work, to reach public transportation, and to other important destinations.”

The initiative has produced multiple resources to help communities create streets that are safer for people who walk, bicycle, and take public transportation. The approach also is encouraging safe behavior, promoting design improvements to ensure safe and efficient routes for pedestrians and bicyclists, and providing educational information to help individuals make safer travel choices.

Finally, the initiative has a multimodal focus on improving pedestrian and bicycle routes that provide access to bus stops and train stations.

Safety Assessments

Safer People, Safer Streets began with road safety assessments conducted by U.S. Department of Transportation field offices in every State in the United States. From fall 2014 to June 2015, the offices organized on-the-ground examinations of transportation facilities conducted by multidisciplinary, multiagency teams.

Field offices of the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and Federal Railroad Administration convened and led 52 assessments, one in every State, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. More than 1,500 people took part, including elected officials, field office leaders, and representatives from local, regional, State, Federal, and nongovernmental organizations, helping to advance Secretary Foxx’s initiative.

This damaged, sinking sidewalk is among the issues identified in a pedestrian safety assessment that took place along a segment of 19th Street in Lawrence, KS.
This damaged, sinking sidewalk is among the issues identified in a pedestrian safety assessment that took place along a segment of 19th Street in Lawrence, KS.

The assessments aimed to facilitate dialogue and encourage relationship-building among people who work for different jurisdictions but share responsibility for creating safer streets. The assessments generated a buzz of enthusiasm at the local level. Many participants voiced their concerns and ideas, while coordinating with stakeholders at other agencies. They noted the value of bringing together a variety of organizations to learn from one another and build partnerships, and some noted the desire to organize additional assessments within their State. Local elected officials participated in 10 assessments, and senior USDOT field leadership attended more than half of the events.

This initiative was intended to help USDOT promote assessments as an effective ongoing tool for improving pedestrian and bicycle safety. USDOT has a long history of supporting on-the-ground assessments--ranging from formal pedestrian and bicycle road safety audits to neighborhood walkabouts--because such assessments can provide benefits to all road users while improving safety.

Assessments in all States identified a wide range of physical barriers preventing safe walking and bicycling. The problems ranged from facilities in significant disrepair to missing infrastructure and poorly designed roadways and signals. Common findings included a lack of safe and comfortable sidewalks, crossing opportunities, and bicycle facilities. Many roadways and signal systems were designed to accommodate high-volume, high-speed vehicular traffic, minimal consideration for the needs of all roadway users. In many cases, infrastructure is insufficient to meet the needs of all users, including those with visual and mobility impairments.

The Mayors’ Challenge

As part of the initiative, Secretary Foxx also urged participants at the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in January 2015 to spend a year (later extended to 18 months) working to make their cities safer for bikers and walkers.

“As a former mayor, I understand what a difference it can make when a mayor chooses to prioritize an issue that brings together many community members toward a common goal,” Secretary Foxx said in his remarks at the conference. “This challenge will help mayors to use what we know about how to reduce pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and injuries to make a real difference and save lives in their communities.”

The Mayors’ Challenge kicked off with a summit at USDOT headquarters in March 2015. Here, attendees are listening to Deputy Secretary of Transportation Victor Mendez speak during the launch of the campaign.
The Mayors’ Challenge kicked off with a summit at USDOT headquarters in March 2015. Here, attendees are listening to Deputy Secretary of Transportation Victor Mendez speak during the launch of the campaign.

In March 2015, USDOT and cities from across the Nation launched the challenge during the Mayors’ Summit for Safer People, Safer Streets at USDOT headquarters in Washington, DC. More than 100 people representing 64 participating cities attended, all with the same goal of improving safety and access for nonmotorized transportation regardless of their locality’s size, demographics, geography, and population.

Several key takeaways emerged from the summit. First, pedestrian and bicyclist safety is a universal issue across the country, and people want and need those active transportation choices. Second, communication and consensus building are critical, which is why leadership from elected officials is especially important. Lastly, the most successful transit agencies are not necessarily the ones with the fastest services or fanciest amenities, but the ones that are part of a community that goes beyond minimum requirements to encourage walking and bicycling.

Mayors’ Challenge Activities

Cities participating in the challenge chose one or more of the following activities to help reach their goals to improve safety and access for pedestrians and bicyclists.

  • Take a complete streets approach.
  • Identify and address barriers to make streets safer and convenient for all road users, including people of all ages and abilities and those using assistive mobility devices.
  • Gather and track biking and walking data.
  • Use designs that are appropriate to the context of a street and its uses.
  • Take advantage of opportunities to establish pedestrian-bicyclist networks through addressing maintenance needs.
  • Improve laws and regulations for walking and biking safety.
  • Educate all transportation users and enforce proper road use behavior.

“It’s like with seatbelts and distracted driving: If you hammer at it long enough and loud enough, people understand that this will save lives,” says Mayor Tim Dougherty of Morristown, NJ.

Mayors and other elected city officials are participating in the challenge by convening local action teams to advance safety and accessibility goals. To reach the goal, they are working on one or more challenge activities, ranging from taking a complete streets approach to gathering data on bicycling and walking.

Over the 18-month period (concluding in September 2016), participating cities also have the opportunity to participate in forums and webinars to learn about resources to help them accomplish their challenge goals. More than 240 cities signed up.

For more information, visit www.transportation.gov/mayors-challenge.

Countermeasure Selection Systems

To provide additional support and resources, USDOT worked with local officials, advocacy groups, and safety organizations to help champion the use of FHWA’s Pedestrian Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System (PEDSAFE) and Bicycle Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System (BIKESAFE). PEDSAFE and BIKESAFE are interactive programs for implementing countermeasures to improve the safety and mobility of pedestrians and bicyclists.

FHWA released revised, Web-based versions of PEDSAFE in August 2013 and BIKESAFE in September 2014. The programs provide information and tools to help practitioners review and select engineering and roadway infrastructure improvements to reduce bicyclist and pedestrian injuries. PEDSAFE and BIKESAFE each have four sections: (1) a guide containing basic information; (2) specific details on countermeasures, including a tool for selecting countermeasures; (3) case studies; and (4) a comprehensive list of resources and guidelines with links to dozens of other helpful Web-based resources.

Previous versions of PEDSAFE and BIKESAFE were available only as hard-copy documents (with an interactive program included on a CD-ROM), and they were several hundred pages in length. The updated versions are online only and accessible in formats suitable for personal computers, tablets, or smartphones.

Updates to both resources include recent information on countermeasure costs, inclusion of several new countermeasures, and updates to case studies. Examples of countermeasures now included are the rectangular rapid flashing beacon for pedestrians and the separated bike lane and contraflow bike lane for bicycles. Both resources are available at http://pedbikesafe.org.

“At FHWA, our program is multi-faceted,” said Federal Highway Administrator Gregory G. Nadeau at the release of the updated versions. “We have developed a broad range of tools and resources to foster pedestrian and bicycle safety and will continue to actively promote these resources and develop new tools to help communities build streets that are safer for people walking, bicycling, and taking public transportation.”

Additional Information on Cost

Also incorporated in the updated versions of PEDSAFE and BIKESAFE is a study identifying the costs for safety infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists. The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) completed the study with joint funding from FHWA, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center. The PBIC published the report, Costs for Pedestrian and Bicycle Infrastructure Improvements: A Resource for Researchers, Engineers, Planners, and the General Public, in 2013.

The study provides meaningful estimates and cost ranges for 77 pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure projects based on the actual costs from more than 1,700 projects across the Nation. The report is intended to help researchers, engineers, planners, elected officials, and members of the public when selecting improvements for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure.

This bicyclist is using a separated bike lane, one of the new countermeasures included in the updated BIKESAFE guide.
This bicyclist is using a separated bike lane, one of the new countermeasures included in the updated BIKESAFE guide.

 

Pedestrian hybrid beacons, shown here installed in Phoenix, AZ, are one of the engineering measures included in the Costs for Pedestrian and Bicyclist Infrastructure Improvements resource. Depending on a variety of factors, they can cost between $21,000 and $130,000.
Pedestrian hybrid beacons, shown here installed in Phoenix, AZ, are one of the engineering measures included in the Costs for Pedestrian and Bicyclist Infrastructure Improvements resource. Depending on a variety of factors, they can cost between $21,000 and $130,000.

“By having more information about the costs of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure treatments and expected safety and other benefits,” says Charlie Zegeer, director of the PBIC and one of the study’s authors, “decisionmakers will be able to dedicate funds to those treatments secure in the knowledge that they have identified the most cost-effective ways to improve pedestrian safety and mobility.”

For more information, visit www.pedbikeinfo.org/cms/downloads/Countermeasure%20Costs_Report_Nov2013.pdf.

Updated Guide For Residents

USDOT also released A Resident’s Guide for Creating Safer Communities for Walking and Biking (FHWA-SA-14-099) in 2015. The guide is an update ofA Resident’s Guide for Creating Safe and Walkable Communities (FHWA-SA-07-016), which was developed in 2007 and released in 2008. The updated guide is intended to encourage residents, parents, community association members, and others to become involved in making communities safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. The newer version addresses bicyclist accommodation and includes several new case studies.

The guide includes concepts and resources to help residents learn about traffic problems that affect pedestrians and bicyclists and to find ways to help address these problems and promote safety among all road users. It includes information on identifying problems, taking action to address pedestrian and bicycle concerns, and finding solutions to improve safety. It also provides resources and materials for additional information.

In addition to a thorough introduction to pedestrian safety, the guide has several community success stories that highlight pedestrian safety projects and programs. It also contains resource sheets that communities can adapt to meet their needs, or distribute to others working to improve pedestrian safety.

Momentum for the Future

The interest in Secretary Foxx’s initiative and the number of cities participating in the Mayors’ Challenge demonstrate how important pedestrian and bicyclist safety are to U.S. cities and their leadership. Mayors and other leaders are recognizing the importance of pedestrian and bicyclist access and safety in creating a vibrant and healthy community.

FHWA’s newly revised Resident’s Guide informs members of the public like these pedestrians about how they can improve safety for bikers and walkers.
FHWA’s newly revised Resident’s Guide informs members of the public like these pedestrians about how they can improve safety for bikers and walkers.

At the conclusion of the Mayors’ Challenge and Secretary’s initiative, the Secretary expects to recognize many of the mayors and cities with an award ceremony to celebrate their accomplishments. USDOT hopes that cities and towns across the country will continue to make progress long after the Mayors’ Challenge ends.

“We are thrilled with the interest in the Secretary’s initiative and the Mayors’ Challenge,” says Barbara McCann, director of USDOT’s Office of Safety, Energy and the Environment. “We feel confident going forward that this initiative is helping more and more communities [improve safety] for people who are walking and bicycling.The Mayors’ Challenge cities are showing the way for a growing number of communities across the United States to recognize that creating a safe walking and bicycling environment is critical for giving residents safe ways to reach jobs, schools, and other sources of opportunity, as well as for individual and community health.”


Tamara Redmon is the pedestrian safety program manager in FHWA’s Office of Safety. She develops programs to help reduce pedestrian and bicyclist crashes, fatalities, and injuries. Her recent work includes revising the popular Web-based resources PEDSAFE and BIKESAFE, and developing A Resident’s Guide for Creating Safer Communities for Walking and Biking. Redmon has a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech and a master’s from Marymount University.

For more information, see www.transportation.gov/safer-people-safer-streets or contact Tamara Redmon at 202–366–4077 or tamara.redmon@dot.gov.

 

 

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