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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-15-043    Date:  June 2015
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-15-043
Date: June 2015

 

Investigating Improvements to Pedestrian Crossings With An Emphasis on The Rectangular Rapid-Flashing Beacon

CHAPTER 4. LOCAL FIELD OBSERVATIONS

This chapter documents the results of field observations at midblock pedestrian crossings. The purpose of these observations was to serve as a first step toward deciding the types of treatments and locations to be studied in the research.

OBSERVATIONS OF MIDBLOCK PEDESTRIAN CROSSINGS

The research team made observations at selected midblock pedestrian crossings with a range of traffic control treatments. Ten midblock pedestrian crossings in 5 States were observed, including sites in eight different cities. These observations were not intended to be a structured evaluation of these particular crossings; rather they were merely intended as a source of ideas about how particular crossing types could potentially be evaluated later in the study. These observations were generally made in the field during the summer of 2011. The crossings observed were not selected as candidates for evaluation; indeed, many of the observed locations have already been treated in particular ways. The observation periods were typically brief (15 to 30 min), and insights and assessments gained from these observations, by intention, should be regarded as anecdotal rather than definitive. Development of evaluation approaches for specific crossing treatments, which had not yet been selected, were done later in the research.

The midblock pedestrian crossings observed were at the following locations:

  • E. Bidwell Avenue between Riley Avenue and Coloma Avenue in Folsom, CA.

  • N. El Dorado Avenue between E. Market Street and E. Weber Street in Stockton, CA.

  • N. El Dorado Avenue between E. Weber Street and E. Miner Street in Stockton, CA.

  • W. 80th Street between Overland Park Drive and Marty Street in Overland Park, KS.

  • W. 39th Avenue between Rainbow Boulevard and Cambridge Street in Kansas City, KS.

  • Oak Street between 51st Street and 52nd Street in Kansas City, MO.

  • Rockhill Road between 50th Street and 51st Street in Kansas City, MO.

  • W. Walnut Street at N. Bullock Drive in Garland, TX.

  • Barton Springs Road between South 1st Street and Bouldin Avenue in Austin, TX.

  • 23rd Street near Crystal City Mall in Arlington, VA.

The observations of the crossings are discussed in the following subsections.

Crosswalk 1: E. Bidwell Avenue Between Riley Avenue and Coloma Avenue in Folsom, CA

Crosswalk 1 is a midblock crossing that adjoins Folsom Lakes High School and Sutter Middle School. There is a marked unsignalized pedestrian crossing with two fixed upright “State Law-Yield to Pedestrian” paddles near the center of the road. Pedestrian pushbuttons activate flashing lights embedded in the pavement surface immediately in advance of the crosswalk. The street crossed has one lane in each direction of travel plus a center TWLTL. Figure 5 is a photograph of this crossing. Figure 6 shows the pedestrian view of the crosswalk, and figure 7 shows the pedestrian pushbutton.

Figure 5. Photo. Unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk in Folsom, CA. The midblock crosswalk is marked with a ladder design and crosses a roadway with four through lanes and a two-way left-turn lane. A triangle yield line is marked on the pavement in advance of the crosswalk. There is an R1-5 pedestrian crossing sign on the right side of the roadway at the advance yield line and two R1-6 pedestrian delineators in the median.

Figure 5. Photo. Unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk in Folsom, CA.

 

Figure 6. Photo. Unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk in Folsom, CA, pedestrian view. Same crosswalk as shown in figure 5, but taken from the perspective of the pedestrian crossing the roadway.

Figure 6. Photo. Unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk in Folsom, CA, pedestrian view.

 

Figure 7. Photo. Unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk in Folsom, CA, pedestrian pushbutton. The pedestrian pushbutton is located near the top of a short pole. Above the push button is a yellow plaque that reads “Crosswalk Warning Device: Caution” and has an image of a pedestrian on it.

Figure 7. Photo. Unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk in Folsom, CA, pedestrian pushbutton.

Two crossing maneuvers by school-age pedestrians were observed, one by a single pedestrian and one by a group of approximately 30 students accompanied by their teacher. The pedestrian pushbutton was pressed to activate the in-pavement flashing lights prior to both crossing maneuvers. Based on limited observation, the traffic control, including the in-pavement flashing lights, was only partially effective in producing driver compliance with the legal requirement to yield to pedestrians. Prior to both crossing maneuvers, two vehicles that should have yielded to the pedestrian(s) proceeded through the crosswalk without stopping, while the third vehicle to arrive stopped in advance of the crosswalk and allowed the pedestrian(s) to cross. No vehicle–pedestrian conflicts were observed because the pedestrians did not leave the curb until a vehicle stopped, but the pedestrians effectively yielded the right of way to the first two vehicles to arrive at the crosswalk, rather than vice versa.

All observed pedestrian crossing maneuvers were made within the marked crosswalk. The pedestrian pushbutton was located such that pedestrians who activated the pushbutton were likely to cross within the crosswalk.

Crosswalk 2: N. El Dorado Street Between E. Market Street and E. Weber Street in Stockton, CA

Crosswalk 2 is a midblock crossing located in downtown Stockton. There is a marked unsignalized crosswalk with pedestrian crosswalk signs (W11-2). Pedestrian pushbuttons activate flashing lights mounted on the pedestrian crosswalk signs and embedded in the pavement surface in advance of the crosswalk. The pushbuttons also activate an audible message to pedestrians: “Cross street with caution. Vehicles may not stop.” The street crossed is one-way northbound with three travel lanes and metered curb parking on the east side of the street. The crossing connects pedestrian malls on each side of the street that extend through the adjacent blocks. Figure 8 is a photograph of this crossing. Figure 9 shows the pedestrian view of the crosswalk, and figure 10 shows the pedestrian pushbutton.

Even during an early evening observation period, there was some pedestrian activity at this location. Two pedestrian crossing maneuvers were observed. In both cases, the pedestrian used the pushbutton to activate the flashing lights, and all approaching traffic immediately stopped. All observed pedestrian crossing maneuvers were made within the marked crosswalk.
The pedestrian pushbutton was located such that pedestrians who activated the pushbutton were likely to cross within the crosswalk.

Figure 8. Photo. Unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk in Stockton, CA. The midblock crosswalk is marked with an alternating zig-zag pattern and crosses a one-way roadway with four through lanes and metered parking allowed on the right side of the roadway.

Figure 8. Photo. Unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk in Stockton, CA.

 

Figure 9. Photo. Unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk in Stockton, CA, pedestrian view. Same crosswalk as figure 9, but taken from the perspective of the pedestrian crossing the roadway.

Figure 9. Photo. Unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk in Stockton, CA, pedestrian view.

 

Figure 10. Photo. Unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk in Stockton, CA, pedestrian pushbutton. The pedestrian pushbutton is located on a pole. Above the push button is a yellow plaque that reads “Crosswalk Warning Device: Caution” and has an image of a pedestrian on it.

Figure 10. Photo. Unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk in Stockton, CA, pedestrian pushbutton.

Crosswalk 3: N. El Dorado Street Between E. Market Street and E. Miner Street in Stockton, CA

Crosswalk 3 is a midblock crossing located in downtown Stockton. There is a marked unsignalized crosswalk with pedestrian crosswalk signs (W11-2). Pedestrian pushbuttons activate flashing lights mounted on the pedestrian crosswalk signs and embedded in the pavement surface in advance of the crosswalk. The pushbuttons also activate an audible message to pedestrians: “Crosswalk system has been activated. Vehicles may not stop.” The street crossed is one-way northbound with three travel lanes and metered curb parking on the east side of the street. The crossing connects a pedestrian plaza and parking area on the west side of the street with an entertainment center, including a movie theatre and several restaurants, on the east side of the street. This crossing is one block north of the preceding crossing. Figure 11 is a photograph of this crossing.

During the early evening hours, there was moderate pedestrian activity at this location. All observed pedestrians used the pushbutton to activate the flashing lights and, in all cases, the approaching traffic immediately stopped. All observed pedestrian crossing maneuvers were made within the marked crosswalk. The pedestrian pushbutton was located such that pedestrians who activated the pushbutton were likely to cross within the crosswalk.

Several other midblock crossings were noted in downtown Stockton, but the other locations appeared likely to have pedestrian crossing activity only during normal work hours.

Figure 11. Photo. Unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk in Stockton, CA. Same crosswalk as figure 9, but taken when three pedestrians were crossing in the crosswalk.

Figure 11. Photo. Unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk in Stockton, CA.

 

Crosswalk 4: W. 80th Street Between Overland Park Drive and Marty Street in Overland Park, KS

Crosswalk 4 is a midblock crossing located in downtown Overland Park, KS. There is a brick textured marked unsignalized crosswalk with pedestrian crosswalk signs (W11-2). Curb extensions have been implemented at this crosswalk to shorten the crossing distance. The street crossed is a two-way street with two travel lanes and curb parking on both sides of the street. The crossing connects restaurants and shops on either side of the street. Figure 12 is a photograph of this crossing.

Figure 12. Photo. Unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk in Overland Park, KS. The midblock crosswalk is marked with a solid red color and crosses a two-lane urban roadway with parking on both sides of the road. There are raised bulbouts on either end of the crosswalk to shorten the crossing distance and to make the crosswalk more visible to approaching drivers. A pedestrian crosswalk sign (W11-2) is located on the sidewalk at the crosswalk.

Figure 12. Photo. Unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk in Overland Park, KS.

Three midblock crossing maneuvers were observed, but only one of them was made in the crosswalk. This may be because of the low traffic volumes at the time the observation was conducted.

Crosswalk 5: W. 39th Avenue Between Rainbow Blvd and Cambridge Street in Kansas City, KS

Crosswalk 5 is a midblock crossing located on the campus of the University of Kansas Medical Center. There is a marked unsignalized crosswalk with pedestrian crosswalk signs (W11-2 and K-2025). Yellow flashers alert approaching motorists of the crosswalk. The street crossed is a two-way street with two travel lanes in each direction and a raised median. The crosswalk cuts through the raised median. The crossing connects a large parking lot to the medical center. Figure 13 is a photograph of the crossing.

Figure 13. Photo. Unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk in Kansas City, KS. The midblock crosswalk is marked with a ladder design and crosses a roadway with four through lanes and a raised median. The crosswalk cuts through the raised median, and there is a pedestrian crosswalk sign (W11-2) located in the raised median. There is a white and red sign on the right side of the roadway that reads “State Law: Stop for Pedestrian in Crosswalk.” There are two pedestrians crossing the roadway—one in each direction.

Figure 13. Photo. Unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk in Kansas City, KS.

Several pedestrian crossing maneuvers were observed. All observed pedestrian crossing maneuvers were made within the marked crosswalk, and the approaching traffic immediately stopped in all cases.

Crosswalk 6: Oak Street Between 51st Street and 52nd Street in Kansas City, MO

Crosswalk 6 is a midblock crossing located near the campus of the University of Missouri—Kansas City (UMKC). There is a marked signalized crosswalk with pedestrian crosswalk signs (W11-2). Pedestrian pushbuttons activate the signal. The street crossed is two-way street with two travel lanes, a TWLTL, and limited parking on the west side of the street. The crossing connects a large parking area on the west side of the street with the UMKC campus. Figure 14 and figure 15 are photographs of this crossing.

Several pedestrian crossing maneuvers were observed. All observed pedestrian crossing maneuvers were made within the marked crosswalk. However, not all were made during the red signal phase; some were made during the green and yellow phases of the signal.

Figure 14. Photo. Signalized pedestrian crosswalk in Kansas City, MO. The midblock crosswalk is marked with a ladder design (although the painted marking is worn) and crosses a roadway with four through lanes and a two-way left-turn lane. Parking is allowed on one side of the roadway. There is a pedestrian crossing the roadway. The signal is red. There is a pedestrian crosswalk sign (W11-2) at the crosswalk.

Figure 14. Photo. Signalized pedestrian crosswalk in Kansas City, MO.

 

Figure 15. Photo. Another view of signalized pedestrian crosswalk in Kansas City, MO. Same crosswalk as figure 14, but taken from another view. There are no pedestrians crossing the roadway, and the signal is green.

Figure 15. Photo. Another view of signalized pedestrian crosswalk in Kansas City, MO.

Crosswalk 7: Rockhill Road Between 50th Street and 51st Street in Kansas City, MO

Crosswalk 7 is a midblock crossing located near the UMKC campus. There is an unmarked unsignalized crosswalk with pedestrian crosswalk signs (W11-2) and overhead yellow flashers that flash continuously. The street crossed is a two-way street with two travel lanes in each direction. The crossing connects a parking area on the west side of the street with UMKC campus buildings. Figure 16 is a photograph of this crossing. No pedestrian crossings were observed at this crosswalk.

Figure 16. Photo. Unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk in Kansas City, MO. The midblock crosswalk is unmarked with pedestrian crosswalk signs (W11-2) and overhead yellow flashers, which flash continuously. The street crossed is a two-way street with two travel lanes in each direction. There are no pedestrians crossing the crosswalk in this photo.

Figure 16. Photo. Unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk in Kansas City, MO.

Crosswalk 8: W. Walnut Street at N. Bullock Drive in Garland, TX

Crosswalk 8 is located in Garland, TX. It is part of the school route to Bullock Elementary School and connects the Harris Hollabaugh Park and Community Center on the north side of Walnut Street with the residences and school on the south side. The school is located about 1,000ft south of Walnut Street on Bullock. Walnut is a four-lane arterial with a center TWLTL and a posted speed limit of 35 mi/h. The subject crosswalk was recently improved as part of the development that opened the community center. Curb ramps were added at either end of the crosswalk where none previously existed, new fluorescent yellow-green school crosswalk warning assembly signs (S1-1 and W16-7L) were posted on either end of the crosswalk, and a pole-and-mast arm assembly was installed on the south end of the crosswalk, to enable the future installation of an overhead RRFB. The school crosswalk warning assembly sign for eastbound traffic is mounted on the pole. A crossing guard is stationed at the crosswalk during most of the periods during which the reduced speed limit is in place, approximately 6:55to 8:00 a.m. and 2:55 to 3:45 p.m. Figure 17 is a photograph of the crossing.

Onsite observations indicated that yielding at this location was very low during periods in which the crossing guard was not present. In fact, researchers observed almost no vehicles yielding to pedestrians during any non-school period. However, yielding was nearly 100 percent when the crossing guard facilitated crossings. Researchers observed 3 pedestrians using the crosswalk during nonschool zone periods and 13 crossings that occurred away from the crosswalk during the observation period.

Figure 17. Photo. A different view of the crosswalk in Garland, TX. A pedestrian crosswalk in a school zone. The crosswalk has fluorescent yellow-green School Crosswalk Warning Assembly signs on each side of the road and a mast arm above the road for installation of future traffic control devices.

Figure 17. Photo. A different view of the crosswalk in Garland, TX.

Crosswalk 9: Barton Springs Road Between South 1st Street and Bouldin Avenue in Austin, TX

Crosswalk 9 connects the Austin Energy office building on the south side of Barton Springs Road with the parking garage attached to the Palmer Events Center on the north. The crosswalk has ladder markings and had previously employed in-pavement pedestrian-activated flashing lights adjacent to the crosswalk. Those lights have been deactivated, and an overhead pedestrian hybrid beacon has been installed for each direction of vehicle traffic. Although there is a narrow median refuge area present, both directions of traffic are stopped when the beacon is activated, and the WALK signal is provided for the entire width of the roadway. Figure 18 is a photograph of this crossing.

Figure 18. Photo. Crosswalk on Barton Springs Road in Austin, TX. A pedestrian crosswalk on a four-lane divided arterial. The picture shows one half of the crosswalk, as well as the downstream vehicle lanes and the adjacent sidewalk. The crosswalk is controlled by a pair of mast-arm mounted pedestrian hybrid beacons, which are shown in the picture in the solid red phase. A “PEDESTRIANS STOP ON RED” sign is mounted on the mast arm between the two beacons.

Figure 18. Photo. Crosswalk on Barton Springs Road in Austin, TX.

Onsite observations during a portion of an afternoon peak period suggested that vehicle compliance was good, with no driver observed running the steady red signal. Researchers also observed that drivers’ response to the final flashing red phase of the beacon was mixed. Some drivers recognized that the “wig-wag” red display allowed them to proceed after stopping if no pedestrians were present, while other drivers continued to wait at the stop line until the beacon went dark. The stop line for eastbound traffic is an advance stop line, located upstream of the nose of the median island; although all of the observed drivers stopped prior to the crosswalk, compliance with the stop line in the eastbound direction was not as high as that in the westbound direction.

Crosswalk 10: 23rd Street Near Crystal City Mall in Arlington, VA

A crosswalk on 23rd Street between Crystal City Mall and office buildings was observed in Arlington, VA, following the kickoff meeting on October 20, 2010. This midblock crossing had continental pavement markings and a pedestrian crossing sign. In this region, 23rd Street is a divided roadway with a wide brick median with trees and benches. The crosswalks for each side of the street are in alignment with entrances to the mall or to an office building. Because of the split, several of the crossing pedestrians were observed to be walking outside the crosswalk markings (see figure 19). The pedestrians tended to walk a straight (shortest distance) path between the buildings rather than follow the crosswalk markings. Good yielding behavior by the drivers was observed.

An interesting feature that was present during this observation period was temporary markings that had the appearance of a colorful crossing. These markings, shown in figure 20, were located on Crystal Drive, which intersects 23rd Street. Later investigation revealed that it was pavement tattooing used as a promotion for the area.

Figure 19. Photo. Example of pedestrians outside of crosswalk at site on 23rd Street. Unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk near Crystal City Mall in Arlington, VA. The midblock crosswalk is marked with a ladder design and crosses a one-way roadway with two through lanes and parking on the right side of the road. Three pedestrians are crossing the roadway—one inside the marked crosswalk and two just outside of the marked crosswalk. There is a car yielding in advance of the crosswalk a pedestrian crosswalk sign (W11-2) at either end of the crosswalk.

Figure 19. Photo. Example of pedestrians outside of crosswalk at site on 23rd Street.

 

Figure 20. Photo. Colored pavement markings used to promote local area. The color stripes look like an unsignalized midblock pedestrian crosswalk in Arlington, VA. The stripes are of various widths. The road is two-way with two through lanes in each direction. There are no pedestrians crossing the roadway, but the vehicle queue from an adjacent signal has backed up over the markings.

Figure 20. Photo. Colored pavement markings used to promote local area.

ASSESSMENT OF RESULTS

The limited field observations described above indicated the following:

  • Field studies of driver compliance with laws requiring drivers to yield to pedestrians and the location of pedestrian crossing maneuvers (within marked crosswalk, partially within marked crosswalk, outside of marked crosswalk) can be readily conducted at a variety of pedestrian crossing types.

  • The inclusion of flashing lights on pedestrian crosswalk signs (such as at the Stockton, CA, sites) rather than just in the pavement surface (such as at the Folsom, CA, site) appeared to substantially increase driver compliance with the law requiring yielding to pedestrians. (However, no nighttime observations were made of the in-pavement flasher treatment by itself; given that this installation was at a school crossing, such observation would not have been relevant.)

  • School area locations such as the ones in Folsom, CA, and Garland, TX, can be effectively studied only at selected times of day when students are arriving at and departing from school or after-school activities.

 

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