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High Priority Area: Improving Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety

Program Goal

The goal of this program is to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety, operations, and mobility through a comprehensive program of data collection and analysis, engineering, counter-measure development and evaluation, promotion and public awareness, and technology transfer. The program will lead to improved pedestrian and bicyclist programs, planning tools, engineering implementation guides, policies, and standards for use at the National, State, and local levels.


In recent years, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has been developing a new, expanded statement of policy regarding the non-motorized modes of transportation -- walking and bicycling. In speeches by the Administrator, memos to the regional and division administrators, and most significantly, in the congressionally mandated National Bicycling and Walking Study, the FHWA has taken the position that bicycling and walking are transportation modes that have too long been the "forgotten modes," and that this should change.

The National Bicycling and Walking Study goals are to:

These are potentially conflicting goals unless research intervenes to reduce the risk of bicycling and walking per unit of exposure.

This five-year pedestrian and bicyclist research and development plan is designed to contribute to the achievement of both goals. The plan is based on a careful analysis of the desired outcomes for safety and use, the nature of safety-related problems, the current understanding of factors affecting use of the non-motorized modes, the needs of State and local transportation practitioners, and the current state-of-the-practice.

Scope and Objectives

This program is being sponsored in cooperation with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). As part of a first step toward developing the Pedestrian and Bicyclist Research and Development (R&D) Program Plan, the objectives developed and used in evaluating proposed projects and defining the scope of the program plan were to:

Recently Completed Activities

The following studies have recently been completed:

Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Types of the Early 1990's - (FHWA-RD-93-163). The goal of this study was to apply accident typing methodology to a broad-based sample of pedestrian and bicyclist motor vehicle crash reports.

These results should provide input into the development of appropriate interventions for reducing the frequency of crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists. Among the major pedestrian crash types, the most common were intersection dash and midblock dart out. Common bicycle-motor vehicle crash types included bicyclist failing to yield and motorist turn/merge into bicyclist's path.

Bicycle Safety-Related Research Synthesis (FHWA-94-062) -- This synthesis reviews research into current and potential levels of bicycle use, identifies the scale and nature of crashes related to bicycle use; discusses engineering countermeasures to prevent crashes; and describes current practices related to bicycle facility selection and design. The report also introduces readers to traffic-calming techniques; discusses helmet use; and reviews education and enforcement programs. Conclusions on the current state of knowledge in this field are offered, and where possible, reference to current practices are included.

Current Activities

Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety -- Administrative and Technical Support (DTFH61-92-00138) - All FHWA pedestrian and bicyclist research through 1997 will be conducted under this contract. The research activities under this contract make up the R & D plan outlined in this document. Each proposed research activity is described briefly below.

Development of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Injury Data Bases -- Data bases capturing information on the full range of crashes and injuries to bicyclists and pedestrians are being developed and analyzed. Incidence and characteristics of non-traffic or non-motor vehicle related events and extent of alcohol involvement in crashes and injuries will be determined.

Development of a Bicycle Compatibility Index -- Research is underway to develop a bicycle compatibility index that indicates how well a roadway accommodates both bicycles and motor vehicles. The index will incorporate variables such as curb lane width, vehicle speeds, and traffic volume, which bicyclists typically use to access the "bicycle friendliness" of a roadway. With this index, bicycle coordinators, planners, and engineers can determine what roadway improvements may be required to accommodate bicycles.

Impact of Pedestrians and Bicyclists on Highway Capacity -- Research is being undertaken to update the Highway Capacity Manual in terms of the effects of bicyclists and pedestrians on motorized traffic. The impact of pedestrians on left turn capacity at signalized intersections; of bicycles on right turning motor vehicles at signalized intersections; and of bicycles on the capacity of streets and highways will be determined. Criteria will also be developed for sidewalk requirements and for providing exclusive bike lanes on arterials.

Evaluation of Design Facilities for Bicyclists -- Various bicyclist facilities, including bicycle lanes, paved shoulders, and wide curb lanes are being analyzed for their safety and operational effects. Roadway, bikeway, traffic, and user variables will be considered in a comparative analysis to validate design recommendations for the various types of bicycle facilities.

Evaluation of Facilities for Enhanced Pedestrian Safety -- This study involves determining the effects of various types of currently-used pedestrian facilities on pedestrian safety and operations. The types of facilities being evaluated include sidewalks, crosswalks, speed humps, bulbouts and street narrowing, innovative pedestrian push-button devices, and infrared pedestrian detectors. Based on the results, criteria will be developed on which types of facilities are most effective under various traffic and roadway conditions.

Design of Planning Guidelines for Bicycling and Walking Facilities -- Guidelines and a training course have been developed for use in planning integrated networks of non-motorized transportation facilities for local and State level planners and engineers as mandated by ISTEA legislation. This includes consideration of roadway treatments, separate paths, traffic calming strategies, and transit interface. A model course related to pedestrians and bicyclists is also being developed for use by university engineering departments.

Development of a National Awareness Campaign -- This project aims to educate the public and highway safety professionals about the pedestrian crash problem, to make both pedestrians and motorists more safety conscious; and to increase demand for, and acceptance of pedestrian safety initiatives. To accomplish this, the project has created a public/private partnership, Partnership for a Walkable America, focused on pedestrian issues to generate a national pedestrian safety awareness activities and to develop safety awareness materials for use by state and community programs.

Synthesis of Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning at the State and MPO Levels -- State and MPO planning documents relating to bicycles and pedestrians are being reviewed for their responsiveness to Federal legislation and polices regarding bicycling and walking. The final project report will synthesize the state of the practice, best practices, the effectiveness of the planning process, and will recommend possible changes to existing legislation and policies.

Development and Test of Bicycle Safety Countermeasures -- This project picks up where work by Cross and Fisher (1977) and Blomberg, et al. (1982) left off. It determines whether bicycle/motor vehicle crash types have changed, whether other crash types need to be addressed, and accesses countermeasures developed since the early 1980's in light of changes in bicycling levels and the traffic environment. As indicated by these analyses, countermeasures will be recommended, selected, developed, and evaluated.

Future Activities

Projecting Future Use of Proposed Pedestrian and Bicyclist Facilities -- A model or other predictive methodology will be developed for forecasting the use of various types of bicyclist and pedestrian facilities. This model will be based on expected changes in pedestrian and bicycle exposure due to the addition of sidewalks, walkways, bicycle lanes, trails, and other facilities.

Hazard Index for Assessing Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety at Intersections -- A hazard index for assessing pedestrian and bicyclist safety at intersections will be developed which will allow traffic and safety engineers and highway planners to identify the combinations of features that pose the greatest hazards to non-motorists. The index will be useful in retrofitting hazardous locations and in the design of new intersections.

Technology Transfer of Developed Countermeasures -- This study will develop an overall framework and process for disseminating pedestrian and bicyclist information, programs, and materials to their intended users at the national, State, and local levels. Information on accident counter-measures will include those related to engineering, education, enforcement, and encouragement. Guides, manuals, videos, and other materials will be prepared, as appropriate.

FHWA Contact: Ann Do at or 202-493-3319

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