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Agencies Advance Policies to Enhance Safety for Walkers

Safe Transportation for every pedestrian strategies focus on uncontrolled crossing locations

Pedestrian hybrid beacons enhance safety for walkers crossing multilane roads in Austin, TX. Credit: Austin, TX, Transportation Department.

The goal of the Every Day Counts (EDC) initiative on safe transportation for every pedestrian (STEP) is to improve uncontrolled crossing locations to reduce and ultimately eliminate pedestrian fatalities, says Rebecca Crowe, Federal Highway Administration transportation specialist and a leader of the EDC STEP deployment team.

“That means working closely with our stakeholders to develop processes and policies to advance the STEP countermeasures,” said Crowe. “This is our chance to take a big STEP forward and improve pedestrian safety.”

By the time EDC round four (EDC-4) ends in December 2018, half the States plan to attain post-deployment level. That means these States will be either assessing the performance of and processes for advancing STEP countermeasures and preparing for full deployment or adopting STEP strategies and policies as a standard practice.

STEPs to Safety

STEP includes five countermeasures to get pedestrians safely across the road at uncontrolled locations:

  • Crosswalk visibility enhancements, such as crosswalk lighting, enhanced signing and marking, and curb extensions, help drivers better detect pedestrians.

  • Raised crosswalks are a traffic-calming technique that can reduce vehicle speeds and encourage drivers to yield to pedestrians.

  • Pedestrian refuge islands provide a safer place for pedestrians to stop at the midpoint of a road before crossing the remaining distance, which is particularly helpful for pedestrians with limited mobility.

  • Pedestrian hybrid beacons (PHBs) provide a stop control treatment for higher speed multilane roads where pedestrian volumes aren’t high enough to warrant a traffic signal.

  • Road diets, which reconfigure a roadway cross-section to safely accommodate all users, can reduce vehicle speeds, cut the number of lanes pedestrians must cross, and create space for new pedestrian facilities.

“Agencies across the Nation have installed these treatments to provide pedestrian crossing opportunities, improve visibility, reduce vehicle speed, shorten crossing distances, and/or improve driver yielding,” Crowe said.

In Alexandria, VA, a road diet project included crosswalk improvements such as a refuge island to provide a place for pedestrians to stop while crossing the street. Credit: City of Alexandria, VA.

Improving Walking Environments

“State agencies and local governments realize they have a role and responsibility to provide safe walking environments,” said Peter Eun, FHWA transportation safety engineer and a leader of the EDC-4 STEP team. “Because more than 80 percent of pedestrian fatalities are people killed crossing the roadway at uncontrolled locations, agencies are excited about STEP, which educates and assists on implementation of policies, procedures, and proven engineering treatments that are the elements of a STEP action plan.”

In Alexandria, VA, no crashes involving pedestrians occurred in the first year after installation of a road diet project with crosswalk visibility improvements at seven pedestrian crossings. That compares to an annual average of seven pedestrian crashes during the previous 10 years. Research on numerous road diets found a 19 to 47 percent reduction in overall crashes. The expected crash reduction varies, based on factors such as traffic volume and surrounding land use.

PHBs are typically installed to provide pedestrian crossing opportunities across higher speed multilane roads. In Tampa, FL, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) installed PHBs at three locations along a six-lane road. In the first year after implementation, bicycle and pedestrian crashes dropped to seven, compared to the previous 6-year average of 20 a year. In Austin, TX, examination of eight PHB sites on different four-lane roads showed that drivers yielded to pedestrians between 87 and 97 percent of the time.

Other communities and States that have adopted policies and procedures to deploy STEP treatments include the city of Boulder, CO; Lexington (KY) Area Metropolitan Planning Organization; North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT); and Oregon Department of Transportation.

NCDOT adopted “North Carolina Pedestrian Crossing Guidance” to promote consistency in crossing treatment recommendations across the agency’s 14 divisions. A four-step flowchart walks users through sequenced assessments that result in a recommendation, required action, or no required action.


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