Prioritize pedestrians at your crosswalks, Part 1

Posted in: Highways


Curb-Extension_BodyAs cities turn to urbanization, pedestrian accommodations are becoming more popular with the public. People are choosing to walk, and adapting roadways to sustain larger amounts of foot traffic is becoming a priority for municipalities.

Dedicated pedestrian crossings are critical from a safety standpoint. There has been a 10 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities from 2014 to 2015 according to the Governors Highway Association’s most recent Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State publication. This data, along with an increase in foot traffic, has given planners and engineers a reason to deliver intersection improvements to promote safety and usability. Simple, yet effective techniques to prioritize pedestrians at your crosswalks include:

Curb extensions and geometric reductions

Relatively minor reductions in the pavement width at an intersection can provide greater safety benefits at pedestrian crossings. Adding bumpouts or curb extensions at crosswalks can decrease the crossing distances and results in less exposure time for pedestrians. This is best used when there is on-street parking. A sidewalk area or bulb that juts into the road in the area where parking is provided allows for higher visibility while also creating a visual aid that causes drivers to slow down. Reducing crossing distances can also help to improve traffic operations by allowing greater signal time for vehicles. Bumpouts also force turning vehicles to slow because of the reduced corner radii.

Visual cues

Warn drivers of pedestrian traffic through the use of visual aids. Painting on the roadway has proven to be effective, especially zig-zag lanes. These traffic calming measures have are proven to be effective at slowing motorists down and alerting them of nearby pedestrian crossings.

Finding new, cost-effective ways to improve pedestrian safety is a high priority for municipalities. Visual cues and curb extensions/geometric reductions are a start, but there are still more tools you can use. Stay tuned as I discuss how pedestrian head starts and protected left turns can benefit your pedestrians and promote community safety.


Troy Pankratz, PE

About the Author

Troy Pankratz, P.E., has designed hundreds of roundabouts across the country using his expertise in intersection geometry to produce designs that elevate his clients’ investment. He absorbs the details of a project’s objectives, so he can work to develop ideal solutions. Troy finds educating and informing project stakeholders about innovative intersections particularly rewarding.

Read more posts by Troy Pankratz, PE

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