How to plan safer roads for pedestrians

Posted in: Bridges, Transportation

Walking is a growing commuter trend, but many towns and cities aren’t built to accommodate the increase in pedestrians. In fact, pedestrian deaths rose by 35 percent over the past decade. As many local governments are asking for more walkways and bicycle paths, transportation planners must incorporate pedestrian safety strategies to fit the built environment. These methods include:

Reducing the number of travel lanes.

Four-lane roads in populated areas can be dangerous for pedestrians to cross. Reducing four lanes to two travels lanes with a two-way left turn lane down the middle of the street increases pedestrian safety. Known as a “road diet”, this road reduction method allows for more space for foot traffic and cyclists.

Improving street connectivity.

Increased street connectivity aims to distribute vehicular traffic to multiple two-lane roads rather than have motorists drive along a single large arterial or corridor. This can be visualized as a “grid” of streets. Multiple access points into neighborhoods cut down on the need for large intersections or access points. Smaller two-lane roads and intersections are significantly safer for pedestrians to cross.

Lowering driving speeds.

Higher driving speeds create unsafe environments for pedestrians. Eliminating natural “visual friction” like trees and shrubbery facilitates higher speeds and faster vehicular flow. Inversely, placing visual friction along a corridor causes motorists to slow down. Both natural and man-made visual friction – which includes curb extensions, crossing islands, raised crosswalks and other visual cues – give pedestrians an advantage while crossing the street.

What other ways can we as transportation professionals improve pedestrian safety? What innovative plans have you used to make streets safer?

Deb Weaver, PE

About the Author

Deb Weaver, P.E., has an in-depth knowledge of traffic regulations and the challenges facing communities. Specifically, she brings a wealth of expertise in traffic studies and safety, traffic signal design, and traffic analysis and modeling. Along her 30-year career, she has developed a deep commitment to traffic safety and a broad experience working collaboratively.

Read more posts by Deb Weaver, PE

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