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Posts from the "Pedestrian safety" Category

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Where Are Drivers Most Likely to Yield to Pedestrians?

Will drivers yield? That depends, in part, on a few factors. Photo: Hans-Jörg Aleff on Flickr

Will drivers yield? Experts say that depends on a few factors. Photo: Hans-Jörg Aleff/Flickr

This post is part of a series featuring stories and research that will be presented at the Pro-Walk/Pro-Bike/Pro-Place conference September 8-11 in Pittsburgh.

You’re approaching an un-signalized crosswalk. How likely are drivers to obey the law and stop to let you cross the street?

According to a national survey of experts, that depends on a few factors, including the width of the road you’re trying to cross, how many other pedestrians are in the area, and even what part of the country you happen to be in.

Robert Schneider, professor of urban planning at the University of Wisconsin, and his co-author Rebecca Sanders interviewed almost 400 professionals from the fields of public health, planning and engineering, and safe streets advocacy around North America. They asked them to assess the likelihood of a motorist yielding to a pedestrian in their town at different kinds of crosswalks that do not have traffic signals.

Some interesting patterns emerged. Here are the three major factors that, according to respondents, influence whether drivers show courtesy to pedestrians.

1. The Width of the Road

This was the most often-mentioned factor: The number of lanes. Everything else being equal, the local experts said drivers are less likely to yield on wider roads. Because more street width means higher traffic speeds, it’s just a matter of physics that drivers will be less likely to react and yield to pedestrians.

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Crime Drops on Louisville Streets Converted From One-Way to Two-Way

In Louisville, streets that were converted from one-way to multi-directional saw dramatic reductions in crime. Photo: Planetizen

In Louisville, streets that were converted from one-way to two-way traffic saw significant reductions in crime, while citywide crime rates rose. Photo: Planetizen

Converting fast-moving one-way streets to calmer two-way corridors may make them safer in more ways than one, according to a study by John Gilderbloom, a professor at the University of Louisville.

Gilderbloom and a team of graduate students analyzed data from two Louisville streets that were recently converted from one-way to two-way operation. They compared the two streets — Brook and First streets — to control streets, both one-way and two-way, that had not been converted.

“The results were stunning,” Gilderbloom wrote last week in Planetizen.

On the two streets that were converted, crime dropped 23 percent, compared to a citywide increase of 5 percent during the same time period. Auto theft fell by one third on Brook and First, while it rose 36 percent on nearby one-ways, Gilderbloom reports. Meanwhile, robberies on the two converted streets dropped 42 percent.

Traffic safety improved too. The streets actually saw an increase in total traffic as driver speeds slowed down. Auto collisions dropped 36 percent on Brook and 60 percent on First.

Gilderbloom noted other changes on Planetizen:

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Talking Headways Podcast: Les Rues Are Made for Walking

Last week, Smart Growth America brought us the bad news: More than 47,000 people died while walking between 2003 and 2012. Most victims are killed on high-speed arterial roads. A disproportionate number are elderly or racial minorities.

Paris showed us a powerful solution: The city is lowering its default speed limit to 30 kilometers per hour, or about 18 mph. Speed limits are already set at that level on about a third of the city’s streets. That’s good policy, and one cities around the world should be following.

Meanwhile, the New York Times informed us that as the housing market recovers, the vast majority of new construction is made up of multi-family housing — a major shift from the over-production of single-family homes that lasted for decades.

In this episode, Jeff and I process all of that and more. Find holes in our analysis in the comments. And don’t miss an episode: Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher or by signing up for our RSS feed.

And lastly, our spring pledge drive ends on Sunday and we haven’t yet hit our goal of reaching 400 donors. Donate today! Your support makes this podcast happen!

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Atlanta’s Pleasantdale Road Voted the Least Crossable Street in America

Atlanta's Pleasantdale Road was voted America's least crossable street by our readers.

Streetsblog readers voted Atlanta’s Pleasantdale Road the nation’s least crossable street. Image: Google Maps

Streetsblog readers have spoken, choosing Atlanta’s Pleasantdale Road as the “least crossable street in America,” which beat tough competition from Phoenix, Kansas City, and other cities.

Here's a closeup of Pleasantdale Road, our "winner." Image: Google Maps

If you don’t want to walk a mile out of your way to a crosswalk, you have to scramble across a five-lane speedway. Image: Google Maps

To legally walk from the bus stop at Pleasant Shade Drive to the apartment complex across the street using the nearest crosswalk would require a three-quarter-mile trip.

Jacob Mason, the reader who submitted this entry, said at some points Pleasantdale Road is even worse: The detour to use a legal pedestrian crossing can stretch to as long as 1.7 miles.

Mason also notes that Pleasantdale Road is five lanes wide, with a speed limit of 45 miles per hour, but it’s surrounded by apartment buildings. Nearby residents are faced with a horrible choice: walk a mile out of your way to a crosswalk, or take your life in your hands and make a dash for it.

The area is reminiscent of where Raquel Nelson‘s 4-year-old son was struck and killed by an intoxicated driver in nearby Cobb County. Nelson was tried and convicted of vehicular homicide, in a case that rested on the fact that she and her children were “jaywalking” instead of walking a third of a mile down the road to the nearest crosswalk. Mason says Pleasantdale Road reflects how that kind of injustice is built in to the environment of the Atlanta region.

Coming in close behind Pleasantdale Road in the competition were West Indian School Road in Phoenix and Middlesex Turnpike in Burlington, Massachusetts. Thanks to everyone who submitted entries and voted. Hopefully, this will help provide the impetus for some positive change.

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The Most Dangerous Places to Walk in America

Pedestrians are especially at risk on wide, fast arterial roads like this. Photo: Smart Growth America/Cheryl Cort

Walking should be the healthiest, most natural activity in the world. It is, after all, one of the first things humans learn to do.

But in far too many places, walking can be fatal, thanks to roads designed for speeding cars.

In 2012, 4,743 pedestrians lost their lives in traffic collisions in the U.S., and over the last decade, nearly 50,000 people have been killed while walking — that’s 16 times more Americans than were killed by natural disasters. Another 670,000 pedestrian were injured over that period, one every eight minutes.

Not all streets are equally dangerous. In a new update of its Dangerous by Design report [PDF], released today, Smart Growth America catalogs the most perilous places in the U.S. to walk. By looking at the places that are especially hazardous, we can determine the factors that are putting people at risk and figure out how to fix them.

Here’s a look at what America’s most dangerous streets for walking tend to have in common.

They’re in the Sunbelt

Don’t let the sunshine lull you into a sense of security. Sunbelt cities have hazardous streets.

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A Crosswalk Too Far: Vote for the Least Crossable Street in America

burlington_map

In Burlington, traveling from one side of the Middlesex Turnpike to another via the nearest crosswalk would require walking more than a mile out of the way. Image via Scribble Maps

In the Boston suburb of Burlington, Massachusetts, the AMC movie theater is right across the street from the Burlington Mall. But if you’re planning to travel between these two destinations on foot, you’re in for quite a hike.

The closest crosswalk is more than half a mile down the Middlesex Turnpike. That means crossing the road — if you’re going to do it “the safe way” — requires a 1.2-mile journey, and it’s definitely not going to be a pleasant one. Local resident David Chase reports that only one side of the street has a sidewalk.

Sadly, this situation isn’t even all that unusual in the United States. In most American cities you can find streets that turn what should be short, easy walking trips into excursions so long and humiliating that you might as well drive. Or, if you don’t have that option, you can take your chances playing a high-stakes game of Frogger.

Streetsblog asked our readers to help us find America’s “Least Crossable Street” by sending in examples of these monster roads. You responded, and hopefully a little public shaming will do some good. Check out the contenders and place your votes below.

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Rep. Joe Crowley Announces Pedestrian Safety Bill — The Third in Six Months

Rep. Joe Crowley announces his Pedestrian Fatalities Reduction Act this morning in Queens. Photo courtesy of the Office of Rep. Joe Crowley.

Rep. Joe Crowley announces his Pedestrian Fatalities Reduction Act yesterday in Queens. Photo courtesy of the Office of Rep. Joe Crowley.

Rep. Albio Sires has his New Opportunities for Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Financing Act (HR 3978). Rep. Earl Blumenauer has his Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act (HR 3494). And now, Rep. Joe Crowley has unveiled his Pedestrian Fatalities Reduction Act.

The New York City Democrat, a supporter of Vision Zero, made the announcement yesterday morning in Queens, which suffers a high rate of pedestrian crashes. He was flanked by street safety advocates and public officials.

States are currently required to submit comprehensive, statewide Strategic Highway Safety Plans to the Federal Highway Administration in order to receive federal highway safety funds. Crowley says the SHSP “is used by state departments of transportation to outline safety needs and determine investment decisions” but that “surprisingly, federal law does not require SHSPs to include statistics on pedestrian injuries and fatalities.”

His bill [PDF] would require states to report on the rate of fatalities and serious injuries among pedestrians and “users of nonmotorized forms of transportation.” If those numbers go up, a state would have to explain in its SHSP how it will address the problem.

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UPDATE: Kentucky Reverses Course, Will Allow Pedestrians on Bridge

UPDATE (3:38 p.m. Friday March 7): The state of Kentucky announced today it will allow pedestrians on the Clark Memorial Bridge after all, according to media reports that came out shortly after this article was published. Officials have modified the construction plan to allow one sidewalk to remain open for the next few months. “We heard people’s concerns about the loss of pedestrian access, and we have responded,” said Andy Barber, project manager for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, according to the Louisville Business Journal. Well done, Kentucky! We stand corrected on the statements made in the original article that follow:

In Louisville, it seems, nothing is nearly as important to the state government as cramming more cars through town. Ignoring strong grassroots opposition, Kentucky is currently moving forward on an absolutely enormous $2.6 billion highway bridge replacement and interchange widening project that will take years to complete and weaken downtown neighborhoods.

Louisville officials say cyclists and pedestrians who use the Second Street Bridge are out of luck for the next few months. Photo: Courier Journal

People who bike or walk on the Clark Memorial Bridge will have to find a different way across the Ohio River the next few months. Photo: Courier Journal

But for the people who walk or ride their bikes along that route? They should probably start looking for a new way to get to work. That was the message from leaders of the “Downtown Bridge Project” this week.

According to the Courier Journal, the sidewalks and two outer “shared” lanes of the Clark Memorial Bridge over the Ohio River to downtown Louisville will be closed for construction next week and won’t be reopened until July. (The bridge will be totally closed to all traffic for six weeks, beginning in May.)

The only alternative route for walking and biking, the Big Four Bridge, is behind schedule and not yet open to pedestrians and cyclists.

Max Rowland, a project manager with Walsh Construction, the firm doing the Clark Memorial Bridge work, said during the lane closures the bridge will be “unsafe for pedestrian traffic.”

Meanwhile, Mindy Peterson, a spokesperson for the downtown bridge project, said signs will be installed that tell bicyclists to merge into the two remaining lanes. But she doesn’t recommend it herself, telling the paper “it’s not a good spot for bicyclists to be.”

Local active transportation advocate Jackie Green told the paper that multiple walking protests over the bridge were planned to draw attention to the closure. Local cyclists have also appealed to the Federal Highway Administration for help, the Courier Journal reports. But according to the paper, the feds just deferred to state transportation officials.

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Pedestrian Deaths Edge Down, Following Unexplained 3-Year Rise

After three years of rising pedestrian deaths in America, there’s some good news this week about the safety of people on foot.

Has pedestrian safety turned a corner? Photo: New York Times

To really turn the corner on pedestrian safety, roads like this need to be redesigned. Photo: New York Times

Pedestrian deaths fell 8.7 percent in the first six months of 2013 compared to the same period the previous year, according to a report from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association. That means about 190 fewer people were killed while walking in the first part of 2013.

The decline follows a three-year period in which pedestrian deaths rose 15 percent from an all-time low in 2009.

Experts aren’t sure what to make of the decline, just as they had trouble explaining the three-year increase that preceded it. Allan Williams, who completed the report, said the dip may be “an anomaly.”

GHSA Chairman Kendell Poole concurred, saying in a press release,  “the preliminary findings are good news, but it’s too soon to celebrate.”

The increasing prevalence of mobile devices and distracted driving was often cited as a potential factor in the rise in pedestrian fatalities. But driving fatalities fell 3 percent during the same period.

Now that there seems to be some improvement, some cautious, preliminary theories are being floated. One is that greater awareness of pedestrian safety has led to more street designs intended to making walking safer.

Mark Plotz, vice president of Project for Public Spaces, told USA Today he hoped that was the case, “but it’s too early to know.”

Some credit for the improvement may even belong to the state of Florida, which is the deadliest state for pedestrians per capita. Florida has been making some strides to remedy its horrible record; the state recorded a 23 percent drop in pedestrian fatalities in the first half of 2013. Florida has been implementing reforms aimed at protecting pedestrians, including the hiring of two full-time pedestrian and cycling planners to help oversee design at each of its seven district offices, according to USA Today.

California, Texas, and Florida alone accounted for almost a third of the nation’s pedestrian fatalities in the first part of 2013, according to GHSA. Large states with lots of big cities tend to have the most pedestrian fatalities.

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Austin: Where Crossing the Street Can Get You Cuffed and Detained

The above video shows Austin Police arresting jogger Amand Jo Stephen for jaywalking. It has been viewed more than 350,000 times since it was uploaded to YouTube last Thursday.

A 25-year-old jogger was arrested in an Austin Police sting on jaywalkers. Image: KXAN Austin

25-year-old jogger Amanda Jo Stephen was arrested in an Austin Police sting on jaywalkers. Image: KXAN Austin

Stephen, 25, was arrested after she failed to produce identification, police say. She was handcuffed and pushed into a police car screaming, “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

The incident is raising questions about the Austin police’s ongoing pedestrian “sting.” A local news station reported Friday that the crackdown was planned to continue for weeks, despite the outcry over Stephen’s treatment.

“As a student and a mother, I feel like there are a lot of other issues in West Campus the police could be dealing with as opposed to jaywalking,” local Allie Westbrook told the news station.

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