Skip to content

Posts from the Pedestrian safety Category

5 Comments

FHWA’s New Goal: Eliminating Pedestrian and Cyclist Deaths in America

Pedestrian and biking safety has been lagging. Can federal officials reverse the trend? Graph: FHWA

Pedestrian and cyclist deaths account for a growing share of traffic fatalities in America. Can federal officials reverse the trend? Graph: FHWA

The Federal Highway Administration wants to eliminate pedestrian and cyclist fatalities “in the next 20 to 30 years.” In a new strategic plan [PDF], the agency calls for reducing serious injuries and deaths 80 percent in the next 15 years, which would be an intermediate goal on the way to zero.

FHWA also calls for boosting the share of short trips Americans make by biking or walking. It defines short trips as five miles or less for bicyclists and one mile or less for pedestrians. The agency’s goal is to increase the share of these trips 50 percent by 2025 compared to 2009 levels.

Now for the bad news. As admirable as these goals may be, federal transportation officials have limited power to see them through. Decisions about transportation infrastructure and street design are mainly carried out by state and local governments.

Nevertheless, the feds do have some means to influence street safety by changing design standards and using the power of persuasion. FHWA can certainly help move local decisions in the right direction. To encourage safer transportation engineering, the agency says it will ramp up its professional training and recognize states for making progress on walking and biking.

Here’s a look at some of the more promising ideas in the agency’s plan.

Promote safer streets through better design standards

One obstacle to safe streets is the widespread application of highway-style engineering strategies to local streets where people walk and bike. Wider and straighter roads might be better for cars-only environments, but they are terrible for pedestrian and cyclist safety.

Read more…

10 Comments

Streets Without Sidewalks Are Killing Florida Pedestrians

Florida is the most dangerous state in the nation for pedestrians, according to Transportation for America. More than 5,100 people were killed while walking in the state between 2003 and 2010, and four Florida cities rated among T4A’s list of the most dangerous for walking.

This map, produced by the Florida Department of Transportation, overlays pedestrian-vehicle crash locations with gaps in the sidewalk network.

This map from the Florida Department of Transportation shows locations of pedestrian injuries and fatalities (red dots) on streets with no sidewalks in the Orlando area.

But to its credit, the Florida Department of Transportation is trying to change that. A new study conducted by FDOT District 5, which includes Orlando [PDF], pinpoints the locations where pedestrians and cyclists are being struck.

FDOT researchers analyzed data on demographics, street geometries, traffic volumes, and crashes to determine the conditions that increase the risk of pedestrian injuries and fatalities. The findings aren’t exactly earth-shattering, but the exercise demonstrates FDOT’s new data-driven approach to pedestrian safety under Billy Hattaway, the top official in District 1 and the leader of the state’s safety initiatives for walking and biking.

Few state departments of transportation are systematically analyzing pedestrian safety data like this — but all of them should.

Florida DOT identified two factors that make streets especially dangerous for walking.

Read more…

9 Comments

State DOT Engineers Say They’ll Do Better on Walking, Biking, Transit

In a welcome sign from an industry group that has been slow to embrace street designs that prioritize walking, biking, and transit, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) released a statement last week saying it intends to “better address multi-modal issues.”

"Stroads" -- dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. Can the engineering profession do better? Photo: Strong Towns

The engineering profession can do better than this. Photo: Strong Towns

AASHTO’s street design manuals are highly influential and lay out standards that many engineers view as gospel. While the guidelines are supposed to be flexible, in practice they promote a highway-style approach to city streets, emphasizing the movement of motor vehicles more than a welcoming pedestrian environment or safe routes for biking.

That appears to be changing — slowly. The group’s Committee on Highways recently passed a resolution [PDF] saying its next “Green Book” — the big book of street design standards — “should address designing in and for a multi-modal transportation system.” That version is due out in 2021.

Five years may be a long time to wait, but this is an encouraging development, said Ian Lockwood, an engineer with the Toole Design Group and a voice for reform inside the profession. “‘Multi-modal issues’ is their way of saying ‘allowing and encouraging cities, counties, and states to design streets that are safer and more comfortable for people who are walking, cycling or using transit,'” he said.

Read more…

18 Comments

3 Graphs That Explain Why 20 MPH Should Be the Limit on City Streets

Graph: ProPublica

A still from ProPublica‘s interactive graph.

Speed kills, especially on city streets teeming with pedestrians and cyclists.

The investigative news nonprofit ProPublica has produced an interactive graph that deftly conveys how just a few miles per hour can spell the difference between life and death when a person is struck by a motorist. ProPublica’s Lena Groeger used data from the AAA Safety Foundation to chart the plummeting likelihood of survival as motorist speed increases.

The average pedestrian struck by a driver traveling at 20 mph has a 93 percent chance of surviving. For a 70-year-old, the chances are somewhat lower but still a robust 87 percent.

As Groeger puts it:

Once cars reach a certain speed (just above 20 mph), they rapidly become more deadly. According to [AAA’s Brian] Tefft’s data, a person is about 70 percent more likely to be killed if they’re struck by a vehicle traveling at 30 mph versus 25 mph.

In collisions at 30 miles per hour, about one in five pedestrians will not survive. For older pedestrians, the odds are significantly worse:

Read more…

30 Comments

Google Patents “Flypaper” to Save Pedestrians By Sticking Them to Car Hoods

Google engineers' newest concept for pedestrians would glue them to the front of cars. Image: U.S. Patent Office

Not the Onion. Image: U.S. Patent Office

The minds at Google have come up with a novel idea to protect pedestrians in the event of a collision with the company’s self-driving cars.

The tech behemoth was awarded a patent this week for what it describes as a “flypaper or double-sided duct tape”-type substance beneath an “eggshell” exterior on the hood of the car. In a collision with a human being, the shell would crack and the person would stick to the adhesive. The idea is that after the initial collision, the flypaper will prevent people from hitting the asphalt or getting run over, which is how severe injuries are often inflicted.

A Google spokesperson told the San Jose Mercury News the patent doesn’t mean the company will go ahead with implementation. Even if the idea works as planned, it’s easy to envision scenarios where it would backfire, like if the car strikes another vehicle or a tree while someone is glued to the hood.

A much more important question for the impending autonomous car future is how these systems will minimize the potential for collisions with pedestrians in the first place. A fleet of robocars won’t need flypaper if they can’t exceed, say, 15 mph while operating on crowded city streets.

7 Comments

What If We Measure Streets for Walking the Way We Measure Streets for Cars?

“What you measure is what you get,” the saying goes. In transportation, the dominant metrics are all about moving motor vehicle traffic, so America has built a transportation network that moves a lot of cars. Our streets may be dangerous, expensive, and inefficient, but they do process huge volumes of motor vehicles.

Photo: Billie Grace Ward/Flickr via City Observatory

A quintessentially American transportation metric — and a highly influential one — is the Texas Transportation Institute’s congestion report, which ranks cities based on the time drivers spend moving slower than “free-flowing” traffic. By focusing so intently on driver delay, the report obscures more meaningful information, like the total time people spend commuting.

City Observatory has been doing a fantastic job debunking the TTI report. On April Fool’s Day, City Observatory’s Joe Cortright published a tongue-in-cheek takeoff on TTI’s methodology that he’s calling the “Pedestrian Pain Index.” The idea sounds simple: What if we measured the transportation system for pedestrians the same way we measure it for drivers?

The Pedestrian Pain Index sums up how many minutes people around the country spend waiting for the “walk” signal at intersections. If you multiply that number by the same “value of time” assumptions that TTI uses to assign a dollar figure to the cost of congestion, pedestrian delay at intersections costs the U.S. economy $25 billion annually.

Cortright says it’s not as easy to produce this analysis as the one for car congestion, because transportation agencies have developed all sorts of tools to measure motor vehicle delay. Not so much for pedestrian delay. Here he explains his methodology:

Read more…

1 Comment

Fast Changes to City Streets: A 9-Step Guide for Creative Bureaucrats

Marshall Avenue and Monroe Avenue, Memphis, Tenn. Photo: John Paul Shaffer

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

For most of the 20th century, cities answered transportation problems by adding more pavement.

More freeways. More lanes. More parking lots. More things that couldn’t be reversed or revised.

So it made sense, at the time, for the public process around civil engineering projects to focus, above all else, on not making mistakes. Generations of city workers embraced the value of “Do it once and do it right.”

But today’s transportation problems are different, and so are the projects that respond to them. Naturally enough, the process of planning and designing such projects has begun changing, too.

From the experimental lawn chairs scattered across New York’s redesigned Times Square on Memorial Day 2009 to the row of plastic posts on Denver’s Arapahoe Street after a bike lane retrofit last fall, city projects are tackling big problems with solutions that are small, cheap, fast and agile. But until now, no one has created a short, practical guide for cities that want to create a program to do things like these.

Today, we’re publishing that guide.

Read more…

2 Comments

Finally, a Little Accountability for State DOTs on Bike and Pedestrian Safety

In a win for bike and pedestrian safety, the Federal Highway Administration announced yesterday that it will require state transportation agencies to do something they have never had to do before: set goals to reduce bike and pedestrian fatalities, and track progress toward attaining those goals.

The news is part of FHWA’s roll-out of several “performance measures” for state and regional transportation agencies. The system of metrics is supposed to make the agencies more accountable for the billions of dollars in federal transportation funds they receive every year.

Advocates for walking and biking pressed FHWA to include bike and pedestrian safety measures in the performance standards, after they were initially excluded. Andy Clarke, former head of the League of American Bicyclists, now with the Toole Design Group, said the League helped solicit more than 11,000 comments in favor of creating performance measures for bike and pedestrian safety.

FHWA must have been listening. In its announcement, the agency said, “Non-motorized safety is of particular concern and improving conditions and safety for bicycling and walking will help create an integrated, intermodal transportation system that provides travelers with real choices.” Translation: The feds value walking and biking.

Read more…

StreetFilms
View Comments

Peatónito: Protecting Pedestrians in the Crosswalk

Peatónito (“little pedestrian”) might be the most beloved figure in the world of street safety. How can you not love a superhero who protects pedestrians from cars?! Since donning the cape and luchador mask three years ago, he’s become a media sensation in Mexico. This week he’s in New York City for Transportation Alternatives’ Vision Zero for Cities 2016 conference, and Streetfilms was lucky enough to squeeze in this exclusive whirlwind walking tour of Brooklyn and Queens streets showing him in action.

Jorge Canez, the man behind the mask, has been a pedestrian advocate in Mexico City for quite a while. He’s been involved with many tactical urbanism-type of interventions, like painting crosswalks with his own spray can. As Peatónito, he’s attained a new level of fame for gently scolding drivers, escorting pedestrians though dicey intersections, and pushing cars (or occasionally walking over the tops of cars) to make motorists more aware of their transgressions.

Come along for a fun short as Peatónito hits the intimidating streets near Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the constantly blocked bike lanes on Jay Street by MetroTech, and crosswalks in Jackson Heights, Queens, helping children walk to school.

23 Comments

Traffic Engineers Still Rely on a Flawed 1970s Study to Reject Crosswalks

When St. Louis decided not to maintain colorful new crosswalks that residents had painted, the city’s pedestrian coordinator cited federal guidance. A 2011 FHWA memo warns that colorful designs could “create a false sense of security” for pedestrians and motorists.

Shoddy, 50-year-old research is an obstacle to grassroots street safety efforts like this fleur-de-lis crosswalk in St. Louis. Photo: Rally St. Louis

That may sound like unremarkable bureaucrat-speak, but the phrase “false sense of security” is actually a cornerstone of American engineering guidance on pedestrian safety.

You’ll find the words “false sense of security” in Washington state DOT’s crosswalk guidelines too. The city of Stockton, California, makes the same claim. The list goes on.

What gives? Well, you can trace this phrase — and the basis of some engineers’ reluctance to stripe crosswalks — to one very influential but seriously flawed study from the 1970s.

In 1972, a researcher named Bruce Herms conducted a study of crosswalk safety in San Diego. He found that intersections with marked crosswalks had higher injury rates than ones with unmarked crosswalks. He concluded that marked crosswalks should only be installed where they are “warranted” because they can give pedestrians a “false sense of security,” encouraging risky behavior.

But there were problems with the study. For one, Herms didn’t actually study why people made certain decisions at crosswalks — that “false sense of security” was just speculation on his part.

Read more…