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Pedestrian Crossing Spacing Guidance

Description:

An estimated 6,227 pedestrians were killed in traffic collisions in the U.S. in 2018 – a 30.3% increase in pedestrian fatalities over the last five years and the highest number of pedestrians killed in one year since 1990. The majority of these fatalities occurred while a pedestrian was crossing the street, and nearly three-quarters of the fatalities occurred away from an intersection. While some of these cases are due to pedestrian negligence, many cases result from a system that prioritizes automobile mobility at the expense of the pedestrian. For most pedestrians to walk far out of their way to cross a street would contradict basic human behavior. Therefore, to prevent needless fatalities and injuries, we must provide safely designed crosswalks that are properly spaced so that pedestrians can practically utilize them. Current guidance and research regarding crosswalk spacing is limited. This research aims to reduce pedestrian fatalities and severe injuries through a better understanding of appropriate crosswalk spacing.

Objective:

This research will explore the relationship between crosswalk spacing and how often pedestrians use a crosswalk instead of crossing at uncontrolled locations. The research aims to determine the maximum distance pedestrians will travel to use a crosswalk rather than cross where they are. A better understanding of this spacing will help to inform when to add marked crosswalks at uncontrolled midblock locations to discourage pedestrians from crossing at higher-risk locations between crosswalks. In addition to crosswalk spacing, the research will explore factors that influence pedestrians’ choice to divert from an unmarked direct crossing path toward a marked crossing in terms of origin/destination proximity, land use context, and crossing need. Considerations may include: pedestrians’ vehicle gap acceptance, the number of conflict points at crossings, the impact of vehicle volumes, vehicle speeds, number of travel or turn lanes, pedestrian travel distance, crossing distance, and different levels of midblock crosswalks (e.g. signage, flashing beacons, curb extensions, road diet, HAWK signals, etc.).

Benefits:

This research will inform design guidance and work to counteract the trend of increasing pedestrian fatalities and severe injuries at midblock crossing locations. The trend is found throughout the country and will be of interest to a majority of DOTs as well as regional and local agencies. Findings will also serve to greatly improve overall pedestrian safety, with benefits being directly bore by some of the most vulnerable users of our roads.

Related Research:

National crosswalk spacing guidance is ambiguous, with Section 3B.18 of the MUTCD stating: “Crosswalk lines should not be used indiscriminately. An engineering study should be performed before a marked crosswalk is installed at a location away from a traffic control signal or an approach controlled by a STOP or YIELD sign.” Although it is recommended that the engineering study consider the distance from adjacent signalized intersections and the possible consolidation of multiple crossing points, there are no specific criteria offered in terms of spacing.

Several state guidelines for crosswalks refer to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Stopping Sight Distance formula. This formula combines a driver’s reaction time, braking distance, travel speed, and roadway grade to calculate the distance necessary for a vehicle to make a complete stop. AASHTO recommends that midblock marked crosswalks not be installed where sight distance and sight lines are limited. This recommendation may impact crosswalk spacing.

To ensure efficient traffic operations, many agencies have also adopted requirements that preclude marking a crosswalk within a close distance of another crossing. These requirements generally specify a minimum distance of 200-600 feet between a midblock crosswalk and the next nearest crosswalk (see e.g., Arizona Department of Transportation; City of Boulder; City of Sacramento; Florida Department of Transportation; Georgia Department of Transportation; San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency; Utah Department of Transportation; Vermont Agency of Transportation; Virginia Department of Transportation).

While these minimum distances are important to ensure efficient traffic operations, the maximum allowable distance between crosswalks is more critical for ensuring that there are adequate crossing opportunities to reduce the risk of pedestrian crashes. After a thorough review of crosswalk guidance, Portland, Oregon appears to be the only city with a stated maximum. Note, however, that these guidelines have not been rigorously studied to determine their impact on pedestrian crossing safety.

The only relevant research reported that about 25 percent of pedestrians stated they would walk 550 feet to a controlled crosswalk and 50 percent would walk 200 feet. In this vein, future research could examine not just the maximum distance that pedestrians will walk to a controlled crosswalk, but also their preferred distance.

More research is needed to provide states and cities with guidance on the important criteria of maximum crosswalk spacing. Providing appropriately spaced crosswalks that are properly designed for the specific roadway conditions could save thousands of lives each year.

Tasks:

Research tasks may include:

  1. Literature review of existing strategies and research regarding crosswalk spacing compliance and safety outcomes.

  2. Data collection (crosswalk location and context, pedestrian compliance and safety outcomes, roadway environment such as lighting, geometry, facilities, operational details, users, vehicles, etc.).

  3. Identify compliance and safety patterns related to crosswalk spacing and context.

  4. Propose solutions to be investigated in future research.

Relevance:

Traffic and geometric design professionals responsible for facility design and planning will be most likely to use the research results.

Sponsoring Committee:ANF10, Pedestrians
Research Period:12 - 24 months
Research Priority:High
RNS Developer:Nicholas N. Ferenchak
Date Posted:01/03/2020
Date Modified:02/21/2020
Index Terms:Pedestrian safety, Crosswalks, Location, Pedestrian movement,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Subjects    
Highways
Pedestrians and Bicyclists
Design
Safety and Human Factors

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