Designing, engineering, operating, and maintaining quality roadways and pedestrian facilities are all critical elements of becoming a Walk Friendly Community. Designers and engineers have a wide range of design solutions and technologies at their disposal that provide a safer, inviting, and more accessible street for people walking. These benefits aren’t limited to pedestrians. By accommodating pedestrians in all roadway designs, roads become safer for all users. Therefore, it should be essential that pedestrian engineering and design tools are used throughout your community, including sidewalks and design standards, crossings and intersections, traffic calming, trail design, and newer, innovative treatments.
Sidewalk Design and Network Connectivity
The presence of sidewalks in a community is associated with higher levels of walking and physical activity. Sidewalks also have tremendous safety benefits as they have been found to reduce “walking along the roadway” type crashes by 86 percent. Well-designed walkways should be part of every new and renovated facility and every effort should be made to retrofit streets that currently do not have sidewalks and curb ramps. A well-connected network of sidewalks and trails decreases walking distances and increases route options, and street connectivity is associated with higher levels of physical activity.
- AASHTO Guide for the Planning, Design, and Operation of Pedestrian Facilities
- U.S. Access Board’s Proposed Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities in the Public Right-of-Way
- PBIC Sidewalks and Walkways
- In Cary, NC, residents can sign a petition to be placed on the city’s sidewalk priority list, which helps the transportation agency make difficult decisions about where to install and improve sidewalks.
- Seattle voters approved a $930 million transportation levy, which includes significant funding for new sidewalks, curb ramps, and other pedestrian improvements. The city is also expanding its “toolbox” to include lower-cost walkways that will improve pedestrian conditions on non-arterial streets.
- In Boulder, CO, web-users are able to view a prioritized list of sidewalk projects and learn how these projects are funded.
- Flagstaff, AZ, combines transportation, recreation, and access to nature on the city’s extensive trail system. The Flagstaff Urban Trail System (FUTS, pronounced “foots”) is a citywide network of non-motorized, shared use pathways. Sixty percent of all residents are within a one-quarter mile of existing trail.
Bridges often provide the only safe pedestrian route across certain barriers in a community (freeways, railroad tracks, and natural barriers). Therefore, pedestrians should have access to safe facilities on all bridges in a community.
- Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center White Paper: Improving Pedestrian and Bicycle Connectivity during Rehabilitation of Existing Bridges.
- AASHTO Guide for the Planning, Design and Operation of Pedestrian Facilities
- Considerations for Overpasses and Underpasses
Marked crosswalks serve to highlight the right-of-way where motorists can expect pedestrians to cross. Crosswalk safety is enhanced by treatments that reduce the crossing distance for pedestrians. Crossing islands—also known as center islands, refuge islands, pedestrian islands, or median slow points—are raised islands placed in the center of the street at intersections or mid-block to help protect crossing pedestrians from motor vehicles. Crossing islands let pedestrians deal with only one direction of traffic at a time; they allow pedestrians to stop partway across the street and wait for an adequate gap in traffic before crossing the second half of the street.
- Application of Pedestrian Crossing Treatments for Streets and Highways (NCHRP Synthesis 498)
- General Information on Crosswalks and Crossing Treatments
- FHWA Proven Safety Countermeasures
- The PEDSAFE Guide
- Bellevue, WA, produced The Practices and Priority Guidance for Allocation of Crosswalk Related Resources, which is used to develop annual and five-year project lists. The city has six categories of crossing treatments that help city engineers verify that the marked crosswalk site meets applicable standards and principles, while allowing staff to consider additional enhancements.
- Boulder, CO’s Pedestrian Crossing Treatment Installation Guidelines help city staff evaluate individual locations for potential crossing treatments. The Guidelines reflect national best practices, while remaining context sensitive to conditions in Boulder.
Traffic Signal Design
Signals provide positive guidance to pedestrians regarding the permitted signal interval to cross a street and prohibit pedestrian crossings when conflicting traffic may impact pedestrian safety. Requiring new road or sidewalk construction and maintenance to include pedestrian signals (audible and vibrotactile warnings as well) is important for creating a pedestrian-friendly street network and encouraging people to walk. Signal timing strategies also offer opportunities to improve safety for all roadway users.
- Traffic Signal Information from the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide
- Accessible Pedestrian Signals: A Guide to Best Practices
- PBIC’s Overview of Pedestrian Signals
- Washington DC’s Pedestrian Master Plan lists several initiatives for improving pedestrian safety at signalized intersections (pages 32-40 of Appendix C). DDOT has installed Leading Pedestrian Intervals at approximately 80 intersections in the city, with more to come. In 2010, all-red pedestrian scramble signals were installed at two major intersections, and DDOT has Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons scheduled for installation. Ninety percent of traffic signals are pre-timed with walk phase recall.
- Corvallis, OR, has installed audible pedestrian signals at all of the intersections outside of the Central Business District and accessible ramps on all corners of all signalized intersections.
Traffic Calming Policies and Practices
Traffic calming is a way to design streets that uses physical and visual cues to encourage motorists to drive more slowly. If done correctly, traffic calming reduces traffic speeds, the number and severity of crashes, and noise levels. It can also encourage walking because reduced speeds and improved aesthetics improve pedestrian comfort.
A road diet typically reduces the number of travel lanes on a road, reallocating this space for other needs (pedestrian paths, bicycle lanes, transit facilities, etc.). Road diets provide many benefits to pedestrians, including reduced crossing distance, room for median islands that provide pedestrians with a place of refuge between the directional flow of traffic, and a buffer zone for the sidewalk through the addition of wider sidewalks, parking, or bicycle lanes.
- Burlington, VT, has a robust traffic calming and neighborhood enhancement program. The city’s traffic calming practices are transparent to the public and well documented online. Typical treatments include road diets, bump-outs, chicanes, and raised crosswalks. Burlington recently reduced the citywide speed limit to 25 mph.