Vulnerable Users: Pedestrians & Bicyclists
Crash Types & Causes
Endangerment of Pedestrians and Bicyclists at Intersections by Right Turning Trucks, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Paper Number 05-0344. [PDF 2.62 MB]
Pedestrian Accidents with Left-Turning Traffic at Signalized Intersections: Characteristics, Human Factors and Unconsidered Issues [PDF 89 KB]
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Technical Assistance & Tools
Advanced Stop Lines
Intersection Median Barriers.
This shortened version of a raised curb median extends through the intersection to prevent cross-street through movements and left-turning movements to cross-streets from the main street. This treatment can benefit pedestrians who need to cross any leg of the intersection, but restricts vehicle entry into and out of neighborhoods and can therefore greatly reduce cut-through traffic. However, since this treatment can dramatically influence traffic patterns and have potentially negative consequences caused by shifting traffic, it should be used cautiously. Crossing islands can provide benefits to pedestrians if that is the desire. This is also a traffic management technique. Cut-throughs must be incorporated into the design for pedestrian and bicyclist use.
Design treatment is intended for certain T-intersections on lower-volume streets in residential areas where there is a need to reduce the speeds of through traffic. It involves a gradual curb extension or bulb at the top of the T, such that vehicles are deflected slightly as they pass straight through the intersection (see diagram). This type of design can help to discourage cut-through traffic in a neighborhood and can reduce speeds at the intersection. If not properly designed, it can create confusion regarding priority of movement. Consider a mini-circle before installing this treatment.
Highway Design Handbook for Older Drivers and Pedestrians
This handbook provides practitioners with a practical information source that links older road user characteristics to highway design, operational, and traffic engineering recommendations by addressing specific roadway features. This Handbook supplements existing standards and guidelines in the areas of highway geometry, operations, and traffic control devices.
Pedestrian signal indications should be used at traffic signals wherever warranted, according to the MUTCD. The use of WALK/DON’T WALK pedestrian signal indications at signal locations are important in many cases, including when vehicle signals are not visible to pedestrians, when signal timing is complex (e.g., there is a dedicated left-turn signal for motorists), at established school zone crossings, when an exclusive pedestrian interval is provided, and for wide streets where pedestrian clearance information is considered helpful.1 (FHWA, Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways, Washington, DC, 2003.)
Pedestrian Signal Timing.
A permissible Right Turn on Red (RTOR) was introduced in the 1970s as a fuel-saving measure and has sometimes had detrimental effects on pedestrians. While the law requires motorists to come to a full stop and yield to cross-street traffic and pedestrians prior to turning right on red, many motorists do not fully comply with the regulations, especially at intersections with wide turning radii. Motorists are so intent on looking for traffic approaching on their left that they may not be alert to pedestrians approaching on their right. In addition, motorists usually pull up into the crosswalk to wait for a gap in traffic, blocking pedestrian crossing movements. In some instances, motorists simply do not come to a full stop. One concern that comes up when RTOR is prohibited is that this may lead to higher right-turn-on-green conflicts when there are concurrent signals.
Traffic Signal Enhancements.
A variety of traffic signal enhancements that can benefit pedestrians and bicyclists are available. These include automatic pedestrian detectors, providing larger traffic signals to ensure visibility, placing signals so that motorists waiting at a red light can’t see the other signals and anticipate the green, and installing countdown signals to provide pedestrians with information about the amount of time remaining in a crossing interval.
More information on some of these technologies is available online at www.walkinginfo.org/pedsmart
Signs can provide important information that can improve road safety. By letting people know what to expect, there is a greater chance that they will react and behave appropriately. For example, giving motorists advance warning of an upcoming pedestrian crossing or that they are entering a traffic-calmed area will alert them to modify their speed. Sign use and movement should be done judiciously, as overuse breeds noncompliance and disrespect. Traffic signs used on public property must comply with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Always check signs to assure adequate nighttime reflectivity.
Signals and Signs.
Traffic signals create gaps in the traffic flow, allowing pedestrians to cross the street. Signals are particularly important at high-use, mid-block crossings on higher speed roads, multi-lane roads, or at highly congested intersections. National warrants from the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices are based on the number of pedestrians and vehicles crossing the intersection, among other factors.
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Policy & Guidelines
Improving Pedestrian Treatments at Unsignalized Crossings, TCRP Report 112/NCHRP Report 562, Transportation Research Board, The National Academies, 2006. [PDF 3.66 MB]
A recent research project jointly sponsored by the TCRP and the NCHRP had two main objectives: (1) recommend selected engineering treatments to improve safety for pedestrians crossing high-volume, high-speed roadways at unsignalized intersections, in particular on roads served by public transportation; and (2) recommend modifications to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) pedestrian traffic signal warrant. The research team developed guidelines that can be used to select pedestrian crossing treatments for unsignalized intersections and midblock locations (Guidelines for Pedestrian Crossing Treatments).
Safety Effects of Marked Versus Unmarked Crosswalks at Uncontrolled Locations Final Report and Recommended Guidelines, FHWA-RD-04-100, August 2005. [HTML, PDF 2.78 MB) ]
Providing marked crosswalks traditionally has been one measure used in an attempt to facilitate crossings. Such crosswalks commonly are used at uncontrolled locations (i.e., sites not controlled by a traffic signal or stop sign) and sometimes at mid-block locations. However, there have been conflicting studies and much controversy regarding the safety effects of marked crosswalks. This study evaluated marked crosswalks at uncontrolled locations and offers guidelines for their use.
Safety Effects of Marked vs. Unmarked Crosswalks at Uncontrolled Locations: Executive Summary and Recommended Guidelines, FHWA-RD-01-075, February 2002. [PDF 716 KB]
Study involved analysis of 5 years of pedestrian crashes at 1,000 marked crosswalks and 1,000 matched unmarked comparison sites. All sites in this study had no traffic signal or stop sign on the approaches. Detailed data were collected on traffic volume, pedestrian exposure, number of lanes, median type, speed limit, and other site variables. The study results revealed that on two-lane roads, the presence of a marked crosswalk alone at an uncontrolled location was associated with no difference in pedestrian crash rate, compared to an unmarked crosswalk. Further, on multi-lane roads with traffic volumes above about 12,000 vehicles per day, having a marked crosswalk alone (without other substantial improvements) was associated with a higher pedestrian crash rate (after controlling for other site factors) compared to an unmarked crosswalk. Raised medians provided significantly lower pedestrian crash rates on multi-lane roads, compared to roads with no raised median. Older pedestrians had crashes that were high relative to their crossing exposure.
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- PBCAT Version 2.0: PBCAT is a software application designed to assist State and local pedestrian and bicycle coordinators, planners, and engineers in addressing pedestrian and bicyclist crash problems. PBCAT accomplishes this goal by enabling users to develop a database of details associated with crashes between motor vehicles and pedestrians or bicyclists. PBCAT users can analyze the data, produce reports, and select countermeasures to address the problems identified.
FHWA Course on Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation
University Course on Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation, FHWA-HRT-06-065, February 2006. [HTML, PDF 770 KB]
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South Carolina Case Study: Systematic Intersection Improvements
Roundabout Outreach and Education Toolbox
Stop-Controlled Intersection Safety: Through Route Activated Warning Systems
Roundabouts: An Informational Guide, Second Edition (NCHRP Report 672)
Roundabouts Peer-to-Peer Assistance
How to drive a roundabout (WSDOT)
Modern Roundabouts: A Safer Choice
FHWA's Intersection Resources Library CD-ROM
Roundabouts Technical Summary
Mini-Roundabouts Technical Summary
Access Management in the Vicinity of Intersections Technical Summary
Intersection Safety Case Studies
Intersection Safety Technologies
Presentation: Intersection Safety
Example Intersection Safety Implementation Plan
Intersection Safety Implementation Plan Workshop
Example Data Analysis Package and Straw Man Outline