Pedestrian Forum • Summer 2011 • Volume 55
In this issue:
New FHWA Resources Available to Assist States and Localities in Experimentation with New and Innovative Traffic Control Devices
Localities and States wishing to try out new and innovative traffic control devices that are not included in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) often face hurdles in doing so. The desire of the locality to quickly try out something that might improve safety and operations is sometimes at odds with the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) desire to ensure the safety and appropriate use of a device through a well-designed research plan that can provide concrete results on the proposed device's effectiveness.
A recently released report entitled Pedestrian and Bicyclist Traffic Control Device Evaluation Methods is now available to assist States and localities. This report offers traffic engineering practitioners information on how to evaluate roadway traffic control devices used by pedestrians and bicyclists. Though presented in the context of devices meant for pedestrian and bicyclist facilities, the guidance provided can be applied in a more general sense to evaluations of traffic control devices in all settings.
The evaluation methods report is designed for practitioners (State transportation departments and county or city engineers and planners) but could also be helpful to traffic safety students and researchers. Personnel without specialized statistical analysis skills should be able to use the report. It presents a detailed plan for practitioners to follow from the initial problem identification stages to documenting the evaluation effort.
The first step of any evaluation is to clearly formulate the research question by identifying the motorist, pedestrian, or bicyclist behavior that poses a safety or operational problem. Candidate traffic control devices and other countermeasures can then be identified as potential solutions to that problem.
The evaluation methods described in this report include user surveys or interviews, visibility studies, driving performance studies, observational traffic studies, and crash analyses. The selection of the appropriate evaluation method will consider cost, time, research aims, and available research equipment and staff.
Additionally, a significantly enhanced and updated "Official Rulings" area of the MUTCD Web site is now available and can be accessed by clicking on the "Official Rulings" link on the left side of the home page (http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/orsearch.asp). It's a searchable database where you can obtain information about requests for changes, experiments, and interpretations related to the MUTCD that have been received by the FHWA. You can search the database in a number of ways and keyword searches for pedestrians and bikes has been included. As noted on the web page, information is still being added.
Update on FHWA's Pedestrian Safety Focus States and Cities Effort
In the Spring of 2004, the FHWA Safety Office decided to take a "focused" approach to safety, and pedestrian safety was one of the high priority areas identified. It was determined that the 13 states and five cities that met a certain criteria (see map at left) would receive extra attention in the form of free technical assistance and training.
Over the past 7 years the Safety Office has been working with the focus states and cities to provide free training (almost 200 courses) on designing safe pedestrian facilities and workshops that have led to the development of pedestrian safety action plans (PSAP). Several states and cities have developed or are working on developing PSAPs, including the State of Florida. Florida is working on developing a statewide PSAP and has created a project website to keep stakeholders informed. The purpose of the PSAP is to establish a framework to realize improved pedestrian safety performance through the following processes:
Since the focused approach has been working well, FHWA leadership decided to continue using it with some modification. Several new focus citiesand a few new States have been selected (some have been dropped from the list) and will be announced in the near future.
FHWA Continues to Promote Proven Countermeasures to Improve Pedestrian Safety
As mentioned in the Winter 2011 Pedestrian Forum Newsletter, the FHWA Safety Office released a memo two years ago strongly encouraging the states to adopt nine countermeasures that are proven to increase safety and implement them wherever it makes sense. There are two that are aimed specifically at improving pedestrian safety: medians/ pedestrian refuge areas and walkways.
In order to assist engineers and practitioners in convincing policy makers to consider widespread use of these countermeasures, FHWA has undertaken a marketing effort aimed at drawing attention to the benefits of developing state/local policies.
As part of this effort, three new brochures have been developed and are available for viewing and printing on the Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Website Under "Tools to Diagnose and Solve the Problem":
PBIC Announces Walk Friendly CommunitiesThe Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) announced the inaugural round of Walk Friendly Communities (WFC). After evaluating applicant communities in several categories related to walking (including safety, mobility, access and comfort), PBIC has recognized the following 11 communities for their commitment to improving walkability and pedestrian safety:
Pedestrian injuries and fatalities remain alarmingly high in the U.S. at the same time that there is an increasing groundswell of support for active transportation across the country. Communities are channeling this support for livability and taking advantage of the many benefits of walking — improved safety, environmental and personal health, reduced traffic congestion, enhanced quality of life, and economic rewards.
In an effort not only to recognize but to motivate "walk friendly" communities, applicants learn best practices through participating in the application process.
League of American Bicyclists releases "Getting A Fair Share for Safety from the Highway Safety Improvement Program"
The League of American Bicyclists recently released a report designed to assist States and localities in funding their pedestrian and bike safety improvement projects. The Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) was created under the 2005 transportation authorization law, the Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEALU), as one of the core Federal-Aid funding sources.
HSIP provides funding for safety projects aimed at reducing traffic fatalities and serious injuries. Although bike and pedestrian safety projects are eligible for HSIP funding, it has sometimes been difficult for states and localities to justify spending HSIP funds on projects that will improve safety for these users because the related crashes are so infrequent.
This report examines some of the states that have successfully dedicated Federal safety funds to reduce bicycle and pedestrian fatalities and crashes. Examples of eligible projects include bike lanes, roadway shoulders, crosswalks, other intersection improvements and signage.
The document offers details on the following tips gleaned from local officials and activists who have been successful in obtaining funding under HSIP for pedestrian and bicycle-related projects:
Examples are included from Virginia, Florida, California, Hawaii, and New Jersey
New Safe Routes to School Noteworthy Practices
School just released the Safe Routes to School Noteworthy Practices Guide: A Compendium of State SRTS Program Practices. In 2005, the United States Congress established the national Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program in Section 1404 of the SAFETEA-LU. Through a combination of engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation strategies, the program was developed to address traffic safety, traffic congestion and air quality issues around schools, while also acknowledging the health benefits of active school travel.
The Federal SRTS program empowers states and local communities to choose to make walking and bicycling to school a safe and available everyday mode choice. Since the Federal SRTS program was enacted, states have implemented their programs through a myriad of approaches.
The guide contains specific examples of noteworthy practices by state SRTS programs for consideration by state and Federal SRTS practitioners. It was completed in partnership with the National Center for Safe Routes to School (National Center) with funding from the FHWA SRTS program.
The noteworthy practices identified in the guide have been implemented by state SRTS programs. Noteworthy practices range from innovative ways to work with advocacy groups to streamlining authorization for projects. These noteworthy practices provide strategies for state DOTs to consider to effectively structure and deliver state SRTS programs.
As part of the development process, five key management areas were identified and were used to organize the practices within the guide:
The management areas identified are key elements for the development and delivery of a state SRTS program. Practices identified in each area are intended to provide practitioners with suggestions to consider for their current and future program needs.
The FHWA Safety Office is continually developing new materials to assist states, localities and citizens in improving pedestrian and bicycle safety. The materials listed on this page were completed recently.
The State of Florida is developing a statewide Pedestrian Safety Action Plan. They have set up a project website that includes information about the project, workshop presentations and resources relating to pedestrian safety.