Safety Benefits of Walkways, Sidewalks, and Paved Shoulders
FHWA Safety Program
In a suburban community a six lane road is built. It has businesses on both sides of the street, driveways, and bus stops. Students often walk along the shoulder to get to school, restaurants, and nearby shops. Along the edge of the road, footprints in the grass leave dirt paths. For pedestrians it is dangerous, inaccessible, and uncomfortable to walk along this roadway—they need a sidewalk.
Annually, around 4,500 pedestrians are killed in traffic crashes with motor vehicles in the United States.1 Pedestrians killed while "walking along the roadway" account for almost 8 percent of these deaths.2 Many of these tragedies are preventable. Providing walkways separated from the travel lanes could help to prevent up to 88 percent of these "walking along roadway crashes."3
Walkways can be provided by constructing either stabilized or paved surfaces separated from the roadway, or by widening paved shoulders. These treatments can not only improve the safety of pedestrians, but also make pedestrian trips more viable.
Providing walkways for pedestrians dramatically increases how well pedestrians perceive their needs are being met along roadways.4 The wider the separation is between the pedestrian and the roadway, the more comfortable the pedestrian facility.
Benefits of Sidewalks
Sidewalks separated from the roadway are the preferred accommodation for pedestrians. Sidewalks provide many benefits including safety, mobility, and healthier communities.
In addition to reducing walking along roadway crashes, sidewalks reduce other pedestrian crashes. Roadways without sidewalks are more than twice as likely to have pedestrian crashes as sites with sidewalks on both sides of the street.5 By providing sidewalks on both sides of the street, numerous midblock crossing crashes can be eliminated.
By providing facilities that are more comfortable, we can increase the number of trips made by walking, particularly in areas with mixed land uses.6 Moreover, we can better serve our local populations. Many people cannot drive a car and are reliant on walking and public transit for transportation. Children, older adults,and people with disabilities make up a substantial portion of the population—up to 37 percent in some States.7 Other people might choose to walk if they had better accommodations. Providing sidewalks, widened paved shoulders, or stabilized shoulders—particularly when providing access to transit and schools—can increase the transportation options for these individuals. Additionally, by moving pedestrians off the travel lanes, motorists operations are improved and capacity increased.
Research also indicates that people will walk for recreational purposes if a facility is provided.6 Recreational walking is one of the easiest ways for people to get the recommended allotment of physical exercise each day.
Benefits of Paved Shoulders
Paved shoulders provide numerous safety benefits for motorists as well as benefits for pedestrians. Providing or widening paved shoulders has the following benefits:
Case Study: Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, Florida
Before the installation of sidewalks, Dale Mabry Highway (SR580) in Tampa, Florida was not a place anyone would feel comfortable walking. Dale Mabry is a commercial corridor with six lanes of traffic, a five foot shoulder, and transit service stopping along the route. Many vehicles using this corridor are traveling faster than the 45 mph posted speed limit and pedestrian crashes were all too common. Even before construction was completed, pedestrians were using the sidewalks. Pedestrians can now walk in a safe location off the roadway/shoulders on separated accessible sidewalks.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Guidance Memorandum on Consideration and Implementation of Proven Safety Countermeasures offers the following guidance for the application of sidewalks and shoulders:
Sidewalks should be considered the preferred treatment for accommodating pedestrians in urban areas and where frequent pedestrian use is expected. For less developed areas with occasional pedestrian traffic expected, the Guidance Memorandum provides the following:
For more information, visit http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/memo071008/
For More Information:
For more information, visit http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/ped_bike
FHWA, Office of Safety
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.