Safety Benefits of Walkways, Sidewalks, and Paved Shoulders
FHWA Safety Program
In a suburban community a six lane road is built. It serves schools, businesses, and transit routes. Along the length of the highway pedestrian paths are beat into the grass. For pedestrians it isn't comfortable, it isn't accessible, and it isn't safe. It needs 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 created either by providing 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.
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.4
Providing walkways for pedestrians dramatically increases how well pedestrians perceive their needs are being met along roadways.5 The wider the separation between the pedestrian and the roadway is, the more comfortable the pedestrian facility.
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 Providing sidewalks, widened paved shoulders, or stabilized shoulders—particularly when providing access to public transit—can increase the transportation options for individuals who may not be able to drive a car. Additionally, by moving pedestrians off the travel lanes, motorist operations are improved and capacity increased.
Research 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. Moderate exercise, such as walking, contributes to both physical and mental well being.7
Benefits of Paved Shoulders
Paved shoulders provide numerous safety benefits for motorists and pedestrians. Installing 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.
FHWA's 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.
New Bicycle Safer Journey (Revised 2014)
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.