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FHWA Home / Safety / Local and Rural Road / Local and Rural Road Safety Briefing Sheets

Local and Rural Road Safety Briefing Sheets

Making Local and Rural Roads Safer for Pedestrians and Bicycles

USDOT Triskelion logo
U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
Office of Safety Logo: Safe Roads for a Safer Fugure

FHWA-SA-14-090

Downloadable/Printable version:
[PDF, 176 KB]


Introduction

In recent years, pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities have accounted for roughly 16 percent of all traffic fatalities, according to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Approximately 25 percent of nationwide pedestrian and bicycle fatal and injury crashes occur on rural roadways. In contrast to urban roadways, rural roads have certain characteristics that can increase the severity of crashes for pedestrians and bicyclists, such as higher average vehicle speeds and uncontrolled pedestrian and bicycle crossings.

Pedestrians and bicyclists use local and rural roads for commuting, recreation, and necessity. Bicyclists in local and rural areas may vary in their levels of ability and expertise in riding with motor vehicle traffic; for example, more experienced or competitive bicyclists tend to prefer using the roadway rather than separate facilities, while inexperienced bicyclists may lack the confidence, and perhaps the skills necessary, and are sometimes hesitant to use the roadway. Pedestrian facilities vary in local and rural areas and needs vary by age and ability. This is especially true in areas where young children or an aging population use the pedestrian facilities, such as areas near schools or elderly care facilities.

Strategies for Improving Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety

There are several enhancements that can be introduced to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. The safety treatments shown in the table below can be employed to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety at intersections in particular. The table also shows the associated crash modification factor (CMF)1 or crash reduction, the safety issue addressed, and the typical cost of implementation.

Countermeasure Safety Issue Addressed Crash Modification Factor or Crash Reduction Typical Implementation Cost
Implement a leading pedestrian interval Eliminates vehicle-pedestrian conflicts for a defined period of the shared green cycle by allocating a pedestrian-only walk phase CMF = 0.554-0.63 N/A
Install pedestrian countdown timer signal heads Indicates to pedestrians the length of time left in a walk cycle, thereby potentially decreasing the volume of pedestrians entering the intersection after the walk cycle terminates CMF = 0.30 >$10,000 per intersection
High Intensity Activated Crosswalk (HAWK) pedestrian activated beacon Improve visibility of and motorist compliance with mid-block pedestrian crossings CMF = 0.309 $50,000 to $100,000
Install transverse rumble strips prior to pedestrian crossings (rural areas only) Increase driver awareness of unsignalized intersection and mid-block pedestrian crossings CMF = 0.76 <$5,000
Narrow crossing locations through use of curb extensions median pedestrian refuges Both create shorter crossing distances and increased pedestrian visibility Unknown $10,000 to $25,000
Lighting (e.g., intersections, driveways, crosswalks, bus stops) Increase visibility of pedestrians and bicyclists CMF = 0.41-0.58 $25,000 to $50,000
Marked pedestrian crossing (i.e., retroreflective crosswalk pavement markings, fluorescent sign sheeting, and other high-visibility elements) Improve visibility of pedestrians and concentrate crossing to a single marked location, whether at an intersection or mid-block crossing Unknown $1,250 to $5,000 per approach
Bicycle and/or pedestrian warning signs Increase driver awareness of a high volume of crossing bicyclists and/or pedestrians Unknown >$1,000

The following list of roadway elements and associated safety enhancements can be used by local and tribal transportation agencies, town councils and commissions, and developers to design or approve road projects. These enhancements can improve safety for drivers, too.

A pair of two T-shaped intersections with the legs of the each T extending in opposite directions. The two intersections are not aligned across from each other, as a four-way intersection would be, but rather are separated, or "offset".
Example of an Offset Intersection

The following enforcement, educational, and outreach opportunities exist for improving pedestrian and bicycle safety:

Resources

The following resources provide more details related to improving safety for bicyclists and pedestrians:

Federal Highway Administration, "Local and Rural Road Safety Program: Training, Tools, Guidance and Countermeasures for Locals." Available at: http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/local_rural/training/

Federal Highway Administration, Non-Motorized User Safety: A Manual for Local Rural Road Owners, FHWA-SA-12-017 (Washington, DC: 2012). Available at: http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/local_rural/training/fhwasa010413/

FHWA, "Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety" website. Available at: http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/ped_bike/

Transportation Research Board, NCHRP Report 500: Guidance for Implementation of the AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan, Volume 18 – A Guide for Reducing Collisions Involving Bicycles (Washington, DC: Transportation Research Board, 2008). Available at: http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_rpt_500v18.pdf

Transportation Research Board, NCHRP Report 500: Guidance for Implementation of the AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan, Volume 10, A Guide for Reducing Collisions Involving Pedestrians (Washington, DC: Transportation Research Board, 2004). Available at: http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_rpt_500v10.pdf

Additional resources include:

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), Guide for the Planning, Design, and Operation of Pedestrian Facilities, July 2004.

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities 2012, Fourth Edition.

Page last modified on November 19, 2014.
Safe Roads for a Safer Future - Investment in roadway safety saves lives
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000