U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
202-366-4000


Skip to content
FacebookYouTubeTwitterFlickrLinkedIn

Safety

eSubscribe
eSubscribe Envelope

FHWA Home / Safety / Pedestrian & Bicycle / A Resident's Guide for Creating Safer a Communities for Walking and Biking

A Resident's Guide for Creating Safer Communities for Walking and Biking

< Previous Table of Content Next >

Section Three: What can be done?

It is not always necessary for community members to come up with a solution to the problems they've identified; typically, local agency professionals will be aware of several possible options. However, the following information will help build your vocabulary and understanding of the type of treatments or initiatives that may be available to help improve pedestrian and bicycle conditions in your neighborhood. This information will also help you more effectively communicate and collaborate with agencies and other groups. Finally, this section provides some tips and ideas for how you can take certain initiatives (or support others) to make improvements.

Transportation improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians are often described in terms of the Four Es:

1. Engineering – Physical changes to infrastructure (i.e., streets, sidewalks, traffic signals, bike lanes, signs, etc.) that affect the operation and movement of traffic, bicyclists, and pedestrians. These changes are also related to local plans and policies, which may guide how engineering changes are made.

2. Education – Includes strategies that aim to educate pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers, or other groups in order to motivate a change in behavior.

3. Enforcement – Community-based or law-agency-based measures to enforce laws and regulations related to pedestrian and bicycle safety.

4. Encouragement – Efforts to promote walking and biking in a community.

A combination of the "Es" (e.g., making engineering changes as well as implementing education and enforcement campaigns) applied in the same area will likely be more successful at resolving problems than only using one approach.

Photo: People celebrating partnership achievements.
Celebrate partnership achievements. Local transportation
agencies, school officials, and students "Rock the Hawk"
(pedestrian hybrid beacon) and crosswalk improvements
in Phoenix, Arizona

Not every treatment or program described in this section will be appropriate for your particular situation; you should discuss these with your local transportation agency and other partners (pedestrian and bicycle advocates, health professionals, law enforcement officials, elected officials, etc.) to determine which improvement – or set of improvements – will best meet the needs of your community. Use these questions to guide your discussion:

Collaborating with neighbors, groups, agencies, and elected officials; sharing research and information; respecting other's perspectives; and seeking creative solutions can help you find reasonable solutions to traffic safety issues.

Photo: Bike rider using the bicycle marked lane
Well-designed streets and crossings can help make
walking and bicycling safe and enjoyable.

Engineering, Plans, and Policies

More and more communities are recognizing the importance of having Complete Streets – streets that are designed to safely accommodate all road users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers, transit users, and others. Whether you are looking to make safety improvements to an existing roadway or intersection, or are seeking to improve the design of future roadways to be built, it may help to have a better understanding of some common engineering concepts that can lead to more Complete Streets. This section provides you with an overview of various engineering treatments that may be used to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety, accessibility, or comfort in your community. It also describes how you can work to be sure that your community has the plans and policies in place to ensure that pedestrian and bicycle safety is routinely considered, as in a Complete Streets approach.

Improving safety and access

Lack of ability to access destinations safely is usually a top concern and is among the most common reasons that people report for not walking and biking more. Following are some common Complete Streets elements that your community could consider to improve access and safety at intersections or along other parts of the street.

Roundabouts are circular intersections designed to eliminate left turns by requiring traffic to exit to the right of the circle. Roundabouts are typically installed to reduce vehicular speeds, improve safety, help traffic flow, and help create gateway treatments to signify the entrance of a special district. To learn more about this treatment, visit: http://1.usa.gov/13uwn06.
Photo: Roundabout Intersection

Roundabouts are circular intersections designed to eliminate left turns by requiring traffic to exit to the right of the circle. Roundabouts are typically installed to reduce vehicular speeds, improve safety, help traffic flow, and help create gateway treatments to signify the entrance of a special district. To learn more about this treatment, visit: http://1.usa.gov/13uwn06.

You can learn more about all of the above in Resource 5: Engineering Concerns and Treatments to Improve Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety, which describes each treatment and discusses common questions and concerns that your local agency or other residents may have. For even greater detail on each treatment, please see:

Improving access to transit stops (including school bus stops)

Many transit access problems can be addressed by the methods described in the section above. In some cases, the transit agency or school district may need to review and modify their policies related to bus stop locations to ensure that pedestrian and bicycle safety is adequately incorporated into the decision process. In either case, partnerships between community members, road agencies, and transit authorities or school districts are crucial in identifying concerns and working to improve conditions. If you have concerns about the bus stops in your community, contact your local road agency to find out who has jurisdiction over the roadway and pedestrian or bike infrastructure in that area. You could also call the local transit agency or school district and encourage them to work more closely with the responsible road agency to make the needed improvements. School buses are often operated by school districts, individual schools, or contractors providing school bus service. Contact the school to find out who is providing service and who to call.

Improving connectivity and providing access for pedestrians with disabilities

Streets that are not well-connected can limit people's abilities to travel in the most direct path, increase distances to destinations, require larger intersections to move vehicular traffic, increase exposure to vehicles (which increases the risk of being hit), and can discourage walking and bicycling. When a town or developer proposes a new plan or development project, you can attend public hearings, ask questions about street design and connectivity, and provide input that can influence the developer or town officials to improve connectivity for pedestrians and bicyclists. Find out about new proposals by regularly monitoring your community's schedule for public hearings.

For existing communities with poor connectivity, you can request that the town build sidewalks/paths or purchase sidewalk easements – a limited right to use another's land for the purpose of constructing, altering, relocating, extending, maintaining, or using a public sidewalk – between cul-de-sacs to better connect the pedestrian/bicycle network, or work with neighbors to allow and ultimately develop informal paths/trails. Sidewalk easements are often established in contracts between town agencies and private property owners in a cooperative effort to provide space for pedestrians.

Sometimes, even with a connected network of facilities, not all road users can access the facilities. For example, a person in a wheel chair may not be able to access a sidewalk if there is not a well-designed curb ramp. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 requires that all facilities covered by the law be "accessible" to people with all abilities. "Accessible" designs are covered by the U.S. Access Board's ADA Accessibility Guidelines, which can be found at: http://1.usa.gov/1mEU8Ib. A key requirement is that newly constructed public streets must have proper curb ramps, sidewalks, driveways, and tactile warning strips at street crossings. The ADA requires that States and local governments have a plan (often called a transition plan) for upgrading existing facilities that do not meet the minimum requirements detailed by the U.S. Access Board. If you have concerns about accessing a facility, you can ask your local engineer about your community's transition plan and what the schedule is for installing curb ramps or other treatments that may improve access.

For More Information:
For technical assistance regarding the ADA, visit the ADA homepage at http://www.ada.gov.

Maintaining facilities

Engineering facilities, such as sidewalks, bike lanes, bus stops, lighting, and signals, need to be maintained. Neighbors can assist with landscaping maintenance on private property near sidewalks, as well as with snow and debris removal. Neighbors can also help by not parking cars or placing trash cans or other barriers on bike lanes or sidewalks. Some communities have partnered with local businesses to develop an "Adopt a Bus Shelter" program, where businesses assist with maintaining the bus stops and clearing snow along the nearby pedestrian paths. For an example, see Raleigh, North Carolina's program: http://bit.ly/1xWbsgo. The local transportation agency may have (or could establish) a sidewalk maintenance and improvement program. The program could include a periodic inventory of sidewalk conditions and responsibility for maintenance. A similar program may exist or be developed for maintaining bike lanes. Of particular importance is to be sure that sidewalks and bike lanes receive priority attention during snow removal efforts by the town. Contact your local agency to determine if what maintenance programs or policies exist, or where residents can go to request maintenance of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. Some cities have a simple process for residents to make maintenance requests, such as calling a 411 number or logging a problem on a website. Read more about maintenance issues in the Community Success Stories section or in FHWA's A Guide for Maintaining Pedestrian Facilities for Enhanced Safety (http://1.usa.gov/1kaUyqB).

Photo: Snow plow removing snow
Prioritizing sidewalk and bicycle facility snow removal
can increase pedestrian and bicyclist safety during winter months.

Slowing down drivers

Even if adequate facilities are in place, pedestrians and bicyclists may feel uncomfortable traveling along a road with drivers moving at higher speeds (e.g., 30 mph or more). Residents are often particularly concerned about drivers speeding through neighborhood streets where children may be at play. These concerns are valid, as research shows that the higher the driver speed, the less likely his or her ability to stop in time for pedestrians (or bicyclists) and the more severe the injury in the event of a crash. "Traffic calming" is a term used to describe engineering approaches designed to slow drivers down. There may be many different design options, depending on the goal and the context of where they would be applied. Most States have adopted a traffic calming guide, so look for one on your State DOT website. Two great resources to help residents learn about traffic calming options and their role in making changes include:

Prioritizing pedestrians and bicyclists in policies and organizational practices

For lasting improvements to take place, pedestrian and bicycle safety must be a priority within the transportation planning and decision-making process. You can influence your transportation providers and decision-makers by advocating for policy or organizational changes that prioritize pedestrian and bicycle safety. Advocating for change is no small task for one person to do alone; you will be more successful if you work with others and have a strong network of support. Refer to section 2 for ways that you can build partnerships and support for addressing policy issues.
Here are some policy-related items that you can ask for or work with your transportation staff and community leaders to implement:

Screenshot: Cover of National Complete Streets Coalition and Smart Growth America
Policy guidance and model policies are available
from the National Complete Streets Coalition
and Smart Growth America (http://bit.ly/1kS7Zv9).

Visit ChangeLab Solutions' Pedestrian Friendly Code directory (http://bit.ly/1p666yz) to learn how zoning and subdivision codes can create streets and neighborhoods that are safe, comfortable, and convenient for all road users. The group also offers a guide, Getting the Wheels Rolling: A Guide to Using Policy to Create Bicycle Friendly Communities, that provides information on policies that can support biking (http://bit.ly/1duIVCN). Additionally, visit their Safe Routes to School Policy Workbook (http://bit.ly/1vwjfmC) to learn more about school-based policy options.

For More Information:
To learn about the fundamentals of Complete Streets, how to change policies, and how to implement model Complete Streets policies, visit: http://bit.ly/1qj3SZc.

Other ways in which you can support bicycling and walking infrastructure improvements include:

Join or speak with your local pedestrian (and/or bicyclist) advisory board – Most medium to large communities will have such a board or committee. Members of community boards/committees can help you find out what opportunities exist to make improvements, serve as liaisons to local planning and engineering officials, and partner with you on advocacy efforts. As a member of such a board, you may be able to review local plans, weigh in on projects before they are developed, and help ensure that any new developments meet the vision and conform to the standards or regulations set by your community. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) guide, How to Develop a Pedestrian Safety Action Plan (http://bit.ly/1ujzbCp; see Appendix A on page 141) has information on the benefits and responsibilities of these boards and guidance on how to create and run an effective one.

Hold events – Events (such as community walks or bike rides, neighborhood walk audits, health days or fairs) bring attention to bicycling and walking. In many cases, the event also raises funds that can be used for advocacy efforts or education campaigns. You can partner with national organizations or create your own event. One type of event in particular, often called a Better Blocks project, may be especially useful in highlighting the importance of engineering changes. In Better Blocks projects, the community temporarily installs engineering treatments (and other community improvements) to demonstrate a design solution, engage residents and decision-makers, and provide feedback on the approach. The demonstration often leads the city to adopt the improvement permanently or make other changes to improve conditions for walking, biking, and general neighborhood livability. To learn more about staging a Better Blocks program, visit: http://bit.ly/1r57GfJ. Also, read about how communities such as Philadelphia, PA and others have held Better Blocks projects in the Community Success Stories section.

Photo: People attending a Better Blocks Project event
Better Blocks project in St. Louis, Missouri.

Education

Education and public awareness strategies can be used to:

Education and public awareness initiatives must be sustained, concentrated efforts that target a specific community problem. A short or one-time effort will probably not have lasting results. To be more effective, education efforts should be combined with engineering changes as well as law enforcement.

Educating people in the neighborhood

Education begins at home – start by learning how you can be a safer pedestrian, bicyclist, and driver, and how you can better enable your children, family, and friends to be safe on the road. To expand education and public awareness efforts to the broader community, here are some activities to improve pedestrian safety that you can join or start:

Yard sign campaigns – Slow down yard sign campaigns (such as Keep Kids Alive Drive 25®) allow residents with concerns about speeding in their community to help remind drivers to slow down and stop for pedestrians. Neighborhood leaders, safety advocates, and law enforcement officials work in partnership to identify problem areas, recruit residents to post yard signs, organize distribution of yard signs, garner media attention, and evaluate the effectiveness of the campaign.

Pace car campaigns – Neighborhood pace car programs aim to make neighborhoods safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers. Resident pace car drivers agree to drive courteously, at or below the speed limit, and follow other traffic laws. Programs usually require interested residents to register as a pace car driver, sign a pledge to abide by the rules, and display a sticker on their vehicle.

Other campaigns – There are many other examples of community-initiated programs aimed at encouraging property owners to be part of the solution to create a safer, more pleasant environment for pedestrians and bicyclists. These range from efforts to get neighbors to clear their sidewalks of snow or turn on stoop lights to make walkways more visible at night. To learn about such efforts, read the Community Success Stories.

For any type of neighborhood educational campaign you decide to lead or participate in, be sure to contact and work with established organizations mentioned in Section 2, such as AARP or a bicycle advocacy group, which may already have a strong network with the community. Also try to plug into local media and coordinate your effort with other law enforcement programs or community events taking place.

For More Information:
See Resource 8: Tips for Traffic Safety, which you can share with family members and neighbors.

Poster: Keep Kids Safe
Locally tailored campaign messages can be used
on bumper stickers, bus ads, and yard signs.

For More Information:
Visit http://bit.ly/1F8UYTv for tips on implementing an education program. FHWA's Planning a Pedestrian Safety Campaign website (http://1.usa.gov/13gucNA) contains downloadable posters, brochures, public service announcements, press releases, and other materials for English and Spanish-speaking audiences.

Educating children

There are major differences in the abilities, behavioral patterns, and learning capacities of different road users at different ages. Efforts to educate children need to take into account these differences. For example, children under the age of 10 may not be able to adequately judge the speed of traffic to know when it is safe to cross, even when they have looked both ways for oncoming cars, so it may be more important to teach them to stop at the corner and wait to cross with a parent or guardian. Children also benefit from having supervised, structured skills practice in a safe area, particularly when learning to ride a bike.

If you are interested in teaching children more about safe walking and bicycling, consider the Pedestrian Safer Journey (http://bit.ly/1hLyEZq) and Bicycle Safer Journey (http://bit.ly/1nIexxN) web-based resources. Each one provides tips and resources for parents and educators on teaching pedestrian and bicycle safety to children of different age groups, including ages 5-9, 10-14, and 15-18. Also, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has several resources, including the Think Safe, Ride Safe, Be Safe Traffic Safety Campaign (http://1.usa.gov/1uO1vlo), which has information for parents and educators, pledges, activity books, and materials for children of various ages.

For developing education programs within your schools, consider contacting the superintendent of public instruction, the State or school PTA president or other parents and PTA members, the school nurse, the governor's traffic safety representative, or the district superintendent. Other venues, such as parks and recreation programs, after-school programs, and churches may also provide opportunities for both pedestrian and bicycle safety education. Some questions to ask school and after-school officials include:

  1. Is pedestrian and bicycle education a routine part of health and safety learning objectives for children in schools?
  2. If not, what steps can be taken to ensure that schools implement school-based training on a continuing basis?
  3. Does the school have a Safe Routes to School program, and if not, can we create one?
  4. What resources can parents and the communit

For More Information:
Visit the National Center for Safe Routes to School website (http://www.saferoutesinfo.org/) for more information about educating children, parents, and teachers about pedestrian issues and starting a Safe Routes to School program in your area.y provide to assist schools in providing education or training regarding safe walking and biking?

Enforcement

Pedestrian and bicycle safety laws

An important first step in enforcement is to find out your State's laws related to pedestrian and bicycle safety and where they apply (e.g., city, county, or specific roadway).

All States have a website where they post their laws pertaining to pedestrians and bicyclists. NHTSA produced a compilation of State pedestrian and bicycle laws, available at http://1.usa.gov/1r5891A. It is a good place to start, but you may need to see if your State has passed any more recent laws since the NHTSA document was created. You can also contact your State's DOT or read your State's Motor Vehicle Code for a list of statewide statutes.

For More Information:
Many State DOTs have a bureau or division of bicycle and pedestrian transportation website that lists all of the pedestrian-related laws for the State. For some examples, visit:

 

RESOURCE 9

Enforcement Contact Worksheet can be used to help guide your discussion when contacting your local law enforcement agency.

Strategies for local law enforcement

There are a number of strategies that your local law enforcement agency can undertake to enforce laws that will improve pedestrian and/or bicyclist safety. You should discuss these with law enforcement professionals to see which are feasible in your community:

Targeted pedestrian safety enforcement operations – These are well-prepared and coordinated operations designed to warn motorists that the yield-to-pedestrian laws will be enforced at targeted locations, usually marked crosswalks where people need to be able to cross the street safely but drivers are not complying with yielding or stop laws.

Photo: Crossing guard assisting children in the cosswalk
Law enforcement officers can help ensure that pedestrians,
bicyclists, and motorists abide by traffic laws.

Photo enforcement – In States where automated photo speed enforcement is permissible, it can be used to concentrate speed enforcement in specific areas with high volumes of pedestrian crossings or bicycle traffic, such as near school zones.

Radar speed trailers and active speed monitors – Radar speed trailers and/or active speed monitors can both alert drivers to their actual speed. Visible law enforcement presence enhances the effectiveness of radar speed trailers, which may not work on their own in all areas, such as rural locations.

Photo: Speed trailer monitoring traffic speed
Radar speed trailers can supplement motor
officer enforcement of safe speeds.

High visibility enforcement – Local agencies can help to improve driver, bicyclist, and pedestrian safety by publicizing enforcement efforts and conducting the enforcement where people will see it. Local news outlets often carry stories on these types of efforts. Highly publicized enforcement (of even low-level enforcement) targeted towards a specific behavior is likely to be most effective.

Progressive ticketing – Progressive ticketing is a method for introducing ticketing through a three-stage process, to first educate, then warn, then ticket offenders. Issuing warnings allows police to contact up to 20 times as many noncompliant motorists, pedestrians, or bicyclists than the writing of citations does. In addition, the high frequency of stops ensures not only that many people directly make contact with law enforcement, but also that many others witness these stops and are prompted to obey the rules.

Double fines in school zones and other special interest areas – Strict enforcement of speed laws in school zones and other special interest districts or areas is one law enforcement tool that can improve safety for pedestrians as well as motorists and bicyclists. A zero-tolerance policy for speeders in these zones and an increase in fines for drivers who violate the posted speed limit are potential approaches.

RESOURCE 10

Sample "Warning" Letter to Drivers can be distributed by law enforcement officers as part of an Feducation or enforcement campaign.

Strategies for community members

You and other community members can also help improve driver, pedestrian, and bicyclist behaviors to improve safety in several ways.

Neighborhood speed watch – Radar speed units are loaned to residents who are trained by police to collect speed data and vehicle descriptions. The local agency follows up and sends the vehicle owners a letter asking for voluntary compliance. This measure can educate neighbors about the issue (e.g., speeders often live in the neighborhood) and help boost support for long-term solutions, such as traffic calming.

Adult school crossing guards – Adult crossing guards can play a key role in promoting safe driver, pedestrian, and bicyclist behavior at crosswalks near schools. Adult school crossing guards can be parent volunteers, school staff, or paid personnel. Annual classroom and field training, as well as special uniforms or equipment to increase visibility, are recommended (and in some locations required).

Traffic complaint hotline – If an agency has a central hotline phone number (such as 411) or website to receive traffic complaints, you can log your concern and share the hotline with others in your residents to do the same. Each agency should have a transparent process for how they use community feedback to target their enforcement responses.

Neighbor outreach and education – See the Education section above for ideas on how residents can serve as model citizens and also reach out to neighbors in campaigns to reduce driver speeds and improve safety behaviors of all road users.

Encouragement

When it comes to walking and biking, there may be safety in numbers. When walking and bicycling is commonplace in a community, drivers become accustomed to sharing the roadways with others and to anticipating pedestrians and bicyclists. By encouraging more walking and bicycling where it is safe to do so, you can gather support to make additional improvements as well as foster a safer and close-knit community. There are many different types of events that can help you encourage and celebrate the joys of walking and bicycling. These events can also be used to highlight the benefits of walking and bicycling, connect people to pedestrian and bicycle resources in the community, and showcase community support for changes that could improve conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists. Some ideas for events that you could organize or participate in include:

Car Free Day – Car Free Day is an international event, typically celebrated on September 22, in which people are encouraged to try walking, biking, carpooling, or using transit instead of driving. In some large cities, such as Washington DC, the day is celebrated with events, promotions, and other festivities. Learn more at: http://www.carfreeday.info/.

Bike to Work Day or Week – May is National Bike Month, and a good time for employees and community groups to put on a Bike to Work event. For planning resources, visit: http://bikeleague.org/bikemonth.

Walk/Bike to School Days – International Walk to School Day is held the first Wednesday of October each year. National Bike to School Day is held in early May each year. Many communities hold regular Walk/Bike to School days throughout the year. These are often part of a bigger Safe Routes to School program. To learn more or to register a local event in order to receive valuable resources, go to: http://www.walkbiketoschool.org/.

Photo: Children walking to school on Walk to School Day
Walk to School Day events can help encourage
children and others to walk more often.

Park(ing) Days – Held the third Friday in September, Park(ing) Day is an annual, international event where community members come together to transform parking spaces into temporary public parks. For more, visit: http://parkingday.org/.

Open Streets – Open Streets, sometimes called Sunday Parkways or Cyclovias, are typically city-organized events where streets are temporarily closed to cars to enable and encourage walking and bicycling-related festivities. Los Angeles's CycLAvia, Portland's Sunday Parkways, and New York City's Summer Streets programs are among the most renowned in the U.S. for bringing out hundreds of thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages to celebrate and socialize. Learn more at http://openstreetsproject.org/.

Group Bike Rides – There are thousands of cycling clubs, bike shops, and bicycle advocacy organizations that host community bike rides for groups of different ages and skill levels. These can be used as opportunities to socialize and enjoy bicycling, to showcase local cycling conditions (both good and bad), and to raise the profile of cycling in the community. Find a local bike ride at: http://bikeleague.org/.

Photo: Group of bike riders, riding to work on Bike to Work Day
Bike to Work Day group ride held in Fort Worth, Texas.

Historic Walking/Biking Tours – Many communities large and small utilize walking or biking tours to connect residents and visitors to local historic sites and resources. You can join a tour, volunteer to be a group leader, or help develop a historic walking route or map. Think about partnering with your community's tourism bureau, historic preservation committee, or chamber of commerce.

Fun Runs or Community Fitness Challenges – Fitness challenge events often involve logging individuals' or teams' miles walked or biked to see who has traveled the furthest in a set amount of time. The National Bike Challenge is a great example: https://nationalbikechallenge.org/. Many communities also host local fitness walks, 5K runs, or bike rides, which can be used to raise money to support a local cause or pedestrian and bicycle advocacy effort.

RESOURCE 11

Tips for Event Planning provides helpful information for planning walking and bicycling-related events.

 

RESOURCE 12

Tips for Fundraising has several ideas for how to raise money to support events and other efforts.

 

< Previous Table of Content Next >

 

Page last modified on January 31, 2013.
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