U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
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This section describes the major findings from the interviews. The findings are divided into three categories: Program outcomes, Program delivery, and Program evaluation.
Based on the five locations in the study sample, the Focused Approach to Pedestrian Safety Program has achieved many of its short-and long-term goals. Following are some highlights of the results reported by interviewees.
The “focus location” designation raised the awareness and visibility of pedestrian safety in the locations studied. It helped stimulate dialogue on pedestrian safety that probably would not have otherwise occurred. The most striking example of this was in Chicago. Staff from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) were surprised to learn that the city of Chicago had the third-highest number of pedestrian fatalities in the country. Until then, their regular safety data analyses did not include pedestrian safety.
Before considering actions to improve pedestrian safety, CMAP wanted to understand the nature of the problems such as high-injury locations and typical crash causes. Without this information, choosing the best pedestrian safety measures would be difficult—educated guesses at best. CMAP took advantage of the technical assistance offered by the Focused Approach to Pedestrian Safety Program for help conducting the extensive data analysis necessary to allow for sound judgments about pedestrian safety improvements. The results of the data analysis were used to decide how to best approach pedestrian safety problems. For example, the mayor of Chicago commissioned the Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council to provide guidance on pedestrian issues in the city.
The Program also gave pedestrian safety issues legitimacy as an important component of overall transportation safety. For example, many interviewees commented that engineers, in particular, who participated in the training left with a new awareness and sense of responsibility for pedestrian safety. In New York, interviewees said that, because of the Program activities, traffic planners have elevated the importance of pedestrian safety so that it is no longer secondary to traffic flow. Other interviewees noted that, because the training was sponsored by the Federal government, it gave the topic more legitimacy than locally generated training would. This has helped build support for “mainstreaming” pedestrian safety considerations so that they are part of the normal transportation project development process rather than being considered a special task and often included as an afterthought.
FHWA’s involvement in the Focused Approach to Pedestrian Safety Program, combined with out-of-state course instructors, gave the topic a gravitas and credibility that locally produced awareness and training initiatives had not. Interviewees reported that the focus location designation conveyed the severity of the problem to others and frequently drew additional state and local funding for pedestrian safety initiatives. For instance, interviewees in Michigan stated that they did not use any of their targeted safety funding to address pedestrian safety until after participation in the Program.
The Program also generated momentum for improving pedestrian safety. For example, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), which has had four employees dedicated solely to pedestrian and bike safety since the late 1990s, took advantage of the Program’s activities to begin to focus and expand its pedestrian safety work. They used the focus state designation to “take all the training they could get.” Similarly, Chicago interviewees said that the focus city designation helped draw resources to pedestrian safety tasks. One interviewee noted “enforcement people didn’t realize what they could do or that they could advocate for improvements in pedestrian safety.” Including personnel from a variety of organizations in the courses also helped spread the momentum generated by the courses to non-transportation agencies Interviewees from New York said that the high number of course offerings, and subsequently course attendees, helped create a critical mass of city employees across several disciplines—planning, operations, law enforcement, design, and construction— that has helped shift priorities toward greater concern for pedestrian issues.
The Focused Approach to Pedestrian Safety courses, technical assistance, conference calls, and web conferences helped participants better understand and appreciate pedestrian safety issues. Some interviewees said that the training made them more aware of the importance of pedestrian safety. For course attendees who were already familiar with pedestrian safety issues, the courses reinvigorated their interest in pedestrian safety. As one interviewee said, “The training gave deeper knowledge and more confidence to implement changes. A lot of what is currently being implemented is due to attitude changes as a result of the training.”
The training was particularly valuable in reinforcing the importance of pedestrian safety among engineers, who tended to have less exposure to pedestrian issues than planners. For example, some interviewees said that engineers were often not aware that many pedestrian countermeasures are relatively inexpensive. As one interviewee remarked, “Some engineers came in confident that they knew enough about pedestrian safety but came out with their eyes opened a little.”
The Program helped draw resources to pedestrian issues by improving the ability of local transportation professionals to communicate effectively the importance of pedestrian safety. The courses and conference calls, for example, provided presentations and real life examples of “before and after” cases that participants found helpful when advocating for pedestrian safety improvements in their jurisdictions. One interviewee noted, “The Program really provided support for things the staff knew about, but the public is unfamiliar with.”
Some interviewees commented that the Program increased participants’ confidence in proposing and defending pedestrian safety initiatives. One interviewee from a rural county reported that the county was reluctant to take risks on unfamiliar pedestrian safety countermeasures because of the possibility of failure. However, when the Federal government promoted these countermeasures and provided guidelines for their implementation, the county became sufficiently confident in the practices to introduce them to local communities. Another interviewee said the courses gave staff increased confidence that allowed them to be more aggressive and confident about implementing pedestrian safety countermeasures.
Interviewees stated that the courses expanded their knowledge of techniques for assessing pedestrian safety problems and developing strategies and countermeasures to address these issues. One interviewee said that the courses helped engineers understand how to implement pedestrian access accommodations and crash reduction strategies. Another interviewee noted that he saw a real shift in the state ’s approach to pedestrian safety. After participation in the training, DOT staff began to consider a much broader array of options for addressing pedestrian safety. Another interviewee echoed that sentiment, noting that the courses gave the team working on the pedestrian/bicycle focus area of the State Strategic Highway Safety Plan an increased understanding of pedestrian issues and a broader set of solutions for addressing them.
Participants said that the most valuable parts of the courses were the visual examples and the field exercises involving analysis of pedestrian safety problems at a real-world location, especially locations already targeted for pedestrian safety improvements. For example, the field exercises for the courses offered in Atlanta studied a location that the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) had already slated for various improvements, including some to address current pedestrian safety problems. The project will include some of the suggestions generated by class participants. The consultant working on the project reported that, “GDOT has always been open to new ideas on pedestrian safety, but there was a real shift with this project. The scope of work was more specific and complete—not the typical generic version.”
After participating in the Program, GDOT engineers are looking at options that they might not have considered without the Focused Approach to Pedestrian Safety courses. In the past, the engineers were concerned about the potential effect of pedestrian improvements on traffic flow in the location. The course made them realize that “the impact [of pedestrian safety improvements] is not so significant for vehicles, and the proposed improvements for pedestrian safety were more important.”
The Program provided a forum for a cross-section of professionals to share ideas and concerns about pedestrian safety. In each focus location, a diverse set of professionals participated in the Program’s learning opportunities, including people from inside and outside the transportation planning and operations community. In addition to transportation engineers and planners, attendees included law enforcement personnel, public health professionals, and public officials from a variety of state and local government agencies. Some locations also included advocacy groups and consultants. This mix played an important role in initiating or strengthening conversations between transportation professionals and their counterparts in other disciplines. In addition, the attendees’ diversity encouraged an interdisciplinary approach to pedestrian safety and promoted the development of partnerships to implement solutions.
In Chicago, attendees took advantage of the opportunity provided by the pedestrian safety courses to expand their network of colleagues and create a diverse “community of practice.” In Michigan, interviewees said that including attendees from professions not directly related to transportation increased awareness and understanding of the connection between planning, engineering, operations, and public health and safety.
Interviewees provided many examples of changes in pedestrian policies, procedures, and business processes that they believed came out of knowledge and skills included in Program activities. While some of these changes were in process before the Program, interviewees reported that the Program gave them more momentum.
Following are a few of examples of these changes:
In Chicago, CMAP and the Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council developed recommendations for changes to the Procedures Manual produced by the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) Bureau of Design and Environment. IDOT is currently evaluating these recommendations.
The City of Chicago pedestrian safety staff is working with the city’s police department to improve the consistency and comprehensiveness of data collected at crash scenes.
FHWA’s Michigan Division Office has used information from the Focused Approach to Pedestrian Safety training and another course on road safety audits to implement the state’s first road safety audit focusing on pedestrians. Traffic and safety specialists from throughout the state have volunteered their time to conduct this audit. Managers at the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) are exploring ways to conduct additional audits.
Caltrans decided to promote the development of pedestrian safety action plans by local governments throughout the state. To help local governments in this task, Caltrans is working with the FHWA Resource Center to develop templates for typical pedestrian safety action plans that local governments can use as a basis for their plan.
The City of Detroit—a one-time focus city—now considers pedestrian safety in all transportation improvement projects, including signal modifications.
Policy makers in some local governments in Michigan were reluctant to introduce new pedestrian safety countermeasures out of concern that they would be unsafe and open their jurisdiction up to liability lawsuits. To address this, MDOT and the state Attorney General’s Office prepared a presentation on legal liability for the countermeasures that most concerned local governments. This presentation helped ease local governments’ concerns. MDOT has presented this material to a number of groups, including a statewide conference on community health.
Georgia’s PSAP recommends changes to policies and practices such as updating the driver’s manual to include pedestrian safety issues; developing a plan to identify educational programs for pedestrian safety; promoting pedestrian safety with messages on buses; and encouraging or funding police efforts to increase speed enforcement in areas with high pedestrian volumes. While GDOT does not have the authority to implement all of these recommendations, it is strongly encouraging jurisdictions to adopt them.
Below are some examples of institutional structures that were created or strengthened as a result of the Program:
The City of Chicago formed the Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council to improve pedestrian safety and promote policies and practices to enhance the overall pedestrian environment. The council is multi-disciplinary, including members from public health, advocacy organizations, and business organizations. The chair of the council is a pediatrician who specializes in traumatic injuries and fatalities in children.
Caltrans, responding to increased interest in pedestrian safety generated by the Focused Approach to Pedestrian Safety Program, worked with a pedestrian advocacy group to sponsor a conference—the Pedestrian Safety and Advocacy Conference—held on September 19-20, 2008. This conference encourages and strengthened collaboration among those responsible for pedestrian safety programs and policies. There were attendees from a variety of professions involved in pedestrian safety, such as law enforcement, advocacy groups, local governments, and Caltrans staff.
In Michigan, each focus area on the state’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan had an “action team” assigned to develop strategies on reducing fatalities. The Program helped strengthen the pedestrian and bicycle action team by giving it important tools and techniques for addressing pedestrian safety. It also helped team members feel more confident about their contributions and improved cooperation among the different professions represented on the action team.
Several of the focus locations have instituted new or improved procedures for collecting and analyzing pedestrian crash data. In addition, some locations have developed or are developing Pedestrian Safety Action Plans informed by content from the training and technical assistance provided by the Focused Approach to Pedestrian Safety Program. Other areas have incorporated more pedestrian-safety-related projects in their Strategic Highway Safety Plans, Unified Planning Work Programs, and regional transportation plans. For example:
CMAP in Chicago used the course content on pedestrian safety countermeasures to develop pedestrian safety-related projects and recommendations that have been incorporated in its 2030 Regional Transportation Plan. A Los Angeles suburb is incorporating elements of the pedestrian safety training into the land use and circulation element of its long-range land use and zoning plans.
Course participants from the Capital District Transportation Committee, the MPO for the Albany-Schenectady-Troy metropolitan area, reported that they used lessons from the courses to introduce safer, pedestrian-friendly design concepts into local planning studies.
In Georgia, the Atlanta Regional Commission included recommendations coming out of the training in its 2007 Atlanta Region Bicycle Transportation and Pedestrian Walkways Plan. In addition, the Atlanta Regional Commission plans to update the Transportation Improvement Program blueprint to include pedestrian and bicycle considerations, using a formula for project prioritization from their Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.
Interviewees in every focus location gave examples of pedestrian improvements that have been implemented as a result of the Focused Approach to Pedestrian Safety Program. Improvements ranged from modest, small scale, inexpensive countermeasures up to major infrastructure changes. Small-scale changes include zebra striping on crosswalks, high-visibility signage, and in-pavement crosswalk lighting. Interviewees also mentioned countermeasures that require a bit more resources to implement but do not fundamentally change traffic patterns in the area. These include countermeasures such as pedestrian countdown signals; new mid-block crosswalks; and, at intersections of a high-volume arterial and very low-volume collector, traffic signals for which the arterial signal is “dark” unless a pedestrian presses a button to trigger the traffic signal to change to red on the arterial and allow the pedestrian to cross. Other countermeasures have fundamentally changed traffic patterns in an effort to improve pedestrian safety. These include installing pedestrian refuge islands, speed humps, and narrowing the roadway to encourage drivers to reduce their speed.
As one interviewee commented, some of these advances in pedestrian safety might have happened without the Program presence, but they definitely would have taken longer. “The Program channeled everyone’s interest and helped them to clearly focus on what could be done.”
Each focus location implemented courses slightly differently, depending on its individual needs and circumstances:
Inviting course attendees
New York chose to limit attendees to public sector employees. This was to strengthen pedestrian safety knowledge in the organizations that plan, construct, and operate transportation facilities. The majority of the courses were held at the Lower Manhattan office of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC), the city’s MPO. Invitations were initially sent to transportation agencies in the New York metropolitan area, including Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties. Because of the overwhelming demand for courses, the course coordinator extended invitations to participants from upstate New York and in Orange and Albany Counties. In addition, New York offered a web-based version of the course to expand the opportunity to participate.
Chicago chose to invite people from different occupations, levels of government, and type of affiliation (such as public sector transportation agency, consulting firm, or advocacy group). Invitations were sent out using a large email list maintained by CMAP. Course attendees were chosen on a first–come, first-served basis.
California notified managers from county and city departments of transportation or public works and let them choose the most appropriate attendees from their organization. Staff from advocacy organizations were also invited.
GDOT, which offered the “Developing a Pedestrian Safety Action Plan” course first, invited people from a variety of professions using a contact list of professionals involved in pedestrian safety. Attendees were chosen on a first-come, first-served basis. For the Designing for Pedestrian Safety course, the Atlanta Regional Council (ARC) worked with GDOT to target individuals who they thought would have the biggest impact on pedestrian safety: GDOT design engineers, local government representatives, consultants, and school district officials
Prior to being designated a focus state, Michigan’s Governor’s Traffic Safety Advisory Commission (GTSAC) had already begun the process of developing a Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Action Plan as part of the state’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan. The GTSAC created a network of professionals that MDOT was able to take advantage of when promoting the courses. GTSAC membership included a diverse set of professionals from local governments, health organizations, MPOs, consulting firms, and the Michigan State Police.
The order and selection of courses
Georgia chose to offer the PSAP course first. The state was in the process of developing a strategic highway safety plan that included a pedestrian focus area. GDOT felt that the PSAP course would be helpful in developing the pedestrian component of the strategic highway safety plan.
Michigan chose to offer the design course first. After assessing the status of pedestrian safety initiatives in the state, MDOT felt that practical pedestrian safety countermeasures would be more useful given that many locations were in the process of planning or implementing pedestrian safety improvements.
Chicago chose to delay offering any of the courses for a year while it completed their pedestrian safety data analysis. They wanted to be sure that they knew the nature of the region’s pedestrian safety problems before delving into solutions.
California focused on the PSAP course since Caltrans had begun a major initiative to help county and city governments to develop PSAPS.
New York focused on the design course in response to local needs.
Whether they took advantage of the technical assistance component of the Program.
Only Georgia and Chicago requested technical assistance from the Focused Approach to Pedestrian Safety Program. Georgia received assistance in developing a state PSAP; Chicago received assistance for its data analysis. California received technical assistance but not through the Program. Caltrans has been working closely with staff from the FHWA Resource Center to develop a template for PSAPs that county and city governments can use when developing their own PSAPs. They are also working collaboratively to develop a short on-line version of the courses. Neither Michigan nor New York requested technical assistance.
Interviewees were overwhelmingly positive about the courses. Some of the many reasons interviewees found the courses valuable and relevant to their jobs were that they:
Raised awareness of pedestrian safety problems in their area;
Generated enthusiasm for improving pedestrian safety;
Expanded their knowledge of countermeasures;
Provided a forum for a cross-section of professionals to share ideas and concerns; and
Provided practical instruction on pedestrian safety design and planning techniques.
Interviewees’ most frequent comment was that the demand for the courses was far greater than the number of participants they could accommodate. As one interviewee stated, “My only recommendation for improvement is to offer more courses.”
Some of the focus locations instituted follow-up training initiatives to expand the Program’s reach:
To meet the demand for more pedestrian safety courses, Chicago, New York City, and California arranged to have staff from the FHWA Resource Center deliver the courses after the courses offered by the Focused Approach to Pedestrian Safety courses were complete.
In California, local governments have used the course materials to conduct their own training. This has allowed them to deliver low-cost, high-quality training aimed at meeting local needs.
To expand the reach of the courses, Caltrans is working with the FHWA Resource Center to develop a streamlined on-line version of the courses so that trainees can take the course on demand without leaving their offices.
To lessen the training burden on local governments, California Walks, a statewide pedestrian advocacy group, has used the material from the two-day “Developing a Pedestrian Safety Action Plan” course to develop an abbreviated one-day course offered to local governments.
In Michigan, the FHWA Division Office makes presentations on the proper design for ADA ramp installations and incorporates material from the Focused Approach to Pedestrian Safety course, addressing ADA design and safety at the same time.
Several interviewees said that upper management support was important because it demonstrated the importance of pedestrian safety. In MDOT districts, the courses were introduced by senior management. This promoted buy-in from attendees by showing that MDOT takes pedestrian safety very seriously. In other locations, interviewees said that the lack of obvious support from senior managers made them feel that pedestrian safety was not near the top of their agencies’ priorities.
Interviewees who participated in the conference calls and web conferences were very pleased with them. They appreciated the opportunity to share ideas with colleagues from around the country. They also liked that these events focus on state and local issues. They reported that the calls provided them with useful information on best practices and gave them access to presentations created by conference call attendees that they could use in their own areas. However, every interviewee who had participated in conference calls and web conferences said that these events tended to be overshadowed by more pressing needs. Very few interviewees reported participating in more than a few calls. Several interviewees said that they have not participated consistently because they did not receive information about the date of the telephone and web conferences and the topics to be covered.
Chicago and Georgia both reported that they benefited significantly from the technical assistance they received. Before moving forward with any pedestrian safety initiatives, including the pedestrian safety courses, Chicago wanted to conduct a thorough analysis of pedestrian safety data to understand the nature of the pedestrian safety problems. This data analysis was complicated because, while Chicago had been collecting safety data from several different sources, it had not compiled or analyzed pedestrian data. Chicago took advantage of FHWA technical assistance for help with this task. The data analysis was an important catalyst for prioritizing pedestrian safety initiatives undertaken in the Chicago area.
The state of Georgia requested technical assistance to help develop its statewide PSAP. Interviewees were very pleased with the technical expertise of the consultants hired by FHWA and felt that they helped Georgia create a comprehensive and practical Pedestrian Safety Action Plan. Some interviewees felt that the state PSAP probably would not have been completed without this technical assistance.
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