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Pedestrian Forum – Summer 2005

Safe Pedestrians and a Walkable America
VOL. 31, Summer 2005


The pedestrian safety goal of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is to continually improve highway safety by reducing pedestrian crashes, fatalities and injuries by 10 percent by the year 2008, saving 465 lives. Doing so helps us achieve our overall goal of reducing roadway related fatalities from 1.5 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) to 1 per 100 million VMT by the year 2008. Ensuring safe travel on roadways is the guiding principle throughout the FHWA. Pedestrian fatalities account for about 11 percent of all traffic fatalities and is one of the “Vital Few” focus areas of the FHWA’s Safety Office. Walking is a legitimate mode of transportation. Pedestrian facilities need to be improved in every community in the United States. It is not acceptable that close to 5,000 pedestrians are killed in traffic every year, that people with disabilities cannot travel without encountering barriers, and that a desirable and efficient mode of travel is often made difficult and uncomfortable.

Reality Check

Have you become so accustomed to the newsletter that you no longer read the safety goal statement below the heading on page one? If so, please allow me to refresh your memory. Our goal as safety professionals is to save lives. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released the preliminary report of fatalities on our nation’s roads for 2004. The report shows that pedestrian deaths declined 3.2 percent in 2004 from 4,749 to 4,598. This initial data shows that while progress is being made there are still many more pedestrians dying needlessly. Let’s not lose sight of our goals.

The full preliminary report is available online at:


Update on Pedestrian Safety Focus State Activities

As discussed in the Fall 2004 edition of this newsletter, the FHWA’s Safety Office has an ongoing project to develop a “How to Guide for Developing and Implementing a Pedestrian Safety Plan” which was awarded to University of North Carolina (UNC) Highway Safety Research Center. The purpose of the project is to assist the pedestrian focus states (AZ, CA, FL, GA, HI, IL, MI, NJ, NM, NY, NC, PA, TX) and cities (Los Angeles, Phoenix, Detroit, Chicago, and New York City) in developing and implementing pedestrian safety plans.

UNC is close to completion of the draft “How to Guide,” which should be finalized this summer. In addition, FHWA has been hosting monthly conference calls with those in the focus states and cities who are involved with this activity to discuss items of interest and share information. To date, there are over 100 participants. FHWA and UNC have also established a listserve as a way to keep people talking and informed. UNC has developed a menu of technical assistance options for each of the states and cities to receive customized technical assistance in developing their plans. The on site assistance will likely begin this Fall. We are also working with AASHTO/NCHRP to host a national meeting for the Pedestrian Safety Focus States and Cities, possibly in conjunction with the Association of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Professionals Professional Development Seminar in Chicago, Oct 9-11. For information, contact Tamara Redmon (tamara.redmon@fhwa.dot.gov).

How Well Are We Protecting Our Children?

“Almost one-fourth of the children between 5 and 9 years old killed in traffic crashes in 2003 were pedestrians.”
– NHTSA, Traffic Safety Facts: Pedestrians (2003)

An article published in the March/April 2005 edition of Transportation Research News (TR News) addresses the question “How well are we protecting our children?” The article, entitled “Deaths and Injuries by Transportation Mode” by Ann Dellinger and Laurie Beck, attempts to assess the risk to children going to school in the morning by analyzing Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data, the National Automotive Sampling System’s General Estimates System (GES), and U.S. Census data. The FARS data and census data were used to calculate death rates and the GES data and census data were used to calculate nonfatal injury rates of children. Since neither FARS data nor GES data records trip purpose, weekday morning trips for children ages 5 to 18 were assumed to be home to school trips for the purposes of this analysis. Data were grouped into two periods: 1993 to 1996 and 1999 to 2002. Rates derived for these two periods were then compared. Pedestrian trips to school showed a small decrease in both fatality and injury rates between the two periods. For example, the decrease in injury rate results in only one less injury per 100,000 young pedestrians. Although fatality and injury rates for children may not have decreased significantly, fatality and injury rates for children who rode in passenger vehicles were higher. With greater emphasis on getting more children to walk to school for health and social reasons, it is important to consider the safety of the children.

The entire article is available at the following link:


A related article in the March/April 2005 edition of TR News explores the relationship between school location, adjacent land use, sidewalks, and vehicle emissions. The article, entitled “Neighborhood Schools and Sidewalk Connections: What are the Impacts on Travel Mode Choice and Vehicle Emissions?” by Reid Ewing, Christopher Forinash, and William Schroeer cites that one of the most significant trends that has led to a decline in the number of children that walk to school is the construction of large schools in remote locations.

This in turn has led to a rise in child obesity. Another finding was that students who live closer to schools they attend and are connected to the neighborhood with sidewalks, termed neighborhood schools, are more likely to walk or bike to school. The report also found that vehicle emissions are significantly reduced at such schools, thus, providing a better environment.

This article is available at the following link:


NHTSA Discretionary Cooperative Agreement Program To Promote Pedestrian Safety Programs for Older Adults

The safety of older pedestrians has been an issue for years. The most recent data available on pedestrian fatalities (2003) shows that the death rate for this group was higher than any other group. The seriousness of this issued is exacerbated by the fact that older persons are the fastest growing segments of the population. To address this issue, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is funding four cooperative agreements to promote pedestrian safety programs for seniors. The goal is to identify model senior pedestrian safety programs that can be promoted and replicated nationwide.

Applications for this program must be submitted to the NHTSA no later than 3:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time on July 26, 2005. The full announcement can be viewed at the following link:


For more information, contact Essie Wagner at Esther.Wagner@nhtsa.dot.gov or Diane Wigle at Diane.Wigle@nhtsa.dot.gov.

Pedestrian Flags: Enduring Safety Solution or Fad?

If you look around the country you may find more and more pedestrians crossing busy streets and waving orange flags. The purpose is to alert drivers of pedestrians using unsignalized crosswalks. At first their efficacy may seem dubious. However, an increasing number of cities throughout the country are deploying this pedestrian safety treatment.

The City of Kirkland, Washington was on the vanguard of this more recent effort to enhance pedestrian safety. Since its inception there in 1996, the pedestrian flag program has really taken off. Pedestrian flags can be found at over 50 locations throughout the city. Other cities, such as Salt Lake City, have followed their lead. Their pedestrian flag program started with flags at five mid-block locations about four years ago and has since expanded to over 150 locations. Pedestrian flags can be found in cities in at least 10 other states and many more are considering their use.

One of the major advantages of pedestrian flags is that they are inexpensive to deploy. The total cost of the hardware required for a pedestrian flag unit at a crossing is typically less than $150. Even the flags themselves, which have been know to “disappear” in certain areas, are cheap to replace with a cost of about $1.50 each. The low cost has helped fuel their rapid increase in popularity.

Pedestrian Flag Instuction sign

Instructions at a Pedestrian Flag Installation in
Kirkland, WA (Photo courtesy of the City of Kirkland)

Recently an article appeared in the Washington Post about pedestrian flags, most of which described a recent emplacement in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The article can be found at the following link:


Technical discussions about pedestrian flags can be found on the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) discussion area on-line.


The final verdict on pedestrian flags is not out yet; however, don’t be surprised if you find them in your neighborhood soon.

What's New


Rails-with-Trails: Lessons Learned

Rails with Trails: Lessons Learned coverAlta Planning and Design and the U.S. Department of Transportation have released a report that examines safety, design, and liability issues associated with the development of “rails-with-trails” (RWTs). An RWT is any shared use path or other trail within or adjacent to working railroad or transit rights-of-way. Currently there are about 65 RWTs throughout the US that cover about 239 miles (385 km).

This report provides conclusions and offers recommendations about the lessons learned in the development, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of “rails-with-trails.” It is intended to be used by railroad companies, trail developers, trail organizations, and others that can benefit from the experience of trails in existence today. Case studies provide successful examples of RWT projects throughout the US.

The report is available for download at:


Hard copies of the report are available through Christopher Douwes at the Federal Highway Administration, 202-366-5013, or christopher.douwes@fhwa.dot.gov.

Operational and Safety Guidelines for Roadway Facilities Around Schools

This study, conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute for the Texas Department of Transportation, although not geared exclusively toward pedestrians, does present some useful findings about the safety of pedestrians around schools. Based on these findings, examples of good designs and recommended practices for pedestrian-related facilities around schools (e.g., pedestrian access) were developed and presented in the report.

The following links are to the summary report and full report, respectively:



Legal Matters

Oregon Addresses Conflicting Issues of Pedestrian Safety and Congestion Reduction at Intersections
(from The Urban Transportation Monitor, May 13, 2005)

In an attempt to strike a balance between pedestrian safety and congestion mitigation, the Oregon State Legislature will vote on a bill that will allow turning vehicles to proceed when there is a pedestrian present in the crosswalk as long as there is a minimum of six feet between the pedestrian and the lane occupied by the turning vehicle. This measure applies only to signalized intersections. Similar laws have been adopted in other states, while some states require turning vehicles to stop if a pedestrian is present anywhere in the crosswalk.

Meetings and Events

The most recent meeting of the State DOT Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinators was held at the Volpe Center in Cambridge Massachusetts on July 13 and 14. The following link lists all coordinators:


Tamara Redmon, tamara.redmon@fhwa.dot.gov
Dan Nabors, BMI-SG, dan.nabors@fhwa.dot.gov
400 Seventh Street, SW, Room 3407, Washington, DC 20590

Page last modified on January 31, 2013
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