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FHWA Home / Safety / Pedestrian & Bicycle / Pedestrian Safety Strategic Plan

Pedestrian Safety Strategic Plan: Background Report

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To develop the knowledge base for the Strategic Plan, the project team conducted an extensive literature review to identify key findings and gaps in pedestrian safety research. The literature review included comprehensive studies, broad-based syntheses, pedestrian design technical references, and meta-analyses of the pedestrian safety research literature for the years 2000-2008. It also included national and international articles published within the last five years from sources such as Transportation Research Records, Accident Analysis and Prevention, and other transportation research journals. Sources for citations include Transportation Research Information Services (TRIS), ScienceDirect, and the ISI Web of Science, as well as a series of targeted Internet searches. The review included an examination of nearly 200 articles organized into four major topic areas: 1) problem identification and assessment, 2) analysis and decision making tools, 3) development and evaluation of countermeasures, and 4) product delivery and technology transfer. Section 3 is further divided into the following subsections to properly categorize the countermeasures: Research Compendiums, Intersections, Midblock Crossings, Transit and Multimodal, Speed Management, Traffic Calming, Roadway Design, Visibility and Nighttime Issues, Education, Enforcement, Pedestrians With Disabilities, and Other.

This review does not attempt to cite all of the pedestrian research literature published during the period, but it does emphasize the major safety-related studies published in recent years. Only limited citations are given to the extensive literature of conference papers, especially those presented at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) conferences held during the period of coverage. Foreign pedestrian research literature was selectively considered. These international sources have been mostly incorporated into the aforementioned sections depending on the topic.

See Appendix VI for the complete literature review of publications and guides from the U.S. and abroad. See the “Key Findings from Literature Review” in the Discussion section below for major trends that came from the literature review.

The literature review also synthesized existing research agendas from various federal organizations with an interest in pedestrian safety. The project team examined the mission statement, goals, and specific objectives of each organization (FHWA Turner Fairbank and Office of Safety, NHTSA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), TRB Pedestrian Committee) to better understand agency priorities, jurisdiction, scope, and previous efforts at identifying pedestrian safety needs.

Finally, the literature review included a summary and brief evaluation of the existing data sources available for conducting pedestrian safety research and the limitations and needs for future research. The review of existing data sources is summarized in the Findings and Discussion section.

Previous FHWA Initiatives

The Federal Highway Administration’s previous Pedestrian Safety Tactical Roadmap (dated April, 2006) consisted of a chart of project areas and a year-by-year schedule that ranges from 2004-2010. The chart organizes project topics first by four “thrusts” and then further by “topics”:

  1. Problem identification and assessment
    • A.1. Risk assessment and exposure data
  2. Analysis and decision making tools
    • B.1.     Enhancement of Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Analysis Tool (PBCAT) V.2
    • B.2.     Pedestrian safety at midblock and intersection crossing
    • B.3.     Expert systems
    • B.4.     Develop pedestrian and bicycle road safety audit module
  3. Development and evaluation of countermeasures
    • C.1.     Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) solutions
    • C.2.     Traffic calming
    • C.3.     Shared use paths
    • C.4.     Partnerships
  4. Product delivery
    • D.1.     Conference support
    • D.2.     Classes and workshops
    • D.3.     Marketing and outreach
    • D.4.     Project and product evaluation

Many of the topics in thrust areas A-C have been addressed through projects and products developed since 2004. PBCAT version 2.0 was released in July 2006 with upgrades and edits from version 1.0 (including customizable data entry forms, crash analysis information more compatible with other data processing programs, and detailed descriptions of countermeasures for specific crash types). FHWA has also supported the development of a guide and workshop module related to pedestrian road safety audits, a pedestrian safety expert system (i.e., PEDSAFE), a Safety Index for Assessing Pedestrian Safety at Intersections, resources on traffic calming and shared use paths, and a study of ITS Technologies to Reduce Pedestrian Injuries and Fatalities. For thrust area D, a considerable amount of activities have also been conducted, including conference support at a number of conferences across the nation, pedestrian safety action plan and pedestrian safety design courses taught through the National Highway Institute (NHI) and through other contractors, marketing and outreach through the quarterly Pedestrian Forum e-newsletter, as well as partnerships, project, and program evaluation. Additional information can be found in the Product Delivery and Technology Transfer section of the Literature Review in Appendix VI.

Only one or two topics have yet to be addressed, including A.1 (risk assessment and exposure data) and B.2 (pedestrian safety at midblock locations). As of 2009, it is expected that a National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) project will include the development of pedestrian exposure prediction models related in part to the issue in A.1, and proposed FHWA projects for the 2010 fiscal year will include a project to examine pedestrian safety issues and solutions related to midblock locations. The development of a bicycle road safety audit was initiated in FY 2009 as well.

This roadmap provides a framework which is to be utilized in the Strategic Plan, and these recent goals and activities were taken into consideration in the development of recommended research.

Existing FHWA Safety Mission and Goals

The Federal Highway Administration’s Pedestrian Safety Tactical Roadmap notes that the objective of the roadmap is to “reduce the highway fatality rate to 1.0 per hundred million vehicle miles traveled by 2008.” The overall 2008 fatality rate, 1.27 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, fell short of this previously stated goal (FARS, 2008). However, the fatality rate varies based on crash location. In 2001, the urban-rural fatality rates per 100 million vehicle miles were 1.0 and 2.3, respectively. In 2004, they were 1.0 and 2.1, respectively, and by 2007, the urban-rural fatality rates were 0.88 and 2.21, respectively (Federal Highway Administration, 2001; 2004; 2007). Though the overall rate has been decreasing, the goal of 1.0 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled has been met in urban areas, but not yet in rural areas.

FHWA set the following two goals for bicycling and walking in their 1994 National Bicycling and Walking Study:

Since then, there has been slow but steady progress in building safer facilities and supporting more bicycling and walking trips:

As the goal of increasing bicycle and pedestrian trips has yet to be reached, there is a need for adequate funding for projects, programs, and research that will support efforts to meet and exceed this national goal. Concurrently, as pedestrian and bicycle trips continue to rise, agencies must ensure that pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and injuries continue to fall. New safety goals are needed to promote future progress, and there is a national need for more comprehensive data to better measure and understand bicyclist and pedestrian safety trends. The onus of establishing new pedestrian and bicycle goals following the end of the reporting period should be completed by the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT). This is imperative for continuing the positive trends in pedestrian and bicycle crash mitigation and ensuring bicycling and walking levels continue to increase.

Existing Research Agendas from Federal Agencies

A number of existing research agendas related to pedestrian safety research were reviewed as part of this project, including:

Additionally, an attempt was made to identify state-level pedestrian safety research agendas. The project team surveyed the Pedestrian and Bicycle State Coordinators via the State Coordinator listserv, but not a single respondent provided a state-level research agenda. Therefore, the team focused on examining research agendas at the national level that could be relevant to the development and implementation of the FHWA Office of Safety Strategic Pedestrian Safety Plan.

While all organizations approach pedestrian safety issues from varying perspectives, the organizations reviewed (see list above) appear to hold two common goals: 1) to reduce pedestrian crashes while increasing pedestrian activity, and 2) to raise awareness and understanding about how to best plan for and develop safe pedestrian environments. These organizations believe the above goals can be achieved by focusing on the factors that directly influence pedestrian safety—most commonly safety through education of both pedestrians and those responsible for providing pedestrian-related amenities and services.

Ideas for intervention vary, but there are commonalities. First off, each organization expressed the need to take a multidisciplinary and multifaceted approach, as one strategy focused on pedestrian infrastructure alone would not be as effective as it could be in conjunction with others. Along the same lines, many recommend approaching the problem from a behavioral, educational, environmental, and planning level simultaneously. Some groups note this could be achieved by collaborating with experts and organizations of other fields. Additionally, CDC, NHTSA, and the 2001 Child Pedestrian Safety Strategies encourage targeting both the driver and the pedestrian in educational outreach, as they are the two actors involved in crashes. The importance of evaluating and monitoring strategies to determine their effectiveness and to monitor how they might be improved in the future is also stressed.

The following section relates the major pedestrian safety topic areas identified in the existing research agendas of the aforementioned organizations.

AASHTO’s Strategic Approach to Safety Tactical Roadmap

Much like the Federal Highway Administration’s Pedestrian Safety Tactical Roadmap, AASHTO’s Tactical Roadmap organizes project topics first by five thrusts and then further by topics:

  1. Managing safety
    • A.1.     Safety planning
    • A.2.     Safety management processes and tools
    • A.3.     Safety decision-making tools
    • A.4.     General program management
    • A.5.     Focused approach to safety
  2. Information, data, and improved understanding
    • B.1.     Data systems and analysis
    • B.2.     Improved data
  3. Evaluation
    • C.1.     Program evaluation
    • C.2.     Countermeasure evaluation
    • C.3.     Product evaluation
  4. Technology and innovation transfer
    • D.1.     Communication and outreach
    • D.2.     Training and capacity building
    • D.3.     Technical assistance
  5. Awareness
    • E.1.      Decision makers and leaders
    • E.2.      Practitioners
    • E.3.      General public

Also, similar to the FHWA Roadmap, the AASHTO Roadmap includes safety projects, data systems, evaluation, and product delivery/technology transfer. Within the roadmap, there are three projects that specifically cover pedestrian-related research. They include:

All of the above projects have been completed and the final reports delivered.

NHTSA Pedestrian Safety Research Agenda

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducts critical behavioral and vehicle programs, and provides grants to the States for the administration of highway traffic safety programs. Its strategic goals and focus areas include: passenger vehicle occupants, non-occupants (pedestrians, cyclists, etc.), motorcycle riders, and large trucks and buses.

Currently, NHTSA’s Office of Behavioral Safety Research (OBSR) is preparing a Five-Year Strategic Behavioral Research Plan. Though research initiatives outlined in the plan are targeted for the years 2010 to 2014, resultant research is relevant in both current and future applications. Focus issues are as follows:

The research agenda will be formulated based on input from researchers and practitioners from both transportation and non-transportation disciplines. Through a series of white papers, one on each subject, a solid background on the issue will be established and discussion can then be sparked about which key issues require further research. Additionally, a few researchers and practitioners will partake in a panel discussion on each target topic’s research needs, while others will be invited to comment via a Web site. The resulting plan will address a diversity of research needs within the area of pedestrian safety. On the subject of pedestrian safety, NHTSA cites education programs for pedestrians, drivers, and pedestrians of different age groups, as well as creating official pedestrian safety zones as some measures to take to reduce pedestrian-vehicle conflicts. These actions should be coordinated with FHWA’s strategic research plan.

CDCPreventing Injuries - Transportation Injuries Research Agenda

The CDC Research Agenda on Preventing Transportation Injuries includes “Priority C: Evaluate the effectiveness of behavioral and environmental strategies to prevent pedestrian injury.” The basis of Research Agenda Priority C is that as pedestrian-vehicle crashes involve a variety of factors, including but not limited to pedestrian-driver behavior, road type, vehicle speed, age and gender, a multifaceted approach is necessary to be effective in reducing overall pedestrian injuries. For example, researching and implementing intervention strategies which target drivers and their driving environment as well as pedestrians and their walking environment, such as through traffic calming measures or theory-based education and training programs, may prove to be more effective at reducing pedestrian-vehicle collisions than a focus on only one or the other. Providing stronger law enforcement while implementing these programs may also aid in influencing and educating pedestrian-driver behavior. The CDC proposes that strategies that are implemented concurrently may provide the strongest prevention plan for pedestrian injuries.

National Strategies for Advancing Child Pedestrian Safety (2001)

Understanding “pediatric pedestrian injuries” as a complex societal issue requiring collaboration of experts from diverse fields, the Center for Disease Control, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National SAFE KIDS Campaign joined forces to host The Panel to Prevent Pedestrian Injuries. It was an interdisciplinary conference held in September 2008, where almost 100 individuals from over 25 different disciplines discussed key topics, barriers, and next steps to reduce pedestrian injuries among children. These discussions are documented in the National Strategies for Advancing Child Pedestrian Safety. Though not intended as a federal plan of action, the document was written for anyone who is interested in reducing child-vehicle collisions while still “encouraging [children] to explore their environment by walking.”

The strategies identified in this document include:

TRB Pedestrian Committee Research Needs Statements

The TRB Pedestrian Committee’s Research Needs Statements (RNS) contains more than 100 research needs statements specific to pedestrian research. They were developed over several years with the input of a number of pedestrian safety experts on the committee or research subcommittee. The research topic areas are separated into four major categories:

The research needs are described further by subtopics within the four main categories:

To further prioritize pedestrian safety research needs, the TRB Pedestrian Committee hosted two workshops to discuss research gaps and make recommendations for future priorities. The first of these workshops was held in conjunction with the 2008 Pro Walk/Pro Bike Conference in Seattle, WA. Using informal brainstorming sessions, attendees were divided into groups to discuss research priorities in the four main research categories (listed above).

A second workshop was held at the 2009 TRB Annual Meeting. Using a more formal structure, teams of attendees came up with research gaps in seven main categories. After listing the research needs and presenting the results to the group, each attendee voted on the topics to prioritize them among other research needs. The outcome of the workshop was the following list of research topics, beginning with the highest priority as determined by the group:

  1. Data issues and their impact on analyzing pedestrian topics
  2. Non-existent sidewalks along existing roads
  3. Operational issues for existing facilities
  4. Walk to transit
  5. Walk to school
  6. Transportation disadvantaged
  7. Land development

While this prioritized list of topics is highly reflective of the makeup of the workshop panel (i.e., transportation researchers as opposed to transit providers, transit agencies, and practicing planners and land developers), the main topics considered are consistent with other critical pedestrian safety issues identified. The specific topics discussed at the first TRB workshop and included in the research need database maintained by the committee were incorporated into the discussion at the Stakeholder Workshop for this project, and the findings are presented later in this report.

APA Projects Related to Pedestrian Research

While the APA did not have a specific pedestrian safety research agenda, their Web sites list several ongoing, long-term projects related to pedestrian safety research. These include:

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