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 / Proven Safety Countermeasures / Proven Safety Countermeasures - Medians and Pedestrian Crossing Islands in Urban and Suburban Areas

Proven Safety Countermeasures

Printable Version [PDF, 451 KB]
(You may need the Adobe Reader to view the PDFs on this page.)

For more information about this Proven Safety Countermeasure, visit the Office of Safety's State Best Practice Policy for Medians web page.

Medians and Pedestrian Crossing Islands in Urban and Suburban Areas

FHWA treskelion logo.
U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration

FHWA-SA-17-064

Icon representing a pedestrian at a median barrier separating two travel lanes.

Medians and Pedestrian Crossing Islands in Urban and Suburban Areas

Median and pedestrian crossing islands near a roundabout.
Source: www.pedbikeimages.org / Dan Burden

SAFETY BENEFITS:

Raised Median
46%
Reduction in pedestrian crashes

Pedestrian Crossing Island
56%
Reduction in pedestrian crashes

Source: Desktop Reference for Crash Reduction Factors, FHWA-SA-08-011, September 2008, Table 11.

A median is the area between opposing lanes of traffic, excluding turn lanes. Medians in urban and suburban areas can be defined by pavement markings, raised medians, or islands to separate motorized and non-motorized road users.

Example of a road with a median and pedestrian crossing islands.
Source: City of Charlotte, North Carolina

A pedestrian crossing island (or refuge area) is a raised island, located between opposing traffic lanes at intersection or midblock locations, which separate crossing pedestrians from motor vehicles.

Example of a pedestrian crossing island.
Source: www.pedbikeimages.org / Dan Burden

Pedestrian crashes account for approximately 15 percent of all traffic fatalities annually, and over 75 percent of these occur at non-intersection locations.1 For pedestrians to safely cross a roadway, they must estimate vehicle speeds, adjust their walking speed, determine gaps in traffic, and predict vehicle paths. Installing raised medians or pedestrian crossing islands can help improve safety by simplifying these tasks and allowing pedestrians to cross one direction of traffic at a time.

Transportation agencies should consider medians or pedestrian crossing islands in curbed sections of urban and suburban multi-lane roadways, particularly in areas with a significant mix of pedestrian and vehicle traffic and intermediate or high travel speeds. Some example locations that may benefit from raised medians or pedestrian crossing islands include:


1 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts - 2015 Data - Pedestrians. Report DOT HS 812 375, (Washington, DC: 2017).

For more information on this and other FHWA Proven Safety Countermeasures, please visit
https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/provencountermeasures.

Federal Highway Administration logo.
Office of Safety logo: Safe Roads for a Safer Future
Page last modified on October 18, 2017
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