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Pedestrian Refuge Islands and The Benefits Of Traffic Bollards

Traffic bollards, when combined with refuge islands and raised medians, can help to prevent pedestrian-vehicle collisions.  While comprising only 12% of the total crashes that occur on American streets, these accidents cause an injury every eight minutes and a fatality every 120 minutes somewhere in the country.


Crossing the Street: A Complex Task

Crossing a busy roadway requires both skill and a willingness to take risks on the part of a pedestrian.  Those on foot must judge vehicle speeds, gauge their own pace, and make necessary adjustments to their crossing speed on a split-second basis.  Even if the person performs all these tasks correctly, there’s always the danger of a distracted or impaired motorist striking the individual.


Crosswalks combined with refuge islands or raised medians tilt the odds in favor of pedestrians by giving them both an established route and a place to stop and reorient themselves in the middle of a street crossing.  They also provide a clear visual cue to drivers to watch out for those making their way across a road.


Case Study in St. Petersburg, Florida

Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, Florida is well known for its fine restaurants and other attractions, but for many years there was no safe point for pedestrians to safely cross the street that runs in front of it.  Vehicle traffic along the roadside averages 31,500 automobiles a day, with speeds averaging more than 10 mph above the posted limit.  The site has been the scene of numerous pedestrian-vehicle wrecks over the years.  Recently, the city installed a refuge island in the area, along with a marked crosswalk and a rectangular rapid flashing beacon (RRFB).  The addition of these safety measures has transformed the site, greatly reducing the number of accidents and giving pedestrians a safe way to cross the busy road.


Open Vs. Channelized Medians and Refuge Islands

Crossing zones for foot traffic can consist of either open (markings only) additions to the existing street or of channelized (markings plus a raised area) modifications.  Statistics show that the latter of these crossing zones does more to safeguard those on foot.  This is where traffic bollards can play a significant role in the construction of new medians and refuge islands.  Bollards can be installed for a fraction of the cost of new raised islands, and where such islands already exist, traffic bollards can be installed along their perimeters to further protect walkers and direct motorists away from the road’s center.  With such an effective, low-cost way to enhance pedestrian safety, city planners and engineers are encouraged to include bollard-delineated areas in the center of busy roadways.