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Pedestrian Safety Audit Guidelines: The Necessity of Traffic Safety Systems

Pedestrian safety audit guidelines stress the importance of having sufficient traffic safety systems in place to safeguard those who travel on foot.  The greatest challenge to protecting walkers from injury is that people vary widely in terms of both their mental and physical abilities.  Keeping this in mind while designing and building public facilities is vital to constructing safe routes for pedestrians and drivers.  A comprehensive discussion of pedestrian guidelines is beyond the scope of this article, but an-depth information is available in this PDF document.  Following is a brief summary of the principles behind the specific rules.

 

The Ultimate Goal: Proper Design for All Types of Travelers

Local Road Safety Audit (RSA) teams must keep the following facts in mind as they evaluate currently existing infrastructure:

 

  • People cross over signalized intersections in different amounts of time.  Seniors take longer to travel a given distance than younger individuals, which must be taken into consideration when timing pedestrian crossing intervals.
  • Children move faster than older people, but they’re also more impulsive, less likely to recognize danger, and present a lower profile to oncoming motorists than adults.  To avoid accidents involving children, planners should eliminate visual barriers than may block drivers from seeing adolescents standing or moving alongside or across streets.  Parents and guardians should also make sure young people are taught how to recognize and obey traffic signs and signals.
  • People with physical challenges require continuous smooth surfaces, curb ramps, and enough space in which to operate wheelchairs, strollers, walkers, and dollies.  They also need curb ramps that are aligned with crosswalks and refuge islands.
  • The visually impaired may need audio or tactile cues to alert them to obstructions, traffic interchanges, and other dangers.
  • In many parts of the country, non-English speakers make up much of the local population.  In such areas, builders must install public notices that communicate bilingually or through universally recognized graphics.

 

Convenient, Continuous, Safe: The Three Fundamentals of Pedestrian Pathways

 

“Continuous” refers to unbroken connectivity along a pedestrian route.  A marked crosswalk that joins curbed ramps faced directly apart on both sides of a street provides a single, unbroken line of travel, creating a continuous route.

 

“Convenient” refers to the degree of ease by which foot traffic can use established routes. A pathway that has smooth, level grades, is well marked, and follows optimal routes for pedestrians to reach popular destinations is convenient for those on foot.

 

“Safe” refers to a route that is free of obstructions that may hinder visibility, such as large signs, buildings, or bollards.  It also means that the path is highly passable in all types of weather and during evening hours.

 

Warning Signs that the Current Pedestrian Infrastructure is Insufficient

Those on foot have the same transportation goals as motorists: they wish to reach their destinations safely and with minimal delays or risks.  If an established route allows them to meet these objectives, they will use it willingly.  If not, they may resort to unmarked or uncontrolled routes that compromise both their safety and that of others.  For the same reasons, drivers may disregard posted regulations if those directives are illogical or unnecessarily arduous.  To judge whether or not a current route needs to be altered, RSA teams should be on the lookout for the following behaviors:

 

  • Pedestrians crossing at multiple locations and disregarding established routes.
  • Motorists ignoring traffic control devices or failing to look for persons who may be about to cross the street.
  • Those on foot avoiding marked routes due to the presence of mud, pools of rainwater, or other physical impediments.

 

The increased presence of pedestrians in cities of all sizes means that ensuring safe foot traffic routes is imperative.  With careful design and use of well-chosen traffic safety products, the nation’s infrastructure can serve the needs of all travelers, no matter how they reach their destinations.