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Pedestrian Safety Signs: Medians and Pedestrian Refuge Areas

When pedestrians opt to cross the road in places where there is not a crosswalk or other pedestrian safety sign, they put themselves in danger.  In certain areas, it is impossible for them to cross in another spot, and they have no choice but to cross the road in a dangerous spot.  However, many city planners have realized the imminent danger that these pedestrians face, and have decided to include medians or pedestrian refuge areas in the middle of these crossings.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, the risk of a crash in an area without a median is 6.48 times higher than in an area that does have a median.  Those numbers, however, are only in reference to pedestrians crossing in these areas.  To further reduce this risk, many planners have opted to include pedestrian safety signs in these areas.

A pedestrian crossing sign alerts drivers to the fact that people may be crossing the road at this place.  When the Federal Highway Administration Safety Council has looked at certain medians and pedestrian crossing areas, they have found the following data: when the planners combine a raised median with a pedestrian safety sign, there is approximately a 46% reduction in pedestrian crashes.  However, in places where the crosswalks are unmarked but a median is included, the number of crashes is only reduced by approximately 39%.

Pedestrian refuge areas can be anything from a raised median to a marked spot in the middle of the road. The safest areas, however, are raised medians, since they allow oncoming vehicles to more easily see the pedestrians, and they also work to channel the traffic in certain ways around the pedestrians.   

It is important that planners create safe areas for pedestrians to cross the street in signal-less intersections.  Pedestrians need a place that they can stop while crossing the street, and this role can be filled by medians or other refuge areas. However, pedestrians also need the traffic to be alerted about their presence.  This can be accomplished with pedestrian safety signs.