Transportation secretary’s action plan on bike and pedestrian safety

Staff Report
The U.S. Department of Transportation has a new action plan to increase walking and biking and reduce pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities. The plan is called “Safer People, Safer Streets,” and it was launched in September.

Secretary of Transportation Anthony R. Foxx stated in the action plan summary: “Walking and biking are not just lifestyle choices. They complete our transport system. … Despite our success in reducing passenger vehicle occupant deaths by 33 percent in the last decade, in the past few years we have seen rising numbers of pedestrian and bicycle injuries and fatalities related to collisions with motor vehicles. We must better protect people on foot and bicycle by fostering environments and multi-modal transition points that are safe. … This initiative will include new research and tools to improve safety, generate better data on pedestrian and bicycle activity crashes, and infrastructure, and build stronger partnerships between DOT headquarters and field offices, local officials, safety organizations, state, regional and local planners and engineers, and advocacy groups.”

With the increase in biking and walking, the number of accidents has increased as well. Since 2009, fatalities have been increasing for bicyclists and pedestrians. In 2012, bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities were over 16 percent of all traffic-related fatalities.

Rural roads can pose safety challenges where traffic is moving fast and drivers may not be expecting a bicyclist or pedestrian. But the majority of fatalities — 73 percent of pedestrian deaths and 69 percent of bicyclists’ deaths in 2012 — occur in urban areas where interactions between vehicles and non-motorized users are most frequent, and where many people walk or bike to their destinations or transit stops.

Whether in rural or urban areas, the most dangerous area is mid-block, where drivers may be less alert to the presence of pedestrians and bicyclists. In 2012, 60 percent of bicyclist deaths and 70 percent of pedestrian deaths occurred outside of the intersection.

Recent data indicate that residents of low-income and minority neighborhoods are disproportionately represented in bike and pedestrian injuries and fatalities, and low-income neighborhoods often have fewer sidewalks and other safe infrastructure. Safe, non-motorized travel, and safe access to transit stops is essential for disadvantaged Americans seeking to reach jobs, schools, and other opportunities.

Time of day and lighting conditions also contribute to risks for bicyclists and pedestrians. The majority of pedestrian fatalities occur in the evening to nighttime hours during low-light conditions, particularly between 8 p.m. and midnight. For bicyclists, the highest percent of fatalities occur between the hours of 4-8 p.m.

Infrastructure safety

The Department of Transportation will promote infrastructure and design improvements such as the following:
♦ Walk and Bike Assessments: In every state, the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration field offices will facilitate or participate in on-the-ground safety assessments of selected corridors to understand the extent of the safety need. Relationships will be built with local practitioners and stakeholders around the topics of connected pedestrian and bicycle networks and the safety of non-motorized users.
♦ The Road Diet Guide: Road Diets will be one of FHWA’s 2015 Every Day Counts (EDC) Initiatives, in which FHWA works with state, local and industry partners to deploy new innovations. Road diets help balance street space between vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists and transit, and they can improve mobility and access for all road users.
♦ How to Design Safe Bicycling Facilities: FHWA will update the popular resource Bikesafe: Bicycle Countermeasure Selection System to provide practitioners with the latest information available for improving the safety and mobility of those who bicycle. Bikesafe is an expert system that allows the user to select treatments (mainly engineering with some enforcement and education activities) that help mitigate a known crash problem or help achieve a specific performance objective. An update to the companion tool for pedestrian safety, Pedsafe, was recently completed.
♦ Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design: FHWA’s document, to be released in fall 2014, will document planning and design considerations for separated bike lanes, which are exclusive bike facilities physically separated from motor traffic and distinct from the sidewalk. The project includes a detailed safety analysis.
♦ FHWA’s Research Agenda: In fall 2014, FHWA will initiate an aggressive research agenda on a range of topics including pedestrian and bicycle safety, performance measures, design flexibility, and network development. The capstone of these projects will be a Strategic Agenda for Pedestrian and Bicycle Transportation.
♦ Assist Residents Making Their Communities Safe for All Road Users: The Resident’s Guide for Creating Safe and Walkable Communities is being updated with new information and will also include bicycle safety issues.
♦ Infrastructure Design Innovations: Many new design innovations are showing promise in improving bicycle and pedestrian safety. The Department will research and promote evidence-based design concepts.
♦ Focus Resources Where They’re Most Needed: The Pedestrian Safety Focus States and Focus Cities effort concentrates technical assistance on evaluating, planning, and solving safety issues in states and cities with the highest pedestrian fatalities and fatality rates.
Evaluation of Pedestrians Safety Engineering Countermeasures at Urban and Suburban Midblock Crossing Locations.
♦ Pedestrian Countermeasure Crash Modification Factor Study: This new research will develop statistically rigorous CMFs for high-priority pedestrian crash countermeasures using current state-of-the-art analytical methods.
♦ Road Safety for Transit Patrons: Safer bike and pedestrian infrastructure depends on effective relationships and communication between road agencies and transit agencies. Transit agencies and their customers can often identify gaps in the transportation network, but they do not have the authority to fill those gaps. The Road Safety for Transit Patrons Initiative will work at the intersection of road and transit agency responsibilities.
♦ Transit Agency Safety Plans: As part of MAP-21 implementation, FTA is developing its National Safety Plan, which will guide transit agencies in areas of all sizes to: establish policies for encouraging safe access to transit; consider safety risks; and develop mitigations for those safety risks in partnerships with the communities they serve through implementation of a Safety Management System (SMS) approach to safety.
♦ Improving Connected Pedestrian and Bicycle Networks: The Department will promote the development of multimodal networks, which include interconnected pedestrian and/or bicycle transportation facilities.
In December 2013, FHWA issued an interim approval for bike signals through the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). A range of new devices and applications for pedestrian and bicycle facilities are being considered for inclusion in the next edition of the MUTCD.
Vehicle safety
Advanced technology can help make roads and vehicles safer, adding features such as these:
♦ Vehicle-to-Pedestrian Communication: Vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) communications technology to help drivers see pedestrians, as well as warn pedestrians that they are crossing a roadway.
♦ Crash Avoidance Technologies: The Department is researching advanced crash avoidance technologies such as sensor-based warning systems and automated braking systems that can help drivers detect pedestrians.
♦ Promote and Regulate Vehicle-Based Solutions: The Department will advance the adoption of vehicle-based solutions through its consumer information and regulatory programs. The New Car Assessment Program will continue to inform consumers of currently available safety systems, such as rear-visibility cameras.

Improvements in data collection and analysis

The quality and availability of data must be improved to enable more informed transportation decisions. This includes data on walking and bicycling activity (i.e., volume), existing and proposed pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, and the basic circumstances of all pedestrian and bicycle crashes.

Data Initiatives: DOT will host three sessions to focus on data needs and how better data can be used to develop policies: (1) a gathering of the University Transportation Centers and model practitioners who research relevant bicycle and pedestrian safety topics; (2) a “datajam” with technology and data experts to identify data sources and innovative analysis methods; and (3) a Transportation Research Board workshop to promote development and use of resources and best practices.

Pedestrian and Bicycle Updates to the Traffic Monitoring Guide (TMG) and the Traffic Monitoring Analysis System (TMAS): TMAS receives raw data in the TMG-recommended data forms from automatic collection programs, vehicle classification counts, and weigh-in-motion counters, and produces basic traffic volume reports from these data sets. An extension of this system scheduled to be released in 2015 will receive bicycle and pedestrian counts.

Non-Motorized Toolkit (NMTK): A toolkit framework implemented as a GIS-enabled open source, Web-based system has been developed to allow researchers and planners to readily share analytic tools for bicycle and pedestrian data analysis and modeling.

From the Nov. 12-18, 2014, issue

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