Smaller infrastructure investments help pave the way to safer communities

Road safety is an urgent issue at all levels of government, especially for people walking and biking. Cyclist and pedestrian deaths have increased by. This infrastructure week, we are encouraging more states, cities, and other local governments to help reverse this trend by prioritizing critical safety investments on streets and highways across the country.

Pedestrian deaths spike right after sunset

As pedestrian deaths continue to rise, it has become clear that most of these deaths happen at night. But a new study finds that the half hour after sunset is the most dangerous in the United States. This worrisome trend is exacerbated by the high-speed, multilane roads that predominate in the U.S. The solutions, in addition to improved visibility, are the same at night as they are during the day: policy, design, and behavior changes that encourage safer, slower driving. 

People walking are often blamed for crashes when roads are designed for driving

A pedestrian’s location at the time of a crash often determines who (whether driver and pedestrian) is found at fault, says a new study. Even with a lack of pedestrian infrastructure nearby, pedestrians who cross high-speed arterial roads with bus stops are more likely to be blamed. 

American roads are not ready for massive electric vehicles

Electric vehicles are slowly gaining popularity, and many see them as the key to drastically cutting transportation emissions. Yet the growing weight and size of vehicles are presenting new challenges and serious safety concerns. One major issue is the enormous weight of popular EVs and the impact that these increasingly large vehicles will have on the country’s roads, bridges, and—as one new study points out—its guardrails.  

Narrow lanes are safer, but they can be extremely difficult to build

A study released by Johns Hopkins last November gained widespread attention for demonstrating that 9-foot lanes are often safer than wider lanes. The researchers note, however, that most state DOTs set minimum lane widths between 10 and 12 feet and require design exceptions for anything narrower. Even in Vermont, where 9-foot lanes are allowed, the researchers found they have not been implemented. Therefore, paving the way to narrow lanes means understanding all the factors that make them challenging in the first place. 

New federal vehicle charging requirements aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution for many states

As the federal government significantly invests in vehicle charging infrastructure, states voice their concerns on effectively implementing a consistent and reliable nationwide network while addressing their local needs. Many states are committed to supporting the transition to electric vehicles, but some are looking for more flexibility with funding requirements to coincide with their existing capacity for an effective system.

Big data: allowing cities to evaluate infrastructure investments before and after installation

Infrastructure planning processes have long been forced to rely on expensive and time-consuming methods of data gathering or, in some cases, anecdotal evidence and hypothetical arguments from both project supporters and opponents. Fortunately, thanks to the increased availability of location data, cities are beginning to add important quantitative measures to their decision-making process, including the opportunity to analyze the conditions before and after a project is installed.

Light rail and complementary development have broad effects on travel behavior

The goal of investing substantially in public transportation infrastructure and complementary transit oriented development (TOD) is to create positive outcomes for communities, including reducing carbon emissions, increasing access to jobs, and reducing reliance on personal vehicles. Two new studies highlight additional impacts of these investments; transit infrastructure leading to increased levels of physical activity and TOD residents forgoing driving for non-commute trips. 

Big data sheds new light on the pedestrian safety crisis

Federal crash data released just this past April confirms what earlier reports had already suggested: 2020 was the deadliest year for walking in the past three decades, marking a 50 percent increase in just 10 years. A new report analyzing the data calls out the most dangerous cities and states across the country, while leveraging emerging data sources to understand how increased walking may have contributed to pedestrian deaths during the unique pandemic conditions of 2020.