The state DOTs in Washington (WSDOT) and Utah (UDOT) recently developed methods to evaluate the comfort, safety, and connectivity of active transportation networks, focusing on bicycle and pedestrian connectivity across highways. Guidance and support for both projects came from the Federal Highway Administration’s 2018 Measuring Multimodal Network Connectivity Pilot. The studies leverage newer data sources and GIS techniques to think about how highways can create barriers for nearby communities and how major corridors can be made more permeable.
With consistent growth in most urbanized areas around the world, changes to the built environment to accommodate multimodal travel will become one of our most important adaptations. A recent study from Melbourne, Australia, of pedestrian flows over five years found that built environmental changes accounted for 50-60% of the increase in foot traffic in the downtown region.
New considerations for setting speed limits have the potential to shift the practice away from the historic norm of service to drivers, and toward the safety and accommodation of all users.
New analysis of FARS data by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety points to crashes being more survivable for drivers of large SUVs than for drivers of smaller cars. While driver death is one measure of safety, there are a number of other criteria that offer a richer story of SUV safety, such as their contribution to emissions and increased dangers to those not inside the vehicle.
Transportation professionals who spend more time behind the wheel tend to believe distracted walking plays an overstated role in pedestrian deaths, according to a new Rutgers study. This belief can steer professionals toward trying to correct pedestrian behavior, rather than focusing on the change that would reduce pedestrian deaths most: lowering vehicle speeds.
U.S. mayors recognize safety and environmental issues resulting from automobile traffic, according to a new survey from Boston University. But they are leery about implementing commonly accepted remedies like lower speeds, more enforcement, reduced parking or separated bike lanes.
An investigation of the “persistence of pedestrianism,” written by Peter Norton, explores the history of both the rise of the dominance of automobiles as personal transportation and the continuing pushback by pedestrian advocates against this dominance from the 1920s to the 1960s. It is a fascinating look at how our perception of the urban landscape and mobility has been shaped by social and commercial forces as well as a rejection of the idea that most Americans drive because they prefer auto travel over walking. Norton instead contends that the cause and effect have been confused in most transportation analyses; people don’t walk, not because driving is their preferred method of travel, but because walking has been made so difficult.
While other crash types have gone down, pedestrian and bicycle crashes continue to rise, and crashes happening at night account for 90 percent of the increase in pedestrian fatalities in the last ten years. A recent article asks, “Why?” but comes to no definitive conclusion. The authors cites possible factors for the rise in nighttime pedestrian fatalities: A general increase in people walking and biking for transportation, larger vehicles such as SUVs are more deadly to those outside the vehicle; more people are working at night; and new autonomous technologies do not do well detecting pedestrians, especially in low-light conditions. One factor not mentioned in the article is the number of lighted devices now in vehicles, but research in this area appears to be slim.
One hope for reversing the growing death toll among pedestrians and cyclists lies in technology that senses crashes before they happen and avoids them. About half the new cars sold have automated emergency braking technology, and these systems have the potential to prevent thousands of crashes each year. But AEB in some cars is far from perfect, as a recent AAA report shows. Even under ideal conditions, the cars tested often hit pedestrian dummies.
“[NYC]DOT found little concrete evidence that device-induced distracted walking contributes significantly to pedestrian fatalities and injuries.” So concludes a recent report examining whether device-distracted walkers are killing themselves by stepping out in front of motor vehicles. It’s dangerous driver behavior—speeding and failure to yield—that is killing pedestrians.