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What are some pedestrian bridge design considerations, resources and best practices?

Image: Dan Burden

Pedestrian bridge placement/location is as important a consideration as any design elements. Pedestrians weigh the perceived safety of using the bridge against the extra effort and time required to access it. If a pedestrian bridge is perceived as difficult or inconvenient to access, it will not be used. Studies have shown that if a grade-separated crossing doubles the time it takes a pedestrian to cross the street, virtually no one uses it. This can have the effect of actually reducing pedestrian safety at the crossing, as drivers will not expect at-grade crossings if a pedestrian bridge is present.

Pedestrian bridges can be useful for linking buildings or popular destinations (e.g., shopping centers, large schools, recreational facilities, parking garages, light rail stations), as they allow people in the buildings to access another building across the street without having to go outside to cross the street. They are also useful for linking areas separated by highways or freeways, where at-grade crossings are out of the question. Another effective use of pedestrian bridges is for trail crossings.

Image: Dan Burden

Pedestrian bridges tend to be among the most expensive treatments for crossings; a typical over-crossing of a multilane roadway costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is largely because of the height of the bridge, which requires long ramps in order for the facilities to be accessible to pedestrians with disabilities. Thus, pedestrian bridges can cost less and work best when the crossing is over a sunken or lowered roadway. In general, agencies should consider the range of effective treatments for at-grade crossings before determining the need for a pedestrian bridge.

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