Background: Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety in Campus Areas

Many people are affiliated with higher education institutions at some phase of their lives. Approximately 20 million students are enrolled across more than 4,700 degree-granting postsecondary institutions in the United States (National Center for Education Statistics 2013). These institutions also employ more than 3 million faculty and staff (National Center for Education Statistics 2011). College students travel more by walking and bicycling than the general population (Balsas 2003; Pucher et. al. 1999; Whalen, Paez, & Carrasco 2013). Additionally, many campuses have adopted initiatives to promote active, sustainable transportation among students, faculty, and staff (Schneider and Hu 2015).

Students cross the street in a signalized crosswalk at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Students cross the street in a signalized crosswalk at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Institutions are well-positioned to promote pedestrian and bicycle transportation because they have a captive audience of students, faculty, and staff for the duration of their degree programs or terms of employment. By better understanding the travel behavior and needs of students and the campus community, researchers and transportation professionals can generate valuable information about factors that may help sustain the habits of walking and bicycling (Whalen, Paez, & Carrasco, 2013).

As universities promote active forms of transportation, it is essential to provide safe environments for pedestrians and bicyclists. Most college campuses have high concentrations of employment and other activities (Balsas 2003; Warren, Davidson, Cervenka, Davey, & Parsons 2004), and they tend to be accessed by many modes of transportation, including walking, bicycling, public transit, and private automobile. Collisions between motor vehicles and pedestrians and bicyclists are a common problem around many campuses (Schneider, Khattak, & Zegeer 2001; Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center 2010; Schneider, Grembek, Braughton, Orrick, & Ragland 2012; Ohio State University 2012; Grembek et al. 2014; Loukaitou-Sideris et al. 2014). In fact, the areas on and near university campuses often have the highest concentrations of pedestrian and bicycle crashes in a community (Thomas et al. 2009; City of Madison 2011; City of Boulder 2012; Schneider, Grembek, Braughton, Orrick & Ragland 2012).

Further, traffic safety is often perceived as a barrier to walking and bicycling to university campuses (University of Maryland 2009; University of Massachusetts Lowell 2011; Rybarczyk & Gallagher 2014; Schneider & Hu 2015). Therefore, pedestrian and bicycle safety is an important challenge to address on and near campuses.

Campus environments experience many of the same pedestrian and bicycle safety issues as other communities. Both pedestrian and bicycle crashes tend to be more common in locations and during time periods with more pedestrian and bicycle activity, though the risk of being involved in a crash tends to be lower for each individual when there are more people walking and bicycling (Jacobsen 2003; Geyer, Raford, Pham & Ragland 2006; Schneider, Diogenes, Arnold, Attaset, Griswold & Ragland 2010; Schneider, Grembek, and Braughton 2013). Both pedestrians and bicyclists experience more severe injuries and fatalities in crashes on higher-speed roads. Both pedestrian and bicycle crash risk are associated with roadways that have higher automobile speeds, more lanes, and more automobile traffic. Driver, pedestrian, and bicyclist intoxication are also associated with many pedestrian and bicycle crashes.

Students ride bicycles through an intersection at the University of California, Berkeley.

Students ride bicycles through an intersection at the University of California, Berkeley.

Several pedestrian and bicycle safety issues are especially common on and around university campuses. In particular, roadways on the immediate boundary of campus often have high concentrations of pedestrian and bicycle crashes (Schneider, Grembek, Braughton, Orrick & Ragland 2012). Pedestrians and bicyclists accessing campus from surrounding areas must cross boundary roadways. If universities do not allow automobiles on campus (or if campus roadways are inconvenient for through-vehicle travel), high volumes of cars and buses travel around campus using the boundary roadways. Because these roadways serve many vehicles, they may also have multiple lanes and high traffic speeds, creating traffic conflicts with pedestrians and bicyclists crossing to and from campus (Schneider, Grembek, and Braughton 2013).

Campus-specific activity patterns also relate to pedestrian and bicycle safety. Pedestrian and bicycle crashes near university campuses often peak in the early fall when students return to campus and new students arrive on campus (Schneider 2001; Schneider et al. 2012). This suggests the importance of increasing pedestrian safety awareness as a part of fall orientation activities. In addition, pedestrian crash risk near campuses may be higher in the evening and at night than during the daytime (Schneider, Grembek, and Braughton 2013). While campuses may experience their highest pedestrian volumes during mid-day peaks in university activities, the risk of any individual pedestrian being struck by an automobile may actually peak when it is dark and when alcohol use is more common. Since campus environments often have high activity levels into the evening and night, there may be many pedestrians and bicyclists traveling during these higher-risk times.

Go to Campus Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Evaluation Methods