Proven Countermeasures for Pedestrian Safety

Source: Public Roads Magazine, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)

Each year, more than 4,000 pedestrians are killed in the United States. Transportation agencies across the country are looking for ways to reduce that number. They want to make walking safer and thus a viable choice for trips of appropriate distances, whether for leisure, business, or health.

Increasingly, State departments of transportation (DOTs), metropolitan planning organizations, and cities and towns are acknowledging the role that upgrading pedestrian facilities can play in improving safety. For example, Dirk Gowin, executive administrator of transportation with the Louisville Metro Government in Kentucky, describes how his agency's view of pedestrian safety has changed over the years. "Many of our roadways were designed solely to move traffic, and pedestrians were viewed as an afterthought, or not considered at all. It is time for our community to retrofit our more dangerous roadways to be safer for pedestrians, improve the pedestrian level of service, and enhance walking as a safe means to increase physical activity."

To help communities improve safety, on July 10, 2008, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published a "Guidance Memorandum on Consideration and Implementation of Proven Safety Countermeasures." The memorandum highlights when and where certain processes, design techniques, and safety countermeasures are the most effective at increasing roadway safety in general. Two of the proven countermeasures specifically address pedestrian safety: (1) medians and pedestrian refuge areas, employed in urban and suburban settings, and (2) walkways. FHWA also developed promotional materials, a best practices report, and a webinar to educate State and local transportation professionals about the benefits of using these countermeasures. These resources are available on FHWA's "Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety" Web site at

"FHWA is strongly committed to reducing highway fatalities and serious injuries on our Nation's highways," says Elizabeth Alicandri, director of FHWA's Office of Safety Programs. "We know that a comprehensive mix of strategies is required — including stronger policies to support system-wide and sustainable improvements. We believe our area of greatest potential influence is how Federal funds are used and targeted to implement improvements that will have a positive impact on safety. Every investment decision should consider the impact on safety, and every federally funded project should include appropriate safety enhancement features."

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