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New Guidelines for Pedestrian Safety Road Audits

A technical report recently released by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) gives new guidelines and prompt lists for pedestrian road safety audits. The report discusses at length the basic principles of pedestrian safety, the set up of an audit, and the universal considerations for a successful audit.

From the report: A road safety audit (RSA) is a formal safety examination of a future roadway plan or project or an in-service facility that is conducted by an independent, experienced multidisciplinary RSA team. All RSAs should include a review of pedestrian safety; however, some RSAs may be conducted to improve an identified pedestrian safety problem. The Pedestrian Road Safety Audit Guidelines and Prompt Lists provides transportation agencies and teams conducting an RSA with a better understanding of the needs of pedestrians of all abilities.

The Guide has two primary sections: Knowledge Base and the Field Manual. The Knowledge Base section discusses the basic concepts with which the RSA team should be familiar before conducting an RSA, such as understanding the characteristics of all pedestrians, analyzing pedestrian crash data, pedestrian considerations in the eight-step RSA process, and use of the Guide. The Field Manual section includes the guidelines and prompt lists. The guidelines provide detailed descriptions of potential pedestrian safety issues while the prompt lists are a general listing of potential pedestrian safety issues. The guidelines and prompt lists will help familiarize RSA teams with potential pedestrian issues and help them identify specific safety concerns related to pedestrian safety throughout the RSA process.

I have not read the report in detail, but I’ve scrolled through each page and it looks to be comprehensive. I can see this report used as a “go to guide” for putting together pedestrian safety workshops and audits. In fact, our workshop and audit services are no longer needed now that FHWA released this report. Just kidding.

I’d like to take the opportunity to stand on my soap box and address this topic for a moment. There is a big difference between having safe streets for pedestrians and having truly walkable neighborhoods. Whenever I give a presentation or lead a walking audit, I always focus on the big picture as well as the minutia of pedestrian design and safety. Some pedestrian advocates I’ve witnessed in action really understand the ins and outs of design, but don’t give much attention to land use or what really comprises livable communities. Sure, great pedestrian design can really enhance your community. But, if you don’t have the appropriate mix of land uses and proper site design and layout, all of it goes for naught. Plus, I feel it is important to discuss other modes of transportation: transit, bikes, and yes, even cars (roundabouts, road diets, home zones, etc.).

I do not want to downplay the importance of good pedestrian design. It’s really amazing to learn how little details in pedestrian design affect daily lives. For example, say someone that relies on a wheelchair for transportation cannot reach the push button at a signal crossing, and therefore cannot cross the street until someone comes along to assist them. Or, school children that live directly across the street from their school have to ride the bus because there is no safe crossing. I hear these stories all the time. But, I do think our society is starting to realize that we must plan for other modes of transportation besides the automobile. This report is a perfect example of this focus.

Some places are still lagging behind— see Missouri for an example. Maybe I’ll actually post the scathing article I wrote about this soon…

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  • Scottsdale real estate December 3, 2007, 11:24 am

    Great post. Your site is an excellent resource for a variety of topics like this!

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