This is the fourth installment of our series regarding intersection safety. Intersections are points of confluence for motor vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians. At these junctions, there are more factors that can lead to collisions than at most points across the transportation network. In the U.S., intersections are the site of approximately 25% of roadway fatalities and roughly 50% of injuries. In this segment, we will look at various specific safety measures that agencies in Colorado are taking and also some of what the Federal Highway Administration is referring to as “innovative intersections.”
Leaders in Intersection Safety Development
Denver officials outlined several safety initiatives for the prevention of collisions between motor vehicles and bicycles in its 2016 Bicycle Crash Analysis. The Denver Public Works is also active in developing strategies for reducing accidents involving both bicycles and pedestrians. Several of the intersection enhancements we will discuss are the result of reports from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program and the Policy on Geometric Design, created by the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials.
Uncontrolled Pedestrian Crossing Improvements
Crosswalks are a vital aspect of the transportation network. Some goals include designing them so pedestrians are not “dodging” traffic or having to walk too far out of their way in order to access them. Research shows pedestrians who must wait longer than 30 seconds are more inclined to engage in risky behavior. The first step in assessing the need for a crosswalk is performing a study that evaluates key factors, like:
- The number of traffic lanes involved
- The existence or absence of medians
- How far the location is from an existing signalized crosswalk
- The volume of vehicular and potential pedestrian traffic
- Current speed limits.
Meeting the Demands of Vulnerable Users
The presence of vulnerable users (pedestrians and bicyclists) near intersections are a key indicator for demand. This determination should be made during what is likely the “peak” times for such traffic. These observations can help determine some averages. Existing counts may be relied on for these purposes if they were conducted within the prior two-year period.
Parking & Multi-Way Control Considerations
Denver Code states that parked vehicles must be a minimum of 20 feet from crosswalks and 30 feet from intersections with a traffic light or flashing device. Generally, markings or roadway enhancements will be in place as a reminder. Multi-way stops with crosswalks are used at intersections close to elementary, junior high, and high school locations.
Fort Collins Bicycle Safety Initiative
Fort Collins is pioneering some developments in bicycle transportation and safety. They are completing the Pitkin Bikeway that runs east to west. They have advanced bicycle lanes with their own signals and modified sidewalks that promote bicycling. At various intersections, they are employing a “toucan” design. This modification benefits pedestrians and bicyclists so the “two can” cross in a safe and efficient manner.
- Roundabouts: These intersections are circular to some degree and data indicates they are more efficient and safer than many types. The commonalities of roundabouts include they move the traffic in a counter-clockwise flow, have yielded points of entry, and are relatively low speed. The lower speeds, usually 15 to 20 miles per hour are a result of the curving of the roadway.
- U-turn based: These are designed to keep traffic moving by allowing for an alternative to direct left-turns, which are generally deemed as being higher-risk. Instead, they allow for either modified right-turns or U-turns.
- Crossover-based: These offer a host of functional benefits and increased safety. Traffic is funneled to the left side to allow for unobstructed left turning. The two designs are known as the Displaced Left Turn (DLT) and Diverging Diamond (DDI).
When collisions occur between motor vehicles and either pedestrians or bicyclists, the injuries are often more life-altering or catastrophic in nature. You owe it to yourself to contact a personal injury lawyer who will aggressively seek monetary retribution for medical expenses, pain, losses of wages, and more. A skilled accident attorney may obtain eyewitness statements, use discovery to uncover key evidence, or consider testimony from experts on your behalf.