Intersections– Part III: Pedestrians & Bicyclists Are Most Vulnerable Users, What Can Be Done About It?

Intersections– Part III: Pedestrians & Bicyclists Are Most Vulnerable Users, What Can Be Done About It?

Pedestrians and bicyclists both have substantial vulnerability when encountering motor vehicles on the roadways and must remember to exercise caution. At intersections, most of these collisions occur when motorists or bicycles are turning or when pedestrians are crossing. Local governments are pursuing strategies to heighten intersection safety through better design, implementation of signs and devices to control traffic, and greater educational awareness. The reality is that safety in these situations is best achieved through a comprehensive approach that combines all of these factors.

Pedestrian & Bicycle Accident Data

In recent years across the U.S., the annual average number of pedestrian fatalities is approximately 6,000. In Denver, from 2011 to 2015 there were 1,924 reported collisions that involved a pedestrian. Among U.S. cities, Denver’s average is somewhat high with 7.6 pedestrian deaths per 10,000 people. For comparison, Seattle averaged 2.7, Washington D.C. averaged 3.3, and Atlanta averaged 14.6. Roughly 54% of pedestrian collisions occur at intersections that have signals. In bicycle accidents, over 80% of those killed are male, 71% occur in urban settings, and 19% of those fatally injured on a bicycle in recent years have been over the legal alcohol limit for operating a vehicle.

Best Safety Practices: Pedestrians

There are several keys that pedestrians should remember at intersections. Never assume that a motorist has actually seen you, even when in the crosswalk. When signals are in use at pedestrian crossings, follow them accordingly. Before crossing, always check over your shoulder for motorists preparing to turn. Remain alert and limit the distractions associated with mobile devices and headphones. After dark when there is no crosswalk, cross at a location with lighting.

Best Safety Practices: Bicyclists

Motorists have a tendency to misjudge the speed of bicyclists and may turn as you approach the intersection. When a driver is preparing to turn left amid a stream of traffic they may not detect a bicycle moving with the flow. Increase your overall visibility with lights, reflectors, and brighter attire.

Changes & Enhancements that Increase Intersection Safety

Mid-Block Crossings

Roughly 22% of accidents occur mid-block. Denver has established mid-block crossing standards that they use to determine if there is pedestrian demand. Mid-block crossings are appropriate when the closest pedestrian crossing is greater than a distance of 300 feet away.

Pedestrian Refugee Islands

Refugee islands or medians increase pedestrian safety by allowing those crossing to do so in two steps. The island is positioned between the two crossings, and pedestrians can remain on the island as they await a break in traffic flow. These are also a means of slowing traffic to some extent.

Speed Limit Reduction

Reductions in speed help to prevent accidents and reduce crash severity. Motorists are afforded a real-time increase in their sight distance by expanding their “cone of vision.” At slower speeds, drivers simply have additional time to react and brake when needed.

Compact Intersection Design

There are various means of narrowing streets near intersections to enhance visibility, reduce speed, and increase overall safety.

  • Curb extensions: When the curb is extended, pedestrians have a shorter distance to cross and motorists generally turn more slowly. This can be done both at crossings located at intersections and those mid-block.
  • Corner radii: The tightening of corner radii may prevent the likelihood of right-hook crashes and be a potential site suitable for curb extensions.
  • Right-turn slip-lane removal: When right turn slip-lanes are present, pedestrians have an additional lane to cross.

Signals & Access

  • Access restrictions: Access restrictions refer to restricting the ability for motorists to turn (left or right) in the interest of safety.
  • Dedicated left turn signal: Signals for left turns only may reduce left-hook crashes.
  • Reduced signal length: Reducing the length of the signal cycle tends to increase pedestrian compliance.

Preventing intersection accidents requires that motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians all act responsibly. When you are injured in a traffic accident as a bicyclist or a pedestrian, there is an increased likelihood that you will incur injuries that are particularly severe. In these situations, it is important to contact an experienced accident attorney that is knowledgeable about the local laws to pursue compensation on your behalf while you work towards recovering from the event.