October 15, 2020

Three Simple Changes in Road Design & Speed Can Save Pedestrian Lives

Here’s more data showing  that simple changes to speed and design of city roads can make all the difference in reducing pedestrian and cyclist fatalities and serious injury.

Planner Eric Doherty posted this article from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that shows that ‘centreline hardening’ using rubber curbs and bollards at intersections to force drivers to slow down and proceed carefully through intersections  reduces left-turn speeds and increases safety for pedestrians in the intersection.

In the United States pedestrian fatalities have risen 53 percent from 2009 to 2018 and are 17% of all traffic deaths. As over half of Vancouver’s fatalities are with turning movements in intersections, tightening the corner for drivers to proceed slowly would also be safer for pedestrians.

Seattle’s Transportation Engineering champion Dongho Chang has reported out on the implementation of leading pedestrian intervals at forty locations in Seattle.

I have written about Leading Pedestrian Intervals that give pedestrians an advanced green crossing time ahead of car traffic, enabling a pedestrian to be well into the intersection before any driver turning movements through the same space.  The leading interval time is usually between six to eight seconds.  Over 2,200 of these devices  have been installed in New York City which has seen a 56 percent reduction in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities.

In one year Seattle has seen a 33 percent reduction in pedestrian collisions  with the installation of Leading Pedestrian Intervals compared with three years of previous data at the same intersections.

The cost of Leading Pedestrian Intervals or LPIs is minimal, at most a few thousand dollars per intersection. It saves lives.

Lastly Rod King with 20 is Plenty in the United Kingdom has been involved in a survey with the British Department of Transportation that show that 80 percent of drivers in downtown areas of city adhere to strict speed limit of 30 km/h  (approx 20 mp/h and accept that speed.  In residential areas outside the downtown  70 percent of motorists stay with that speed.

You can take a look at the data here that shows maintaining city speeds of 30 km/h resulted in an immediate reduction of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities by 30 percent.

Slower speeds, tighter driver turning movements and advanced green time for pedestrians saves lives. They are simple approaches with massive benefits, and can be achieved with little cost. So why are we not valuing human lives ahead of the right of vehicular drivers to travel quickly?

Slower speeds mean enhancing  healthier communities where people of all ages and abilities can use the street without fear of being crashed into, lessens pollution and enhances mental and physical health.  As Mr. King notes, enforcement is easy by simply installing cameras and following up diligently on drivers that choose to drive too fast.

You can take a look the YouTube video below about Leading Pedestrian Intervals, as well as another video with  Mr. King describing why 20 miles per hour is Plenty in Britain’s cities and areas.






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  1. “There really can be little argument against 20mph as the limit for most urban and village roads.” Tell that to the cops. They oppose slower speed limits because enforcing them is hard.
    Editor’s Note: Enforcing speed is not hard. It’s not for police to do. It is the Speed Camera’s job. More here.

  2. I just learned that deaths to cyclists, pedestrians, transit users and motorists in Oslo (population 700,000) has been reduced to one (a car passenger) in the latest year for which data were available. A combination of slower speeds, safety improvements, such as improved cycling facilities and leading green for pedestrians, and less traffic are apparently responsible. It’s too bad that traffic volumes can’t be separated out as a variable. In any event it seems that zero deaths is an achievable target if we consider it an important priority.

  3. I’ve seen leading pedestrian intervals in North Vancouver: East 3rd & Queensbury and Esplanade & Rogers. There are probably more I haven’t noticed yet. Downtown Vancouver has the opposite: signals set up to let vehicles turn before pedestrians and cyclists are allowed to go. Obviously Vancouver is dealing with higher volumes of both active and motorized transportation by at least an order of magnitude, but I see an enormous number of conflicts at those intersections and there’s plenty of blame to go around.

  4. We need to end the honour system of traffic enforcement in Vancouver. There is some enforcement in suburban areas by police, and there are some very simple intersection cameras, but in the main, there is no enforcement. The intersection of 2nd and Cambie right out in front of the cop shop is a good illustration. Folks run that light on most light cycles. Right in front of the police.

    We have the video technology to put a stop to this now. Cameras can identify cars, measure their speeds, read licence plates, ascertain where the car is on the road just by having the road lines in the image, and finally ascertain where the car is in the light cycle by also having the traffic signal in the image. Previous technology for red light cameras means putting censors in the road which was an additional cost, but cameras don’t need that now. Point a high resolution camera with processing power at an intersection. When the light goes yellow, all the cars that are far enough from the stop line to stop, but do not stop, can be nabbed. If the car is also speeding, that can be added. And if the car endangers a pedestrian while engaging in sketchy manoeuvre, that can be added too.

    Ascertaining speed from just a visual is perfectly doable, but it can be augmented with radar as well. Microphones would be useful as well to hear if engines were revved upon seeing the yellow.

    A computer would do a raw run through the video and pick out the likely suspects which would queue up the sequences for a live person to view, confirm and issue a ticket. Anyone pinched would get an email or letter with a link to the video download where they could get a clip of their transgression. The speed and distance thresholds to issue a ticket versus just a warning could be adjusted for the weather and time of day.

    Other driver infractions could be added. A camera is perfectly able to ascertain whether turn signals were used, whether a person turning left turned into the left-most lane or just floated all over the road. (The law might need to be updated here to make turn float explicitly illegal.) And cameras can enforce one of the most flagrantly flouted rule, the ability to turn right on a red after coming to a stop. An actual stop.

    The superiority of actual video technology over still images triggered by in-road sensors is that it can catch the truly dangerous behaviours and single then out for special opprobrium. Speeding toward an intersection, accelerating on a yellow, making a wide left turn at speed, tires chirping, of course no signal, and breezing past a pedestrian is downright menacing. Contrast that with the person that misjudges the yellow, then hits the brake, realizes that won’t work, and then proceeds out of the intersection at a reasonable speed. The latter made a mistake, but not of the same order as the former, and that can be reflected in the fine.

    That is the stick, but there is a potential for a carrot as well. If drivers actually obeyed the law at all, we wouldn’t need advance pedestrian signals or such a long gap between the red light in one direction and the green light in the other. That gap gets expanded because the traffic authorities acquiesce to the red light running and expand the gap to let them through. But in some jurisdictions, there is no gap at all. When one light goes red, the other is green right away. We could have that if only re obeyed the law. (The gap might go down, but we need to reduce some speed limits and refine some laws about the speed limits for turns at intersections etc.)

    There is a certain company in Vancouver, ahem, that makes just this type of camera system and might think about getting into this business, because there really is business to be done.

    1. Agreed but but gently—- The over the top enforcing of photo radar 20 years ago elected The B C Lieberals with a promise to abolish it ( the only promise they kept )

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