Selecting Uncontrolled Pedestrian Crosswalk Treatments

new guidebook published by the Minnesota Local Road Research Board offers a uniform approach and practical methods for selecting locations and the right treatment for uncontrolled pedestrian crosswalks in Minnesota.

What Was the Need?

In 2018, there were 1,017 motor vehicle crashes in Minnesota that injured or killed at least one pedestrian.

Drivers in Minnesota must yield to pedestrians at intersections, even in unmarked crosswalks. But Minnesota lacks a fully consistent policy or shared policy for pedestrian crossings. Road agencies typically select locations and designs of crosswalks and other pedestrian facilities without uniform guidance from national or state sources.

The Local Road Research Board undertook a research project to develop guidance that would assist local road agencies in choosing the location and design of pedestrian crossings based on relevant factors, enhancing statewide consistency in crosswalk design.

Investigators developed guidance for selecting and designing crosswalk facilities based on roadway type, vehicle volumes and posted speed limits. A user-friendly quick reference tool offers a standardized approach to crosswalk design with practical methods that can be easily implemented by local agencies throughout the state.

“This guide will help practitioners maintain consistency and credibility as they talk to elected officials and the public about crosswalk treatments that should and should not be used in certain situations,” said Marc Culver, public works director, City of Roseville.

How Did We Do It?

Researchers worked with urban, suburban and rural transportation agency representatives who had been directly involved in decisions to locate and select suitable crosswalk configurations. The project team members determined that agency size, resources and other factors have shaped policy on where to locate crosswalks, and they agreed that crosswalk decisions need to remain a matter of local agency discretion rather than a centralized directive.

In-street pedestrian crossing sign with the message “State law: Stop for pedestrians within crosswalk.”
In-street pedestrian signs can force drivers to slow and yield right of way.

Team members then reviewed best practices and policy from several agencies and authorities, including El Cerrito, California; Boulder, Colorado; Albert Lea, Blaine and Mankato, Minnesota; and Hennepin County, Minnesota. They also reviewed guidelines from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and other recent research. The 2018 FHWA Guide for Improving Pedestrian Safety at Uncontrolled Crossing Locations is a direct source of information for the new quick reference guide.

In addition to reviewing these resources, investigators surveyed Minnesota cities and counties about policy and practice, administrative perspectives and field installations. The survey was conducted both to gather information from these agencies and to inform them about the crosswalk project and the new guidelines it would produce. Responses from 56 cities and 45 counties created an informed market for the quick reference guide.

What Was the Impact?

The Uncontrolled Pedestrian Crosswalk: Quick Reference Guide presents 12 crosswalk treatments, including crosswalk warning signs, raised crosswalks, in-street signs, curb extensions and rapid-flashing beacons. Fact sheets for each of the 12 treatments describe safety and design benefits, best locations, design considerations and planning-level costs.

“This quick reference guide will help local agencies choose crosswalk treatments based on the community’s needs, costs and other relevant details,” said Kate Miner, Traffic Engineering Group manager, Stonebrooke Engineering, Inc.

Additional charts help decision-makers choose the best treatment for a specific application based on:

  • Road size. The number of lanes in each direction of the road that pedestrians cross: two lanes, three lanes with a raised median, three lanes without a raised median, four or more lanes with a raised median, and four or more lanes without a raised median.  
  • Traffic level. Three levels of annual average daily traffic (AADT): less than 9,000 vehicles AADT; 9,000 to 15,000 vehicles AADT; and greater than 15,000 AADT.
  • Speed limit. Three posted speed limits: less than or equal to 30 mph, 35 mph, and 40 mph or greater.

Statewide use of the guide is expected to improve crosswalk uniformity for travelers and help reduce pedestrian fatalities.

What’s Next?

Investigators presented the quick reference guide at the March 2020 Minnesota Transportation Conference and plan to present it at an upcoming American Public Works Association conference. LRRB will also distribute the guide to city and county agencies throughout Minnesota.

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