A 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.
A two-year research project underway in the City of St. Paul is already improving pedestrian safety and driver behavior by applying lessons learned from a national award-winning pedestrian traffic study. The city began using the practices last fall with the “Stop for Me” campaign, and driver yield rates have already gone up by 9 percent.
Each year, dozens of Saint Paul pedestrians legally crossing the street are struck by vehicles driven by motorists who fail to stop. In 2015, 40 pedestrians died in Minnesota after being hit by a motor vehicle; 900 were injured. In 2017, there were 192 vehicle-pedestrian crashes in Saint Paul, three of which proved deadly.
Pedestrian fatalities and injuries represent a growing percentage of traffic fatalities and injuries nationwide. For example, pedestrian fatalities comprised 10.9% of all traffic deaths nationwide in 2004, but 14.5% in 2013.
A recent study supported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration demonstrated that driver behavior can be changed on a city-wide basis. The introduction of highly-visible pedestrian right-of-way enforcement in Gainesville, Florida increased driver yield rates for pedestrians by 22% to 30%.
University of Minnesota researchers are charged with reviewing the City of St. Paul’s efforts to improve pedestrian safety and investigate whether a program similar to the one in Gainesville can change driver yielding for pedestrians and speed compliance. The activities in St. Paul are being planned together with city traffic engineers and enforcement officers and will include various educational, engineering and enforcement countermeasures and media campaigns.
Last fall, St. Paul began the “Stop for Me” campaign, which enforces pedestrian laws, increases driver and pedestrian education and works towards enhanced signage and other changes to crosswalks around the city.
On June 25, the St. Paul Police Department began the second phase of the campaign by ticketing drivers who fail to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks.
Additionally, police officers are ticketing drivers for “endangerment” if they pass a vehicle that is stopped for a pedestrian at a crosswalk. This citation leads to a mandatory court appearance for the driver.
Weekly stopping percentages can be viewed at eight intersections across the city from now until the end of fall.
Watch for new developments on this project (expected end date of August 2019) here. Another MnDOT study is looking at pedestrian traffic safety in rural and tribal communities. Other Minnesota research on pedestrian travel can be found at MnDOT.gov/research.
What transportation problems will Minnesota researchers attempt to solve next year?
MnDOT Research Services & Library has released its annual request for proposals, which provides a sneak peak into the projects that may be selected.
The top favorites of those ranking 24 potential research ideas:
- A roadside tool to assess snowplow driver fatigue.
- An educational video to help cities and counties invest more in pothole prevention.
- Creation of a chloride water quality standard for road salt that takes public safety into account.
- Assessment of the impact of different pedestrian crossing systems.
- Modern construction designs for new timber bridges in rural Minnesota.
Each year, MnDOT and the Local Road Research Board solicit ideas for new research projects from MnDOT staff and city and county engineers. The ideas are then reviewed and ranked by the LRRB and MnDOT’S Transportation Research Innovation Group, which represents MnDOT’s districts and specialty offices.
“We always reach out to the specialty offices and help them develop ideas and prioritize current needs,” said Hafiz Munir, MnDOT research management engineer. “They’re in the driver’s seat. We are guiding them through the process.”
Of nearly 100 ideas submitted this year, transportation researchers will have a chance to bid on 24 ideas from seven different research areas.
The current RFP solicitation is open to faculty from universities with MnDOT master contracts, as well as MnDOT’s own Office of Materials and Road Research.
Munir said this year’s portfolio of potential projects was very well-balanced.
Funding awards will be announced in December. If you have a research idea you’d like to submit for a future RFP, click here.
Read a brief summary (PDF) of all the ideas or click below for individual need statements.
Materials and Construction
- Optimizing Pavement Foundations to Resist Environmental Effects (PDF)
- Using Mobile Microwave Technology with HMA Paving to Extend Longitudinal Joint Life (PDF)
- Installation of Insulation Over Centerline Culverts (PDF)
- Evaluation of Stabilized Full Depth Reclamation (PDF)
- PCC and HMA Evaluation Tool for Local Agencies (PDF)
- Options and Guidance When Using Base Stabilization Additives (PDF)
- Maintenance Solutions for Slope Failure (PDF)
- Assessing the Impact of Pedestrian Crossing Systems (PDF)
- Validating an Objective Roadside Tool to Assess Fatigue in Snow Plow Drivers (PDF)
- Using In-Vehicle Warnings to Reduce Risky Driver Behavior in Work Zones (PDF)
- Assessing the Impact of Freight Operation on Regional Transportation Systems (PDF)
Maintenance, Operations and Security
Planning and Policy
- Refining Return on Investment Methodology/Tool for MnPASS (PDF)
- Manufacturers’ Perspectives on Minnesota’s Transportation System (PDF)
- Critical Paths: The Effect of Connectivity on Accessibility
- Develop Tool to Measure Reliability (PDF)
- How Do We Effectively Connect Transitways to Final Destinations (“The Last Mile”) (PDF)
- What is the Optimimum Arrangement of Land Uses Around Transit Stations? (PDF)
- Development of a Chloride Water Quality Standard Which Incorporates Safety Factors (PDF)
- Concrete Grinding Residue: It’s Effect on Roadside Vegetation and Soil Properties (PDF)
- Comparing Properties of Water Absorbing/Filtering Media for Bioslope/Bioswale Design (PDF)
- Meeting NPDES Requirements for Stormwater Management within the Public Road Right-of-Way in Urbanized Areas (PDF)
Bridges and Structures
City and county engineers often struggle with how to respond to safety concerns about pedestrian crossings, with no scientific method for evaluating them.
In Long Lake, for example, the police department received numerous complaints about the safety of a particular pedestrian crossing. But when the crossing was videotaped, no one was observed using it.
This example — which was part of a research project funded by the Local Road Research Board — exemplifies the difficulties local governments face when they receive requests for a stop sign or signals at a crossing.
A new manual and June 5 training workshop being held by the Minnesota Local Technical Assistance Program will provide cities and counties with step-by-step tools for evaluating a pedestrian crossing and identifying whether improvements are warranted.
The soon-to-be released guidebook* recommends when to install marked crosswalks and other enhancements based on the average daily vehicle count, number of pedestrians, number of lanes and average vehicle speed. It guides users how to rate a crossing for pedestrian service, and includes a flow chart to assist in decision-making.
The training is unique because it is based on actual video footage of existing crosswalks and the pedestrians which use them.
Although vehicles are legally required to stop for pedestrians crossing at intersections and within marked crosswalks, they don’t always yield the right-of-way. And areas with high traffic volumes may not have adequate gaps for pedestrians to cross safely, leading to risk-taking.
Alan Rindels, a MnDOT research engineer, had previously looked for a methodology to evaluate a crosswalk’s effectiveness, but could not find an appropriate engineering analysis.
“What I kept coming up with were results based on the experience of an engineer or planner for what they ‘felt’ was a better crosswalk, such as additional pavement markings, lights or maybe a signal system,” he said.
Rindels finally found guidance in a Transportation Research Board webinar two years ago. Based on that, he asked the LRRB to develop a training methodology for Minnesota practitioners.
Uncontrolled pedestrian crossings
Unless specifically marked otherwise, every intersection is a pedestrian crossing, regardless of the existence of crosswalk markings or sidewalks. At mid-block locations, crosswalk markings legally establish the pedestrian crossing. Uncontrolled pedestrian crossings (which the guidebook focuses on) are locations that are not controlled by a stop sign, yield sign or traffic signal.
Defining where to place pedestrian crossing enhancements — including markings, signs and or other devices — depends on many factors, including pedestrian volume, vehicular traffic volume, sight lines and speed.
The LRRB developed a worksheet that engineers can use to evaluate an uncontrolled pedestrian crossing location in a systematic way, in accordance with the 2010 Highway Capacity Manual. Users note the level of lighting, distance from the nearest all-way stop and whether another location might serve the same pedestrian crossing more effectively.
The guidebook’s 11-step evaluation can identify what level of treatment is appropriate, ranging from overhead flashing beacons and traffic calming devices, such as curb bump-outs, to more expensive options like building overpass or underpass.
Hennepin County Senior Transportation Engineer Pete Lemke, who went through pre-training, said the guidebook will help engineers measure the pedestrian experience by “quantifying the delay at non-signalized intersections.”
“It will inform how we respond to concerns — whether that response is ‘the crossing fits the needs of what’s there’ or ‘we need to make changes or enhancements,'” he said.
Training workshop – June 5 (register here)
* Consultant Bolton & Menks prepared the guidebook with guidance from a 21-member project team that included University of Minnesota researchers and engineers from the city of Eagan, Hennepin County, Carver County, Scott County, MnDOT, the Center for Transportation Studies and the Federal Highway Administration.