With the number of automated vehicles increasing on our roadways it is important to understand their potential impacts and how other road users will interact with them. In the future, there will be a more pronounced shared levels-of-automation transportation network, with fully manual, partially automated, and fully automated vehicles sharing the same Minnesota roads. While planners and engineers have a reasonable idea of how humans drive around other humans, what is not as well-known is human driving behavior around automated vehicles.Continue reading New Project: Assessment of Pedestrian Safety and Driver Behavior Near Automated Vehicles
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.
Last year, 41 people were killed while walking or biking on Minnesota roads and nearly 1,700 were injured.
Dozens of measures are available, however, for making roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Minnesota Department of Transportation Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Engineer Melissa Barnes reviewed some of these design techniques in a recent presentation to city and state transportation engineers. (Watch the full webinar.)
We asked Barnes to highlight her favorite bike and pedestrian safety countermeasures used in Minnesota.
Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon
An unusually effective new pedestrian warning device, called the Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon, has become quite popular.
User-activated, the device alerts drivers to a pedestrian’s presence with a bright flashing beacon that “looks kind of like an ambulance or fire truck light,” Barnes said. (RRFBs can also be activated passively by a pedestrian’s presence.)
Studies have shown that the number of motorists stopping for pedestrians increases from 18 to 81 percent with the RRFB. Another plus: the device doesn’t appear to lose its effectiveness over time. After two years, compliance has been shown to still be more than 80 percent.
Advanced Stop Lines
It’s not uncommon for a motorist to stop for someone in a crosswalk, only for the vehicle following them to not see the pedestrian and veer around, driving through the crosswalk.
But an advanced stop line, placed 20 to 50 feet prior to a crosswalk, is effective at making both vehicles stop and see the person in the crosswalk.
“They are a really good option at an unsignalized, mid-block crossing,” said Barnes, although the stop line may not be a good option for a two-way stop.
Advanced stop lines have been shown to reduce pedestrian-vehicle conflict up to 90 percent; however, stop lines shouldn’t be placed too far in advance of the crossing, because motorists might then ignore them.
Leading Protected Interval
The walk signal begins three to seven seconds before the parallel street turns green by extending the time all lights are red.
A right turn on red can be prohibited with this device; however, even without the prohibition, the Leading Protected Interval has been shown to reduce crashes by 5 percent.
Protected Bike Lanes
Bike lanes buffered from traffic with some sort of physical barrier, even parked cars, will reduce all types of crashes. They also increase comfort levels for cyclists, helping keep bikes off the sidewalk.
“A lot of people are much more comfortable biking in these than a regular bike lane,” Barnes said. “It can be a very effective solution for places with lots of cyclists.”
Protected bike lanes, also called cycle tracks, also have a traffic-calming effect.
In New York City, the cycle track reduced all types of crashes an average of 40 percent and up to 80 percent on some roads.
“The challenge is how to design these at intersections,” Barns said. “It’s hard to get the turns right and get everybody visible. It’s pretty important to design these carefully at intersections.”
For those reasons, two-way cycle tracks work best on one-way streets, she said.
Flexible bollards create temporary curb lines that encourage vehicles to slow down. They can be installed easily and inexpensively.
Flexible bollards bend up to 90 degrees when struck by an errant vehicle. They do not physically stop a car, but encourage vehicles to stay within their lane. Although they can create additional maintenance, they are a good interim solution at locations that need an immediate fix, but have no funding to do so.