People walking, riding bicycles or using other active forms of transportation are the most vulnerable users of the roadway network. This is because they have less mass and minimal to no protection in the event of a collision with a motor vehicle. Streets that are safer for the most vulnerable roadway users are also safer for motorists. They are key to reducing traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries in the region.

Safety is closely tied with comfort. If people think a street environment is unsafe due to the speed of traffic, lack of space to walk or bike, personal security, etc., then they are less likely to choose these modes of travel. Safety, perceived or actual, impacts the use and success of an active transportation network. There are five main focus areas for improving safety for active transportation users:

  • Minimize conflicts. Conflict points often occur where different roadway users cross paths such as at intersections and driveways. The potential for conflict may be lessened by combining conflict points (e.g., reducing the number of driveways) or separating modes at conflict points (e.g., through signal phasing). Other solutions include providing signs and pavement markings that clearly convey interaction between modes, and designing facilities that are intuitive and promote predictable behavior.
  • Provide Safe and Convenient Crossings. Providing convenient and safe street crossings for people walking and biking improves the safety and viability of these modes. Safe crossings should be provided at or near transit stops, where bike routes cross arterials, and near parks, schools, and other community destinations.
  • Reduce speeds. Reducing vehicle speeds is key to decreasing collisions among roadway users and minimizing the chances or severity of injuries if a collision occurs. This is especially true for people walking and biking, as they travel slower than vehicles. This speed differential can negatively affect the perception of safety (particularly where there is a lack of separation between vehicles and active transportation users). It can also impact actual safety, especially at conflict points.
  • Delineate space. Delineating space for different users supports actual and perceived safety by reducing conflicts and promoting predictable behavior. The amount of space and how this space is defined varies by facility.
  • Provide consistency. Infrastructure designed with a level of consistency in terms of how it looks and functions improves safety by promoting predictable behaviors. Consistency also increases user comfort by making the street environment more innate.

Design Guide Resources

Transportation Planning Project Manager
Kay Bork