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Wednesday , 22 May 2024

Pedestrian and Bicycle Plans and Safety Measures in North America

As the congestion on roads increases the world over with the increase in various transportation modes, modern, intelligent & effective systems and technologies are being put in place to enhance the ultimate driving experience and underline the vehicle/infrastructure safety measures. The adoption of healthy alternative transportation modes has shown significant improvements in reducing the number of passenger car vehicles in urban environments in many parts of the world including Europe, North America and South America. In North America, the trend is gradually shifting from personal cars to alternative green transportation modes like public transit system, bicycling and walking.

Government agencies on state/provincial and municipal/city levels are developing effective strategies and investing in safe and pedestrian/bicycle-friendly infrastructure with support of federal agencies like Transport Canada and United States Department of Transportation (USDOT).

Vulnerable Road Users

According to an estimate of a global disease study in the United States, the annual number of deaths and disabilities due to traffic collisions would increase by more than 60% by 2020 if the current trends of road fatalities continue. The main reason for the latter is the projected increase in traffic fatalities and injuries among “vulnerable road users in the developing countries”. In Canada, vulnerable road users make up the 20% of road users killed and seriously injured each year in traffic crashes. According to National Highway Transportation Safety Authority (NHTSA), in the national statistics in the United States up to 2007, pedestrians’ fatalities accounted for approximately 4,800 deaths, i.e., about 11% of total traffic fatalities each year, as compared with about 700 bicyclist fatalities (2% of total fatalities). The number of motorcyclist fatalities, approximately 5,200 per year, now exceeds the number of pedestrian traffic fatalities annually.

Measures for Pedestrians’ Safety

In 2004, World Health Organisation (WHO), under the United Nations General Assembly resolution on ‘Improving Global Road Safety’, set up the UN Road Safety Collaboration (UNRSC) to promote road safety among the member countries. The slogan – “Road safety is no accident” – was chosen to focus the world’s attention on highlighting the fact that traffic fatalities and injuries can be avoided. In Canada, a national task force, comprising Road Safety Professionals from a number of provinces and Transport Canada, was created in early 2004 to develop a plan to ensure safety of vulnerable road users including pedestrians.

The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) under Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA), is progressing on a National Highway Safety Strategy Plan called ‘Towards Zero Deaths’. The plan covers many improvement programmes involving implementation of roadway geometric design treatments, use of advanced photo enforcement technology applications, public educational workshops, young/new drivers’ courses at high school levels. It also includes drivers’ training and refreshing sessions as part of the enforcement programme when an individual gets a ticket for failing to provide right-of-way to pedestrians and bicycle users, over-speeding in restricted zones, not wearing seat-belts and/or other traffic violations.

In Canada and the United States, regional/local authorities and district school boards support and promote neighbourhood safety, children’s safe routes to school and road-watch programmes at community levels. Due to the year-round educational workshops and training programmes, more and more agencies are joining the group by forming road and traffic safety committees comprising city councillors, police staff members and residents that monitor the overall progress and point out trouble spots and high-crash locations to watch in the respective communities.

The police departments coordinate efforts by enforcing traffic laws in collaboration with regional and city traffic/transportation engineering departments that design and implement traffic calming measures with greater emphasis on pedestrians and bicycle users’ safety.

It is a common practice in North America and European countries to reduce the posted speed limits on roadway sections near schools, hospitals and religious places in order to make them safer for pedestrian and bicycle users. School bus-stop sign regulations are very well in place for children’s safety with heavy traffic fines/penalties and driving license demerit points for offenders. The local emergency services departments (police, fire and medical) organise interactive workshops for school children regarding road and traffic safety and provide easy-to-understand and helpful safe walking and bicycling tips.

Following pedestrian safety improvement measures are playing a key role in lowering the number of pedestrian crashes, injuries and deaths in North America:

• Pedestrian-friendly roadway/street geometric design guidelines

• Effective traffic control and pedestrian safety treatments including Pedestrian Count Down Signals

• Funding allocation to implement Safe Routes to School and Road / Traffic Safety Education programmes

• Promoting and advancing the use of Enforcement, such as speed and red-light running cameras

• Development and implementation of pedestrian-friendly ITS vehicle roadway features and applications, and

• Development of Comprehensive Pedestrian and Bicycle Plans including Safety Programmes

Urban Bicycle Plans

Bicycling is a fairly popular form of recreation in Canada but the non-recreational bicycle use, i.e., commuting to work is gradually picking up speed. According to a 2004 survey in Amsterdam regarding non-recreational bicycle use, the commuters cited speed, independence from public transit, and health benefits as their top reasons for choosing to cycle. On the other hand, the 2005 Montreal transportation survey reported the top three reasons for not using bicycles as lack of safety, long distances and extreme weather conditions.

Understanding the need for proper planning to encourage bicycle use, cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York, Toronto and Vancouver have developed official bicycle plans at municipal levels to ensure sustained and coordinated efforts involving number of stakeholders both within and outside the municipal governments, private organisations and through Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) to plan, design and implement safe and pedestrian & bicycle user-friendly infrastructure including parking facilities and services.

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