Thursday, March 7, 2013

Safety Treatments for Pedestrian Crossings - Crosswalks, Rapid Flash Beacons, and HAWKs

Research on crosswalk markings and their detection

The Federal Highway Administration research panel meeting for this project was held in College Station, Texas and it was a great opportunity to view the test course that was used to discuss the effectiveness of safety treatments for pedestrian crossings. There is a wide variety of treatments that we can use and there is a need for guidance on when the treatments are appropriate. There is a lot of bias in these guidelines and challenges with their use.

The first part of the research is for crosswalk markings and they tested three different types of crosswalk markings on different streets and speed limits. The research showed that the continental crosswalk markings are detected at a further distance than transverse markings. One of the questions that wasn't answered is how the marking types are affected by limited maintenance practices, which are common in these resource constrained times. In Portland's case there a blog devoted to the crosswalks that have been neglected. One of the considerations I asked for is to determine the long-term changes associated with these different maintenance practices and how transverse markings look more like continental over time.  

The other study was for the effectiveness of the rapid flash beacons and the size of their display. The study on the test course was the rapid flash beacon and the testing of the various configurations and shapes.

Setup of the circular rapid flash beacon on the test course.

The night time setup of the rapid flash beacon. Distance from 150' shows how hard
it is to identify pedestrians near the sign without street lighting. 
I can't disclose information from the research on the rapid flashing beacons because it is still underway.  

The testing on the test course had several limitations, but offered a great first attempt to identify the issues associated with their application. The nighttime observations were very interesting and offered some very interesting results. 

One of the great things about working on this panel is the collaboration with the agencies that are involved and seeing what others are doing. The City of Portland has done several things to modify their treatments at intersections to time the vehicle signals on the pedestrian hybrid beacons so that the safety of pedestrians is paramount. The difference is that we wait to allow the flashing red (for main street vehicle traffic). That choice is not currently allowed in the MUTCD. Apparently, the new edition of the Manual will allow what we do. I learned on this trip that D.C. has also lengthened the solid red on their pedestrian countdown which is consistent with the National Association of City Transportation Officials Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons version of this with the exception that they don't use the bike signal in DC.

No comments: