This report examines pedestrian and motorist behavior on arterials in Washington State and determines how, if at all, these behaviors change when various engineering treatments are applied. The treatments that were examined included crosswalk markings, raised medians, in-pavement flashers, signage, stop bars, overhead lighting, and sidewalks. The relationships between pedestrian travel and transit use, origin-destination patterns, traffic signals, and schools were also explored.
The study examined seven locations in the state of Washington. These were State Route (SR) 7 at South 180th Street in Spanaway, SR 99 at South 152nd Street in Shoreline, SR 99 at South 240th Street in Kent, SR 2 between South Lundstrom and King Streets in Airway Heights, SR 2 at Lacrosse Street in Spokane, SR 2 at Rowan Avenue in Spokane, and SR 2 at Wellesley Avenue in Spokane.
Because pedestrian-vehicle collisions are rare when specific locations are studied, other criteria were used to evaluate the conditions and behaviors that were present. These included “conflicts” such as running behavior, motorists having to brake unexpectedly to avoid a pedestrian, pedestrians waiting in the center lane to cross, and more. These unreported, but very common, occurrences enabled the researchers to gain a better understanding of both pedestrian and motorist concerns and behaviors and the effects that improvements might have.
The study concludes that the causes of conflicts are highly varied: ignorance of or noncompliance with the law (by the motorist or the pedestrian), inattention, vehicles following too closely, impatience, anxiety in attempting to catch a bus, use or non-use of pedestrian facilities, placement of features in the built environment, and more. While pedestrian/motorist interaction improves with improved visibility (something which can be obtained through better engineering design and the removal of visual clutter) better education and/or enforcement will also be needed to achieve significant safety benefits.
Katherine D. Davis, Mark E. Hallenbeck. An Evaluation of Engineering Treatments and Pedestrian and Motorist Behavior on Major Arterials in Washington State. Washington State Transportation Center (TRAC), 2008.