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Effectiveness: 4 Star Cost: $$$
Use: Low
Time: Long

The pedestrian safety zone concept was developed in a joint effort study by NHTSA and FHWA (Blomberg & Cleven, 1998). The idea is to strive for large decreases in pedestrian crashes and injuries by targeting education, enforcement, and engineering measures to geographic areas and audiences where significant portions of the pedestrian crash problem exist. Pedestrian safety zone programs can target a full range of pedestrian crash problems within a limited geographic area or focus on types of problems that make up a large portion of the problem within a limited area.


Pedestrian zone programs noted in early research were implemented in only a handful of cities. Since then, more programs have been implemented.


Properly designed and implemented pedestrian zone programs have been shown effective in reducing crashes and injuries for older pedestrians (Blomberg & Cleven, 1998), for impaired pedestrians (Blomberg & Cleven, 2000), and for child and adult pedestrian crashes in Miami-Dade County (Zegeer, Blomberg, et al., 2008; Zegeer, Henderson, et al., 2008). Surrogate measures of safety have also yielded promising results (Morris et al., 2019).

Blomberg and Cleven (1998) implemented and analyzed the first pedestrian safety zone program. Crash data in Phoenix, Arizona, were analyzed to identify areas where older pedestrian crashes occurred, and “zones” were drawn around the high-incidence areas. The countermeasures developed for crashes involving older pedestrians included lengthening the signal timing to allow more time to cross the street, providing communications and outreach to both drivers and pedestrians living near the crash zones, and enhanced enforcement. The result was a significant reduction in crashes and injuries involving older pedestrians in the target areas.

In Miami-Dade County, a comprehensive application of the pedestrian safety zone strategy identified high crash zones and then the characteristics of those crashes were further analyzed within the zones (Zegeer, Blomberg, et al., 2008). The four zones, comprising less than 1% of the total land area of the County, accounted for about 20% of the total number of collisions (Zegeer, Henderson, et al., 2008). Further analyses identified high child involvement in crashes in some areas, young adult involvement in others (particularly at night), and older adult involvement on certain corridors. During and following the program implementation, there was an 8.5% to 13.3% reduction in pedestrian crash rates compared to control groups (Zegeer, Blomberg, et al., 2008).

A more recent example in the vein of Phoenix and Miami-Dade comes from a St. Paul effort that involved the three Es plus a social norming approach aimed at improving motorist yielding to pedestrians (Morris et al., 2019). The phased approach implemented over 18 months included distributing education material, conducing four waves of HVE, social norming feedback signs that displayed site-specific and citywide yielding averages, different installations of the in-street yield sign (MUTCD R1-6), and a before-after survey. The 16 study sites were marked crosswalks at unsignalized locations on 30 mph roads; 8 sites were treatment sites that received HVE and a low-cost engineering treatment. Researchers hypothesized that changing motorist behavior hinges on the ability to convince people that a problem exists (i.e., pedestrian crashes) and inviting them to be a part of the solution using coordinated education material and the feedback signs, both of which were deployed citywide, not just at the study sites. Ultimately, weekly average yielding at treatment sites grew from as low as 26% in the baseline period to 78% during the final phase, while generalization sites grew from 31% to 61%. Multi-threat passing was also a surrogate safety measure of interest for the St. Paul research team. At the baseline, multi-threat passing was observed at 11.86% of crossing, but after program implementation this passing declined to 3.17% (Morris et al., 2020). The team also observed that higher speeds are associated with more multi-threat passes.

The Pedestrian Safety Initiative in Montgomery County, Maryland, also employed all three Es focused on 10 areas with high incidence of pedestrian crashes (Dunckel et al., 2014). After 3 years of the program, descriptive statistics showed a 43% reduction in pedestrian collisions in the targeted areas, but the study also reported that non-high incidence areas that received traffic calming treatments without the targeted education and enforcement efforts saw an even greater decrease in crashes. The lack of control sites and more complex statistical analysis make it hard to isolate the effect of the program.

Watch for Me NC (WFMNC) and Smart Street NJ are two programs that almost rise to the level of pedestrian safety zones because of their efforts to combine education and enforcement interventions at high crash locations, and in the case of Watch for Me NC, incorporate engineering measures at a subset of sites. WFMNC is a long-running program that targets motorist, bicyclist, and pedestrian behavior and has demonstrated improvements in pedestrian safety. It started in 2012 with four pilot communities and over the course of 6 years (2012 to 2017) came to include 41 communities from 29 North Carolina counties. Activities have included paid media, earned media, law enforcement training, enforcement operations, and community action planning, but their implementation has varied across time and across communities. A pre-post study of 16 sites in WFMNC communities found that treatment sites that received enhanced law enforcement activities and low-cost engineering improvements saw statistically significant improvements in motorist yielding (4 to 7%) while comparison sites did not experience change (Sandt, Marshall, et al., 2016). A later study employed a crash-based analysis that included all 29 counties with participating communities. The study found a statistically significant 12.8% reduction in pedestrian crashes along with a 21.7% reduction in nighttime crashes and a 9.5% reduction in the “failed to yield” crash type (Saleem et al., 2018). Smart Street NJ was conducted in two phases (2013 and 2016) across nine communities in New Jersey (Gonzales, 2017). Researchers evaluated the program by examining three proxy measures before and immediately after implementation:  pedestrian compliance with crossing/crosswalk signs and signals, driver yielding/stopping at red or stop signs, and drivers yielding to pedestrians during green signals. Researchers observed statistically significant improvements in non-compliant behaviors; however, the results for the three different behaviors were mixed across sites.


Pedestrian zone programs require up-front analysis and planning, countermeasure development and tailoring, and implementation.

Time to implement:

Long. A pedestrian zone program can take several months of concentrated activity before countermeasures can be implemented. More comprehensive programs, such as in Miami-Dade, may be years-long programs involving data analysis and on-site evaluations, lining up partners, and identifying, implementing, and evaluating countermeasures.