4.1 Pedestrian Safety Zones
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 more effectively targeting resources to problem areas. Specifically, the objective of pedestrian safety zones is to increase cost-effectiveness of interventions by targeting education, enforcement, and engineering measures to geographic areas and audiences where significant portions of the pedestrian crash problem exist (NHTSA, 2008). Pedestrian zone programs can target a full range of pedestrian crash problems in a limited geographic area or focus on particular types of problems that make up a large portion of the problem in a limited area.
Blomberg and Cleven (1998) implemented and analyzed an early pedestrian safety zone program in Phoenix, Arizona. Crash data were analyzed to identify areas where older pedestrian crashes occurred and “zones” were drawn around the high-incidence areas. Countermeasures were developed for the kinds of crashes that involved older pedestrians. The measures included lengthening the signal timing to allow more time for older pedestrians 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 a Miami-Dade County comprehensive application of the safety zone strategy, high crash zones were identified, and then the characteristics of those crashes were further analyzed in 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 in certain corridors. Overall, there was an 8.5% to 13.3% reduction in pedestrian crash rates during and following the program implementation compared to control groups (Zegeer, Blomberg, et al., 2008).
Montgomery County, Maryland, reduced crashes in high incidence areas using a combination of education, enforcement, and engineering measures (Dunckel et al., 2014). After 3 years of the program, crashes in 10 high-incidence areas fell by 43% and countywide pedestrian crashes fell by 7%, with a 38% decrease in pedestrian fatalities.
Smart Street NJ is a pedestrian safety campaign conducted in two phases (2013 and 2016) across nine communities in New Jersey. A combination of education and enforcement were used to decrease road user violations of pedestrian safety laws. An evaluation of pre- and post- behaviors of pedestrians and drivers was conducted using three proxy measures of pedestrian compliance with crossing/crosswalk signs and signals, driver yielding/stopping at red or stop signs, and drivers yielding to pedestrians during green signals (Gonzales, 2017). While the study found mixed results across the communities’ overall, compliance with pedestrian safety laws improved in urban locations over suburban locations, and particularly at intersections. The program is still under active research.
Use: Pedestrian zone programs are known to have been implemented in only a handful of cities.
Effectiveness: 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) and in decreasing pedestrian fatalities (Dunckel et al., 2014).
Costs: Pedestrian zone programs require up-front analysis and planning, countermeasure development and tailoring, and implementation.
Time to implement: Medium. 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. Programs to date have included local task forces, usually assembled for the program, to take critical leadership roles.