Pedestrian facilities are the public right-of-way spaces that are used by people on foot to get from place to place. Improvements to pedestrian facilities include new crosswalk designs for increased safety, curb bulb-outs to reduce the distance it takes to cross a roadway, curb ramps for accessibility, and signal timing improvements that make pedestrians easier for drivers to see at intersections.
To support safe and efficient travel for people on foot, agencies must design and construct pedestrian facilities, like sidewalks, crosswalks, and separate paths, that are also accessible for people with disabilities.
Pedestrian issues have grown in significance over the last few decades as more people choose active transportation instead of motor vehicle travel. Increased transit use also reveals the need for sidewalks and other related pedestrian facilities, since every transit trip includes two pedestrian trips: to the bus/train and from the bus/train.
Crossing the road
Pedestrian safety is focused largely on roadway crossings since that part of the trip puts pedestrians at the most risk.
Treatments for pedestrian crossings including the following:
- High-visibility crosswalks improve on traditional crosswalks with bolder striping designs (e.g., “ladder” striping) that make the crosswalk location more obvious to motorists. High-visibility crosswalks are highly recommended at established crossings that occur in the middle of a roadway block, called midblock pedestrian crossings.
- Refuge islands provide a raised, protected area for pedestrians to stand and wait for motorists to stop or yield while crossing the road. This treatment is particularly useful when pedestrians are crossing 4 or more lanes of traffic at a midblock location.
- Pedestrian crossing signs include yellow-and-black Pedestrian Ahead warning signs and in-street pedestrian crossing signs placed in the middle of the road. Stop Here For Pedestrians signs, installed along with painted stop bars or yield bars indicating the location motorists should stop their vehicle, provide additional warning, and guidance to motorists as they approach a marked crosswalk.
- Flashing beacons can supplement crosswalks and signs to improve safety at marked crossings. A specific treatment called a Rectangular Rapid-Flashing Beacon (RRFB) uses two rectangular-shaped yellow lights that flash rapidly when a pedestrian is detected by the system or pushes a button.
Signalized intersections can be difficult for pedestrians to navigate because vehicles are approaching from multiple directions. Further, vehicles turning right or left often have a green signal at the same time as the pedestrian’s walk signal indication, so motorists are required to be aware of pedestrians in the crosswalk.
Right-turning motorists are often looking for a vehicle gap instead of being aware of pedestrians in the crosswalk. Disallowing right turns during a red light provides additional safety to pedestrians during their walk phase.
Help make it easier for motorists to see pedestrians in the crosswalk:
- The walk signal can turn on a few seconds before the vehicles receive a green light. This “leading pedestrian interval” allows pedestrians to establish their presence in the crosswalk, and in motorists’ lines of sight, before vehicles attempt to turn.
- Protected-only left turns are programmed to disallow left-turning motorists during the WALK phase, and then disallow pedestrian crossings while vehicles turn left.
- Agencies can stop all vehicle traffic and allow only pedestrians to cross. This traffic signal phase, called a “pedestrian scramble,” allows pedestrians to use the crosswalks or cross diagonally from one corner to another within the intersection.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 prohibits States and other public entities from discriminating on the basis of disability in the entities' services, programs, or activities. The 2004 ADA Accessibility Guidelines provide standards for the accessible design of public right-of-way spaces, like sidewalks and crosswalks. For example, anytime a roadway is altered, ADA-compliant curb ramps must be added wherever a sidewalk or other pedestrian walkway crosses the curb.
When to use this strategy
Pedestrian facilities make sense for any public roadway with current or expected use by pedestrians.
- Pedestrian facilities lower vehicle speeds, leading to a reduced number of collisions with pedestrians, as well as collisions that are less severe.
- Drivers will more easily see pedestrians, improving safety for those walking or using personal mobility devices.
- Increased convenience for people walking and accessibility support for those with physical limitations and people with disabilities
- Encouragement of active transportation modes like walking, bicycling, and use of other devices like scooters.
What you need in order to implement
- Agencies should develop and maintain a policy that “walking facilities will be incorporated into all transportation projects unless exceptional circumstances exist (1).
- A long-range pedestrian facilities plan helps identify agency desires, philosophies, and a plan of action to make its system pedestrian-friendly.
- Agencies should coordinate with pedestrian advocacy groups, social justice groups, and its own planning and engineering staff to ensure all users are being serviced.
- Equipment ranges from signing and striping to traffic signal equipment, depending on the pedestrian facility that is being implemented.
- Signage, pavement striping, and signals must be maintained. In particular, crosswalk striping is driven over by motorists and has a tendency to fade faster than other striping. Installing durable marking materials increases the useful life of these pavement markings.
Agency resources needs:
- Staff with knowledge in the safety, operations, and maintenance needs of pedestrian treatments. Expertise in ADA requirements is also necessary.
Learn more about this strategy
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Guide for Improving Pedestrian Safety at Uncontrolled Crossing Locations. FHWA-SA-17-072, Washington, DC, 2018 (PDF).
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), PEDSAFE: Pedestrian Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System website.
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Bicycle and Pedestrian Program website.
University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center.
(1) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), “Accommodating Bicycle and Pedestrian Travel: A .
About key characteristics
Pedestrians should be encouraged on all types of roadway.
There is a range of costs for pedestrian facilities, but in each case the cost is typically less than projects designed primarily for motor vehicles.
Technology could include pedestrian detection that does not require push buttons, revisions to traffic signal timing, and replacing signal controllers and cabinets.
Agencies should coordinate with all stakeholders on a project to identify the needs of all users, with an emphasis on pedestrians using the facility.