Innovative Design in Pedestrian Safety and Accessibility

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Our work advances innovative design, safe mobility and accessibility for pedestrians – prioritizing investments in historically underserved communities. NITC research on the innovative infrastructure implemented in cities across the country is being used to change national guidance, including the MUTCD and ITE Trip Generation manual, allowing cities and states more flexibility and improving pedestrian safety.

Learn about the impacts of our research on advancing innovative design in pedestrian safety and accessibility.

Learn more here about the other impacts from a decade of research funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities.

Study in Portland, OR revealed that Black male pedestrians were passed by twice as many cars and waited 32% longer than white male pedestrians.

This two-part study was among the first to show racial bias in pedestrian’s experience crossing streets, and explored social identity-related factors that influence drivers’ behaviors in interactions with pedestrians at crosswalks. If drivers yield differently to Black and white pedestrians at crosswalks, this may lead to disparate crossing experiences and disproportionate safety outcomes. The research team conducted a field experiment where Black and white pedestrians wore identical clothing and repeatedly crossed the same intersection in a systematic manner, with coders in the field marking drivers’ behaviors. The initial study (88 pedestrian trials, 173 driver-subjects) revealed discriminatory treatment by drivers in that Black male pedestrians were passed by twice as many cars and waited 32% longer than white male pedestrians. The second phase goes farther by examining how additional factors, notably gender, affect drivers’ stopping behaviors at crosswalks.

Novel findings include:

  • When pedestrians were categorized by gender, female pedestrians were more likely to have the first car stop for them than male pedestrians.
  • When pedestrians were categorized by race, white pedestrians more likely to have the first car stop for them than black pedestrians.
  • Black men were likely to have the most cars pass them before one stopped.
  • Drivers were more likely to stop with their vehicle behind the stop bar when the pedestrian was white, but after the bar when the pedestrian was Black; demonstrating an intrusion into the crossing space for black pedestrians and a possible safety risk.
  • At unmarked crosswalks, drivers rarely stopped for any of the pedestrians.
  • With a Black pedestrian, cars were more likely to stop after the stop bar, infringing on the pedestrian's crossing space. With white pedestrians, the cars were leaving more of a buffer for the pedestrian to safely cross.

The study has now been replicated in other places and used in city plans to set new policy and priorities. As part of a new public education campaign around Vision Zero, the Seattle Department of Transportation is expanding upon this research by comparing the percentage of people driving who stop for white pedestrians to the percentages of those who stop for pedestrians who are BIPOC. The Seattle DOT is working with community partners, including the Delridge Neighborhood Development Association and CHAMPS Resource Center, to identify particularly unsafe intersections and collect these data.

Learn more about Racial Bias in Drivers' Yielding Behavior at Crosswalks: Understanding the Effect, led by Kimberly Kahn of Portland State University.

Understanding neighborhood walkability with a toolkit for community engagement and data collection

The Qualitative Pedestrian Environments Data (QPED) Toolkit is helping communities and decision-makers better understand neighborhood walkability from the perspective of a different kind of expert: the people out walking in their communities. QPED is a simple, modifiable, and powerful toolkit of community engagement and data collection tools, protocols, and trainings for use by researchers, agencies, and community organizations. The tools are designed to help users identify holistic strategies for improving neighborhood walkability in different community contexts, through brief structured on-street interviews. The QPED Toolkit includes:

  • On-Street Interview Guide (English and Spanish),
  • Data Collection Manual,
  • Training Materials, and
  • Data Entry Template

QPED was developed at The University of Arizona in collaboration with Living Streets Alliance and with support from the CDC's Physical Activity Policy Research Network (PAPRN+) and NITC. Learn more about the project Access to Opportunities: Redefining Planning Methods and Measures for Disadvantaged Populations, led by Arlie Adkins of University of Arizona.