Improving Pedestrian Crossings Case Studies

Pedestrian Crossings on a Corporate Campus and at a Grocery Store

A company’s greatest resources are generally its employees and its customers. While much emphasis is placed on providing customers with an exceptional product or service and providing employees with benefits that enhance their overall experience, it is important to not overlook the everyday elements that contribute to customer and employee satisfaction. The last thing any company wants is for customers to have a stressful or even dangerous experience just trying to reach the front door of their business. The site should be easily accessible with sufficient parking and a safe pedestrian experience. And if you’ve ever worked on a corporate campus, chances are you know firsthand how on-site traffic, parking and pedestrian crossings can make or break your day. After all, nearly getting hit by a car in the crosswalk on your way into work doesn’t exactly set the stage for a great day ahead.

In this article, we take a look at two pedestrian case studies, one on a corporate campus and the second at a grocery store. To learn more on this topic, check out our Traffic Corner Tuesday video. Or signup for one of our free 30-minute traffic engineering webinars.

Case Study #1: Corporate Campus

We were recently contacted by a corporate client that was struggling to find a solution to ineffective and increasingly dangerous pedestrian crosswalks on their local campus.

As we can see, the campus has several parking lots: one large lot at the top of the image, another large lot located parallel to the west of the building, and a small VIP lot that runs perpendicular to this lot. Because the campus’ main access road runs directly alongside the lot that is parallel to the building, it had become increasingly difficult for pedestrians to safely cross during high-traffic hours.

After meeting with the client and observing the areas of concern, we noted the measures that had already been taken to ensure safe passage for pedestrians:

  • Pavement markings clearly identifying the crossings at both ends of the lot,
  • Fencing along the parking lot to direct pedestrians to the designated crossing locations,
  • Stop signs at the crossings to try to physically stop drivers before the crossing,
  • and internal educational campaigns to raise awareness on pedestrian safety.

It was clear from our assessment that the lot in question was the more desirable of the two lots for employee parking, and the fact that the access road had good sight distance and no speed deterrents made pedestrian safety a growing concern that the current measures simply could not combat.

To provide the client with the best solutions possible to this growing dilemma, we use a 4 Step Pedestrian Crossing Improvement Checklist, which allowed us to systematically identify the most effective and efficient path towards improving the pedestrian crossings on this corporate campus.

Step 1: Eliminate or reduce the conflict

Our first consideration when dealing with improving pedestrian crossings is simply Can we eliminate the conflict? In this case, we identified three options for eliminating the need for crossings altogether:

  • Remove or relocate the lot
  • Redirect the access road so it runs along the back of the lot
  • Redirect the road so it runs along the opposite side of the building

These solutions – while extremely effective – were larger, more costly projects that the client was reluctant to pursue.

Step 2: Reduce the exposure distance

With cost effectiveness in mind, we moved on to our next consideration: How can we reduce the exposure distance? In this scenario, the lanes on the main road were wider than the standard 11-12 ft. lanes, creating a greater pedestrian travel distance than necessary.  We looked at several options for reducing pedestrian exposure:

  • Narrowing the lanes on the entire corridor
  • Shift the crossings to create just one main crossing
  • The use of large planters on each side of the crossings

Narrowing the lanes would have created logistical difficulties because this corridor is used by delivery trucks that need the extra space for safe passage. The client was not keen to make major physical changes, so the idea of consolidating to one pedestrian crossing was not appealing to them. However, they liked the idea of using large planters to reduce pedestrian exposure, and ultimately implemented this solution as part of their efforts to improve pedestrian crossings.

Step 3: Increase pedestrian awareness / Slow driving speeds

The client had already implemented some great pedestrian awareness measures that included educational campaigns to keep the employees informed and aware, but we wanted to look at what we could do to slow vehicles down as they approach the pedestrian crossings. Some options we considered include:

  • Additional traffic control signs
  • Speed tables or speed humps
  • Mid-lane pedestrian warning signs

We strongly discourage the use of Stop and Yield signs in situations like this because they are not typically effective and create a false sense of security for pedestrians, leading to a lack of alertness when using the crossing.

On the other hand, speed tables and speed humps are extremely effective, but can be very disruptive to traffic, particularly trucks. Speed tables can also be costly, as they can affect drainage.

The use of mid-lane pedestrian warning signs was a good option here, but after reducing the pedestrian exposure distance using planters, the addition of mid-lane signage would have created an obstacle for trucks and larger vehicles.

Step 4: Active control

The last solution we considered was the use of active control measures such as active flashers, and Hawk signals, which ultimately did not seem to offer much benefit in this scenario.

Conclusion

After presenting the client with our recommendations based on our pedestrian crossing improvement checklist, the decision was made to move forward with a concept plan that implemented both reducing the exposure distance and the use of speed deterrents to create safe and efficient pedestrian crossings on the campus.

Case Study #2: Grocery Store

We were brought on to offer pedestrian crossing improvement solutions to a small grocery store with pedestrian crossings located in a main access point.

The lot has two main access points, one directly in front of the store’s entrance, and once at the back of the lot. Despite having two access points, the client reported that the one closest to the store’s entrance seemed to be the most frequently used by vehicles entering and exiting the lot. This, of course, is also the route pedestrians take to enter the store, creating the conflict.

To come up with a solution that would improve pedestrian safety while ensuring optimal accessibility, we turned to our 4 Step Pedestrian Crossing Improvement Checklist

Step 1: Eliminate or reduce the conflict

Our first consideration is always How can we eliminate or reduce the conflict? In this situation, we looked at reconfiguring the lot so that traffic was forced to enter and exit through one main access point at the back of the lot. We also looked at creating one-way traffic flow, but the client did not like the idea of total reconfiguration of the lot.

Step 2: Reduce the exposure distance

With reconfiguration of the lot off the table, we looked to reducing the exposure distance for pedestrians in the crosswalk. The two lanes totaled a width of nearly 34 feet, far beyond what is necessary. We suggested the use of large planters in the crosswalks to both reduce the exposure distance and encourage drivers to move slowly through the crossings.

Step 3: Increase pedestrian awareness / Slow driving speeds

The challenge with increasing pedestrian awareness on this project was that there is a standard expectation of both pedestrian and vehicular traffic in a parking lot like this, so our efforts would likely not be effective in measurably improving that awareness. However, we did notice that the existing setup had three pedestrian crossings with faded pavement markings, making the designated crosswalks difficult for both drivers and pedestrians to identify. We recommended that the client designate the entire area in front of the entrance as a pedestrian crossing area, and clearly mark it as such with pavement markings.

Step 4: Active control

The use of active control devices like a flashing beacon did not seem appropriate to us on this property due to the small size of the lot, so it was not presented as an option to the client. However, on a larger property with more traffic, this would certainly be an option worth exploring.

Conclusion

As with many business owners, this client was hesitant to make a significant capital investment into physical changes of their lot without being certain of a return on that investment. In these cases, we find that cost-effective – yet impactful – changes such as improving pavement markings and installing planters to tighten up the crossing distance are excellent options for improving pedestrian safety and maintaining accessibility.

When it comes to improving pedestrian crossings, there is no clear-cut solution. This is why we developed the 4 Step Pedestrian Improvement Checklist, which allows us to present a list of effective solutions that the client can then review to determine the most feasible option for their needs and means. Download the checklist here and let us know your thoughts in the comments!

 

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One thought on “Improving Pedestrian Crossings Case Studies

  1. This was a good read. Very similar to the hierarchy of controls use in public health interventions. Eliminate the hazard -> substitute something less hazardous -> engineer a solution to mitigate the hazard -> implement administrative controls to reduce exposure -> put workers in protective gear.

    Solutions are context dependent, but the goal remains the same: keep people safe.