Pedestrian Hazards: The Dangers to Vulnerable Road Users

Pedestrian Hazards: The Dangers to Vulnerable Road Users

Being a pedestrian in the United States is becoming more dangerous, particularly in areas that are more sparsely populated. Hazards for pedestrians include poor access to foot paths, inattentive drivers, and larger vehicles.

No Safety on Sidewalks

Poor access to walkways and sidewalks, particularly in suburban developments, means that too many pedestrians must walk on the road. At a time when citizens are encouraged to walk to protect their health, dangers from vehicles are growing.

Worse, neighborhoods without sidewalks are often over-populated with vehicles. A household of two adults often contains at least two vehicles, often more. Additionally, the use of sedans has been dropping, meaning that drivers behind the wheels of SUVs are more likely to be involved in pedestrian accidents. The bigger the vehicle, the more force it takes to stop. 

Curves Increase Danger

The driver behind the wheel of a vehicle must stop or at least slow down a great deal at a sharp corner, but drivers are trained to accelerate through curves. Visibility around a curve and a sharp corner might be equally poor, but the driver rounding a curve may well be traveling too fast to avoid hitting a pedestrian.

Modern neighborhoods, laid out in a pattern of looping curves, can increase the risk of overdriving the field of vision, even in full daylight. Combining this series of curves, poor visibility and limited access to sidewalks is creating dangerous conditions. There may be walking paths inside these neighborhoods, but those who need to walk to a destination are given little to no protection.

Lack of Attention to Crosswalks

Children, the differently abled and the aged are all at greater risk of an injury as a pedestrian. The addition of curb extensions, particularly at busy extensions, can lessen the risk of pedestrians who are waiting for a light to change. Unlike corners that allow vehicle drivers to sneak forward and turn right on red, these corner bumpers force drivers to make a wider turn at a sharper angle, reducing the risk that a pedestrian will be struck by a motorist who’s looking for vehicles, not people.

Crosswalks between lights are a particular hazard during sunrise and sunset; motorists struggling with a field of vision full of bright light may not notice the red light at a crosswalk. Flashing lights at the crosswalk may increase attention to these tools, as could additional changes in the pavement coloration to draw the eye.

Part-Time Pedestrians

The increase in wheeled traffic on sidewalks should also be considered. One of the challenges faced by many who need to walk on the sidewalk is the addition of wheeled micro mobility vehicles. Skateboards, roller blades, scooters and even bicycles and e-bikes, once on the sidewalk, are fellow pedestrians that could cause hazards to walkers. 

In such cases, wider sidewalks or designated cycling lanes could be an excellent addition, clearing sidewalks for foot travel.

It must be noted that there are jurisdictions where riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is not allowed. However, new riders, from young children to older adults on an ebike, may feel safer on the sidewalk as they learn.

Businesses are More Friendly to Cars

Urban planning is also an issue for pedestrians as most cities are designed for car travel. Many stores offer plenty of parking for cars but nowhere to lock up a bicycle. There may be a sidewalk around the perimeter of the parking lot, but there’s seldom a crosswalk for those who prefer to walk to their destination. 

Larger vehicles, fewer sidewalks, wheeled tools on existing sidewalks and poor crosswalk markings all reduce the safety of pedestrians. As more Americans choose to walk for their health, changes for the public safety are needed.

Conclusion

With cities designed for cars, and larger vehicles on the road, those who must or chose to walk to their destinations face many hazards. Pedestrian injuries and deaths are on the rise throughout the country. In cities like Oakland, California which experienced 52 injuries and deaths to pedestrians in 2022, it is an issue that cannot wait to be addressed. Rethinking our neighborhood designs, crosswalks and sidewalk accessibility is one step towards making walking safer.



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