Walk the line: Traffic devices increasing pedestrian safety

Let’s face it, crossing the street at marked crosswalks can be a hassle. When it comes to getting across quickly, pedestrians often resort to making up their own rules.

That’s why Illinois Center for Transportation and Illinois Department of Transportation researchers are exploring alternative options to encourage pedestrians to cross at designated locations where they can do so quickly and safely.

One such option is the pedestrian hybrid beacon — a traffic control device that lights upon pedestrian activation and helps them cross at locations without signals, such as mid-block.

ICT-IDOT researchers explore the use of PHBs in the U.S in the recent project “R27-SP39: Current Policies throughout the Nation for Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon (PHB) Installation.”

Mike Cynecki/Ped Bike Images
Pedestrians in Phoenix, Ariz., use a pedestrian hybrid beacon to cross the street.

Stacey DeLorenzo, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign transportation demand management coordinator, took the lead as principal investigator on the project she considers close to home.

“I was interested (in this topic) because pedestrian traffic, crosswalks and safety are a major concern for UIUC,” DeLorenzo said. “We are always looking to improve the safety of our campus community.”

Joining DeLorenzo on the project are Jon McCormick and Marshall Metcalf, IDOT’s design & environment engineering policy unit chief and operations project implementation unit chief, respectively, who both served as Technical Review Panel co-chairs.

Here the researchers investigated practices, policies, procedures and usage of PHBs by state departments of transportation. This involves, among other tasks, interviewing DOT officials and combing through state laws.

As for the results?

“(They) show that PHB use and its official policies can vary greatly from state to state,” DeLorenzo said, “and some states do not actually have any official policies and practices.”

“IDOT now has a better picture of current practice on PHBs, from design, construction and operation,” Metcalf said. “The results will be used to update IDOT’s policy on pedestrian crossings.”

“Other state DOTs can access the useful information as well,” McCormick added.

As for public impact?

Researchers, policymakers and designers will better understand PHB practice and better target installation of PHBs at locations where the safety benefit is clear.

Written by: McCall Macomber

Posted: Nov. 19, 2019