Each year, approximately 1.35 million people die globally due to road traffic crashes. More than half of these deaths involve vulnerable road users, including cyclists, pedestrians, and motorcyclists. Additionally, 20-50 million more people suffer non-fatal injuries, with many sustaining lifelong disabilities from their accident.
Contrary to popular opinion, it isn’t just human factors like speeding or reckless driving that cause road collisions. Poorly designed roads and inadequate road maintenance can also contribute to serious crashes.
There are several design guidelines cities can use to improve road safety. Following these strategies can aid city planners in creating safe and efficient public roads for all members of the community.
Reducing traffic speed
The easiest way to reduce the chances of vehicle collisions is to bring down the speed limit in dense traffic areas. Local speed limits will depend on road sizes and average pedestrian figures.
Cities can test out lowered speeds by creating low-speed zones alongside speed calming strategies. For example, adding gateway treatments, including entry portals and raised crossings, can alert drivers whenever they’re entering a slower area.
Reduce turning speeds and pedestrians’ crossing distances by cutting down the size of a corner radius. This will help create accident-free compact intersections. Additionally, implementing chicanes and lane shifts through curb extensions can force vehicle speeds to go down.
Placing a variety of speed calming equipment near intersections and crosswalks can also make a big difference in road safety.
Speed humps or undulations, for instance, can be customized to match the target speed of the street. They create raised sections of the road, typically 10-15 cm high and 4-6 m long. They’re often used for 10-15 mph speed zones and seen on local streets and school zones where traffic management is crucial. Engineers can design speed humps just by using concrete, asphalt, metal, recycled plastic, or vulcanized rubber.
Cities with lower budgets can still enhance traffic safety without spending a lot on road alterations. Simply repainting your road markings can ease road navigation and alert users of upcoming hazards. Road markings can control how traffic should move through bottlenecks and provide visual guidance for nighttime driving, especially in poorly lit areas.
Most urban architects recommend using thermoplastic paint for roads as they set faster and stick longer than other variations. Today’s thermoplastic paint suppliers include extra additives for higher color retention and reflective capabilities.
Designing complete streets, safer for pedestrians and bikes
Complete streets are built to ensure people of all ages and abilities have quick, safe, and comfortable access to public roads and destinations. These include all types of road users, from drivers to pedestrians and bicyclists.
A pedestrian island is a common feature of complete streets. It offers pedestrians a protected area to evaluate incoming traffic, rather than exposing themselves to incoming vehicles. Similarly, protected bike lanes separate cyclists from cars, reducing the chances of injuries or deaths.
Pedestrian islands and bike lanes can encourage more foot traffic and help build walkable communities. With fewer cars on the road, we might see a drop in air pollution and greenhouse gases, making the city a cleaner and safer place to live in.
Apart from traditional bikes, a growing number of faster, heavier motorized bikes are also traversing roads over the past few years. Cities and states must include this new type of vehicle in their consideration when building safer streets for all road users.
The Bottom Line on Building Safer Roads for Bicyclists and Pedestrians
Safe roads and complete streets will not only reduce traffic congestion and fatal collisions of pedestrians or bicycles. They could also improve the city’s culture and bring several health benefits for the entire community.