For second consecutive year, EMBARQ experts win Fred Burggraf Award for Excellence in Research
For the second year in a row, EMBARQ researchers have won the Fred Burggraf award in recognition of excellence in transportation research by researchers 35 years of age or younger, awarded by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the United States National Research Council. This year, Nicolae Duduta, Qianqian Zhang, and Matt Kroneberger won the award for their research on pedestrian street crossing behavior, which will improve planners’ understanding of how to design streets that are convenient and safe for pedestrians. Last year, Erin Cooper and Aileen Carrigan of EMBARQ, Magdala Arioli of EMBARQ Brasil, and Umang Jain of EMBARQ India won the award for their research on which vehicle and fuel technologies are the best at reducing exhaust emissions.
Accounting for pedestrian behavior when planning intersections
The paper, titled “The Impact of Intersection Design on Pedestrians’ Choice to Cross on Red,” studies a range of variables that influence pedestrians’ behavior at signalized intersections. When pedestrians cross on red signals instead of waiting for green, they are more likely to be struck by a vehicle and 56% more likely to be severely injured than pedestrians who are hit when crossing on green. Though pedestrian crossing on red is often assumed to be an issue of individual behavior, this paper demonstrates that the problem is also related to the design of signals and intersections.
Duduta says, “There is a growing body of research on pedestrian behavior at signalized intersections, but the focus is usually on how traffic conditions and waiting time impact the probability of crossing on red. In our paper, we focused more on how intersection design impacts signal compliance, and we showed how a simple intersection with a short and easy to understand signal cycle will typically have fewer pedestrians crossing on red.”
Using video data of pedestrians crossing on red to build a statistical model, the researchers found that two key sets of variables are important predictors of pedestrians’ behaviors. The first is the physical configuration of a crosswalk. As expected, shorter crosswalks encourage more crossing on red. It is interesting to note, however, that shorter crosswalks are also safer for pedestrians, despite the higher incidence of crossing on red.
Second, their study examined the importance of the overall configuration and complexity of traffic signals. Signal delay and signal complexity are important predictors of pedestrians’ behavior, as pedestrians are less willing to wait for signals to change when the delay is longer, and when signals are more complex.
Intersections in urban areas are not always designed with pedestrians’ needs in mind; instead the focus is often on moving vehicles, and as a result, pedestrians face long waiting times and complex, difficult to understand signal phases. This research can help shift planners’ focus to pedestrians, not only cars, when designing intersections. This study will inform design recommendations in a larger report titled “Traffic Safety on Bus Priority Systems,” to be released by EMBARQ in 2014. The results have also already been used to provide recommendations in road safety audits and inspections for improving pedestrian signals and infrastructure.
Read more about the impact of intersection and signal design for pedestrian behavior and safety on TheCityFix – produced by EMBARQ.