Best Practices for Traffic Control at Regional Trail Crossings

I’m short on time today, and writing from northeastern Nevada (where the big news today is that the entire county is having issues accessing the internet). So please forgive me if this post seems a bit hurried.

Paul Bunyan State Trail

Paul Bunyan State Trail

I’ve uploaded a document called Best Practices for Traffic Control at Regional Trail Crossings. The document tries to establish some consistency in how trail crossings are marked and signed throughout the Twin Cities area. You can download the document here:

SafeCrossingsDocument FinalDraft

I received the document back in 2011 from Joe Gustafson, a dedicated and  well respected traffic engineer with a local agency, who I understand was one of the authors of the document. He provided a copy of the document to the NCITE Pedestrian & Traffic Safety Committee, of which I am a member. To the best of my understanding, the document was prepared by a committee of representatives from various local agencies who recognized a need for greater consistency across the regional trail system and decided to informally create a document to provide a guidance resource. It is presented without any sort of branding or agency logos because it has not been formally adopted by any agency in particular, nor did the group of professionals that created the document have any formal authority to create a cross-jurisdictional guidance document. So, for the time being, the document remains as an informal and unbinding set of recommendations, and exists primarily as a resource for practicing transportation professionals.

At the time that I first saw the document, I made note of a dozen or so of my immediate reactions, one of which I will paste below for the sake of discussion.

4. The document outlines many circumstances where it is not advisable to mark crosswalks at intersections because studies have shown a higher pedestrian crash rate when a marked crosswalk is present. While I agree with the recommendations of the document – that crosswalks should not be marked at these locations – I think the greater policy implications of this decision deserve some discussion. The likely outcome of an engineering decision to not mark a crosswalk at uncontrolled intersection approaches is that pedestrians will choose to forfeit the right‐of‐way to motorists. This solution, while more desirable than pedestrians being hit by motorists, is not consistent with the intent of state statutes, which clearly direct motorists to yield to pedestrians at all marked and unmarked crosswalks. This solution may reduce the pedestrian crash rate, but it does so by asking pedestrians to shoulder the full burden (additional delay). We know that driver compliance with correctly yielding to pedestrians is very low, which is a problem we haven’t yet figured out how to effectively influence. This solution, while justifiable in the immediate interests of reducing pedestrian crash rates, should be identified as a pragmatic compromise ‐ a less‐desirable solution than actually improving driver compliance.

I hope you’ll also take a moment to review the document and post any reactions you may have in the comments below. And to reiterate one final time, the document was created by informal committee, and thus does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Joe Gustafson, his employer, or any other agency or professional that may have been involved in drafting the document.

Reuben Collins

About Reuben Collins

Reuben lives in South Minneapolis with his wife and kids. He authors the cycling blog and tweets at @reubencollins. In his spare time, he enjoys renovating his 1939 tudor home and riding bicycles.