New guide aims to help communities become more pedestrian-friendly

Press Release - For immediate use

February 5, 2002

CHAPEL HILL — In the past, it often took a tragic accident before a community would make improvements for pedestrians such as building sidewalks, installing safe pedestrian crossings and providing safe routes to school.

But that is changing, according to researchers at the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

To help communities create pedestrian-friendly environments, center researchers just released the "Pedestrian Facilities User Guide," which was created as part of a Federal Highway Administration study and is available online at The guide contains useful information including how to create walking environments, the main causes of motor vehicle crashes involving pedestrians and ways to counter them, and engineering improvements that can be made to improve the quality of life for all citizens.

"People want to live in healthy communities where they can walk, bicycle and socialize," said Charles Zegeer, center director and lead author of the guide. "In the quest to build sophisticated transportation systems, many transportation engineers and planners overlooked the most basic form of transportation — walking — and now citizens are demanding they go back and make improvements.

"Given all the health benefits of walking, every community should examine its walking environment and look at this guide to determine what improvements could be made to make their streets safer and more friendly for pedestrians."

In 1999, 4,906 pedestrians reportedly were killed in U.S. motor vehicle crashes — translating to 11.8 percent of the total motor vehicle deaths nationwide that year. An additional 80,000 pedestrians were injured in motor vehicle collisions.

Traditionally, pedestrian-related safety problems have been addressed by analyzing police crash reports, and improvements have been made only after warranted by crash numbers, said Zegeer. The "Pedestrian Facilities User Guide" helps planners and engineers be proactive and identify safety problems in an area before crashes occur, as well as select treatments for sites that have experienced motor vehicle crashes involving pedestrians.

These types of crashes fall into 12 specific groups. The guide provides a matrix of 47 engineering treatments that are possible countermeasures for various crash groups. Following the matrix is a detailed description of each crash group, its potential causes and suggested countermeasures. The guide also provides the purpose, considerations and estimated cost for each countermeasure suggested. For example, if a city is having a problem with schoolchildren crossing at an intersection where vehicles are turning, transportation engineers could use the guide to identify eight potential ways to solve the problem. Engineers could then read about each of these eight countermeasures and determine which would work best and get an estimate of what the improvements will cost.

The guide also contains case studies from communities across the United States — such as Asheville, N.C.; Cambridge, Mass.; Boulder, Colo.; Fort Pierce, Fla.; and Portland, Ore. — that have successfully made improvements for pedestrians. These improvements include calming traffic and reducing speeds through neighborhoods, revitalizing downtown areas and improving safety for children near schools.

For transportation engineers and planners looking to build sidewalks, walkways and safe street crossings, guidelines for installation are also included.

"The 'Pedestrian Facilities User Guide' gives citizens and local officials the information they need and want in a format that is readable and easy to understand," said Peter Lagerwey, pedestrian and bicycle coordinator for the City of Seattle and one of the guide's authors. "This guide combines a lot of widely dispersed existing information with some new ideas to create a 'one-stop shopping' manual that up to now has not existed."

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, established in June 1999, aims to improve the quality of life in communities through the promotion of safe walking and bicycling as a means of transportation and physical activity. The center serves anyone interested in pedestrian and bicycle issues, including planners, engineers, private citizens, advocates, educators, law enforcement and the health community. The center is located within UNC's Highway Safety Research Center.


UNC Highway Safety Research Center contact: Shannon Walters, (919) 962-7803 or

For more information on pedestrian and bicycle safety, visit the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center at the UNC Highway Safety Research Center.

Media Contacts

Caroline Dickson

To get news updates delivered to your email account, sign up for our mailing list.