Research Spotlight: Evaluating the Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon’s Effectiveness:  A Case Study in New Jersey

A Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon (PHB) is a signalized, pedestrian-activated device designed to increase crossing safety. A recent study conducted by the New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center (BPRC), funded by NJDOT, examined the efficacy and public awareness of PHBs in New Jersey. The authors, researchers from Rowan and Rutgers universities, found a persistent need to better educate motorists and pedestrians in New Jersey on the PHB and its phases.

The five phases Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon’s (PHB) operations

The five phases Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon’s (PHB) operations

Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons are one of FHWA’s seven Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP) countermeasures, proven methods of reducing pedestrian collisions. STEP was promoted through multiple rounds of the FHWA’s Every Day Counts (EDC) Program. A PHB is typically placed to improve pedestrian safety at uncontrolled and mid-block crossings, in locations with high pedestrian demand and wide roadways. The treatment consists of two signal arms on each side, with pedestrian “push buttons” and a crosswalk. The PHB operates in five phases. In the first, the PHB’s signal is off. The second phase begins when a pedestrian activates it by pressing a button, prompting the signal to flash a yellow light. Then, for the third phase, the flashing transitions to a solid yellow light, communicating to drivers that they should prepare to stop. Then the light turns red, and, in the fourth phase, the pedestrian signal changes to “Walk.” After an interval, the fifth phase begins: the pedestrian signal displays a countdown timer, and the traffic signal flashes alternating red lights, telling drivers to stop and that they may proceed if the crosswalk is clear.

The study’s literature review found multiple examples of prior research demonstrating the efficacy of PHBs. In the case of Tucson, Arizona, where one of the first PHBs was deployed in the United States, one study found a 69 percent decrease in pedestrian-related crashes in the signal area. Another analysis in Tucson found a 97 percent yielding rate from drivers at PHB-equipped crossings. One of the chief findings from the literature review was that PHB signal evaluations were lacking in New Jersey. Thus, researchers aimed to more systematically analyze PHBs in the state.

The authors found ten implemented examples of PHBs throughout the state, from Bergen County to Atlantic County. For more in-depth research, they selected signals in three different community types (urban, suburban, and campus area), in Morristown, Medford, and New Brunswick, New Jersey, to undergo video analysis.

The five phases Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon’s (PHB) operations

The five phases Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon’s (PHB) operations

One commonality observed in all three locations was an apparent confusion for motorists concerning the fifth phase, in which the signal flashes red, indicating that drivers should stop and then proceed with caution. In New Brunswick, 100 percent of observed motorists remained stopped, even after the intersection had been cleared. In Morristown, the vast majority of pedestrians (91.3%) failed to use the PHB during the morning period, and also failed to do so in the evening (83%). The authors attribute such behavior to the PHB timing being linked to two nearby traffic signals, contributing to extra delay after the crossing button has been pressed. When inconvenient, it seems, pedestrians may opt to cross on their own.

To better understand the familiarity of pedestrians and motorists in New Jersey with PHBs, the researchers designed an online survey that was sent to 79,567 randomly selected email addresses from 30 communities across the state. While respondents indicated some confusion as to how PHBs functioned, a plurality indicated that they would be very likely or somewhat likely to support  implementation in their own community. A majority of respondents (85.9%) reported that they had never heard of PHBs, and later indicated that completing the short survey had increased their knowledge of the safety treatment, showing the potential benefit of more public education about their functionality.

The report concludes by stating that while PHBs are proven to be effective at increasing pedestrian crossing safety, a lack of public awareness on the part of both drivers and pedestrians currently limits the effectiveness of these devices. The researchers suggest updating the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission’s Driver’s Handbook to include the PHB, and to differentiate the flashing red signals at a PHB where the driver must yield and then proceed if the crosswalk is clear, from the flashing red signals at railroad crossings where the driver is required to stop and remain stopped. This addition could be complemented with a public education campaign to teach pedestrians and drivers about the intricacies of Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons.

The New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center (BPRC) works to promote a safer and more accessible walking and bicycling environment in the state. The Center, located at the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers, is supported by NJDOT through funding from FHWA. Further information technical assistance, resources for Complete Streets, and current research is available on the BPRC’s website.


Resources

Federal Highway Administration. Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons. Federal Highway Administration. https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/provencountermeasures/ped_hybrid_beacon/

New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center. (2020). Evaluating the Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon’s Effectiveness: A Case Study in New Jersey. New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center. http://njbikeped.org/portfolio/evaluating-pedestrian-hybrid-beacons-effectiveness/

NJDOT Tech Transfer. (2019). What is a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon? NJDOT Tech Transfer. Video. https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/2019/09/27/njdot-safety-countermeasures-videos/

NJDOT Tech Transfer. (2020). STEP-Aligned HAWK Signal Installed in Bergen County. NJDOT Tech Transfer. https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/2020/03/20/step-aligned-hawk-signal-installed-in-bergen-county/

 

Image of a street iwth four lanes for traffic, three parked cars, and a series of shops, such as center city deli, hi five, Ocean Therapy, and casino city barber and salon

ATLANTIC AVENUE, ATLANTIC CITY: Planning for Safer Conditions for All Roadway Users

Image of a bus with passengers boarding, reading Atlantic Avenue Road Safety Audit Atlantic City, New Jersey, Report, December 2014

The Atlantic Avenue Road Safety Audit was performed by a multidisciplinary team that analyzed high incident areas along the route, courtesy NJDOT

Atlantic City, well known for its resorts, casinos, and boardwalk, has a large share of residents who use alternative transportation modes daily: about 30 percent of its residents use public transit and 17 percent walk to work. On centrally-located Atlantic Avenue, high pedestrian volumes and a disproportionate number of traffic incidents have prompted several studies to determine the scope of needed infrastructure improvements to support pedestrian and bicycle safety and address deficiencies for vehicular travel.  New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), and the South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization (SJTPO), the regional Metropolitan Planning Organization, in partnership with the City, supported these studies to analyze conditions along the route and to make recommendations for a safer corridor.  The decade-long planning process for the Atlantic Avenue corridor provides an example of collaboration between the municipality, SJTPO and NJDOT to implement safety improvements for all roadway users.

The planning process used strategies such as Data-Driven Safety Analysis and Road Safety Audits that are supported by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Many of the study recommendations include safety countermeasures that FHWA has promoted through its Every Day Counts (EDC)-4 and EDC-5 Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian, or STEP, Innovative Initiative. These strategies include Leading Pedestrian Intervals, Crosswalk Visibility Enhancements, Pedestrian Crossing/Refuge Islands, and Road Diets. The EDC program identifies proven and underutilized innovations and promotes rapid deployment.

About the Corridor

Atlantic Avenue is a major thoroughfare through the center of Atlantic City. The street is 69 feet wide, with four travel lanes and a fifth lane at some intersections for turning. Along the corridor, there are retail and commercial centers, a bus terminal, healthcare facilities, and a public library. Eleven bus stops, each accommodating up to ten different bus routes, provide frequent transit service and contribute to high pedestrian volume. The Atlantic City Rail Terminal is situated several blocks to the Northeast, adding to pedestrian trips.

Due to high foot traffic, and the nature of the roadway, this segment of Atlantic Avenue saw 829 crashes in a five-year period, from 2013 to 2017. Compared to the rest of the municipality, three times as many incidents involving pedestrians, and twice as many involving cyclists occurred along this 2.65 mile stretch. Recognizing the ongoing challenges, leaders and transportation planners at both the City and the South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization (SJTPO) initiated the process to study safety improvements for this important corridor.

2011 – A Policy Framework

Following NJDOT’s adoption of a Complete Streets policy in 2009, Atlantic City passed its 2011 Complete Streets policy to promote consideration of the safety of all roadway users in infrastructure planning. The resolution mentions the need to improve safety for cyclists and all users of a street, such as the elderly, non-drivers, and the mobility impaired. It acknowledges, too, that incorporating pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure can simultaneously reduce traffic congestion and fossil fuel emissions. The 2011 resolution and policy supports the City Planning Department’s goals of improving bicycle and pedestrian safety and accessibility, enhancing economic development, and developing initiatives to increase residents’ knowledge of safe bicycle and pedestrian travel (Atlantic City Resolution No. 917).

2013  – Atlantic City Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan

Image of plan cover page, the first reads Atlantic City, always turned on, Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, Local Planning Assistance Program, Final May 2013, an dbelow four square images, clockwise of people crossing a street, a man in a wheelchair waiting to cross, a young girl feeding gulls on the boardwalk, and people biking along the boardwalk. Below it reads Prepared for: The New Jersey Department of Transportation and the City of Atlantic City.

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan helped to first identify problem areas along Atlantic City's Atlantic Avenue, courtesy NJDOT

NJDOT funded the 2013 Atlantic City Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan through the agency’s Office of Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP), which helps New Jersey municipalities improve active transportation infrastructure.

Consultants analyzed the City’s bicycle and pedestrian network, and made suggestions for improvements in areas of concern. Among the City’s streets, the Atlantic Avenue corridor ranked first for both pedestrian and bicycle crashes. Analysts also identified the corridor as the location of 8 of the top 10 intersections for pedestrian or bicycle crashes.

According to the Plan, “Pedestrian safety is imperative not only because each of us becomes a pedestrian as part of every trip, but also because creating safe walkable streets is critical to the success of the City redevelopment and tourist efforts.” However, the document notes that, at the date of publication, there were no dedicated bicycling facilities in Atlantic City. (Atlantic City Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan).

The 2013 Plan suggested several alternatives for street design interventions in Atlantic City. On Atlantic Avenue, Alternative 1 involved removing a lane of travel in each direction, widening the median, installing buffered bike lanes between Ohio and Maine Avenues on the corridor. In the same stretch, Alternative 2 proposed using parking as a buffer for bike lanes abutting the curb on each stretch. The report concluded by calling for the formation of a task force of stakeholders to discuss the implementation of such road diets.

2014 – Atlantic Avenue Road Safety Audit (RSA)

Graphic with a depiction of a magnifying glass covering a road with people walking on it, reading "Road Safety Audits: a Road Safety Audit is a proactive formal safety performance examination of an existing or future road or intersection by an independent and multi disciplinary team. Safety Benefit: 10 to 60 percent reduction in total crashes.

RSA's were one of the safety countermeasures FHWA promoted through EDC-4 and EDC-5, courtesy FHWA

The following year, the Transportation Safety Research Center (TSRC) at the Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT), in collaboration with the South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization (SJTPO) and the City of Atlantic City, conducted a road safety audit of the most heavily trafficked portion of Atlantic Avenue, between South Carolina and Michigan Avenues. This study analyzed dangerous intersections in depth along the Atlantic Avenue corridor.

Road Safety Audits (RSA) are one of FHWA’s proven safety countermeasures. An RSA, conducted by a multi-disciplinary team that is independent of the design team, considers all road users and their capabilities and limitations. Findings are documented in a formal report and, while they do not constitute engineering studies, require a response from the road owner. RSAs can result in a 10-60 percent reduction in crashes.

According to FHWA, advantages of an RSA include:

  • Reduced number and severity of crashes due to safer designs.
  • Reduced costs resulting from early identification and mitigation of safety issues before projects are built.
  • Improved awareness of safe design practices.
  • Increased opportunities to integrate multimodal safety strategies and proven safety countermeasures.
  • Expanded ability to consider human factors in all facets of design.

Based on crash data, the RSA identified pedestrian “hot spot” and corridor locations along Atlantic Avenue, between Mississippi Avenue and Virginia Avenue. The study looked at crashes according to time of year, week, and day; lighting conditions; collision type and severity; and intersection.

Bar graph reading Crash Type and Severity, the tallest bars (by a wide margin) are same direction, rear end, and same direction, side swipe. Pedalcyclist and pedestrian collisions rank very high as well.

Many of the incidents involved vehicles striking each other in the same direction, one motivation for the road diet, courtesy SJTPO.

NJDOT provides network screening lists to the three Metropolitan Planning Organizations which identify hot spot and corridor locations based on crash data. The RSA analysts took this data for the SJTPO region and then worked to identify the source of the crashes by examining geometric and physical characteristics of the location. The process involved looking at types of crashes and other details to establish patterns, and then suggesting countermeasures to address those problems. These hot spot lists are crucial to securing federal funding for infrastructure improvements such as the proposed road diet.

The Road Safety Audit identified issues, such as signal phasing, roadway maintenance, and lack of bicycle facilities, and made recommendations. Like the 2013 Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, the 2014 Road Safety Audit provided two road diet alternatives, suggesting the removal of one lane to accommodate bike lanes and a median with a turning lane. Road diets are promoted by FHWA as a safety countermeasure that improves speed limit compliance, reduces crashes, and provides a space for enhanced bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

2020 – Atlantic Avenue Road Safety Assessment

PDF cover, reading January 2020, Road Safety Assessment, Atlantic Avenue, Atlantic City, Atlantic County, NJ, then there are three images of the route, rather car-oriented in design, followed by text: Road Safety Assessment, Atlantic Avenue from Boston Avenue to Maine Avenue

A final Road Safety Assessment was performed in 2020, recommending a road diet, with a median and protected bike lanes, courtesy City of Atlantic City

Building on the findings of the 2014 report, consultants in 2019 conducted a data-driven analysis of the conditions along Atlantic Avenue from Boston Avenue to New Hampshire Avenue, and recommended safety countermeasures to improve pedestrian safety, reduce the frequency of vehicular collisions, and improve traffic flow.

The 2020 Atlantic Avenue Road Safety Assessment looked at all crashes along the entire corridor, by crash type (pedestrian, bicycle, parked vehicle), and by intersection. Consultants also conducted travel time runs during each of the corridor’s scheduled signal timing schedules. They engaged in site visits to look for causes of crashes and to observe the condition of the roadway infrastructure, and then developed statistical observations and recommendations from their findings.

Overall, they found a lack of consistency on the roadway that resulted in unpredictable driving conditions. In one example, poorly timed signals caused drivers to try to “beat” the light, which, in combination with poor pedestrian visibility and infrastructure, led to collisions.

For a recommendation, the consultants cite NJDOT guidance for bikeway selection. At the current vehicle traffic figures (Annual Average Daily Traffic 15,000) and an 85th percentile speed of 35 mph, NJDOT recommends a Buffered Bicycle Lane, Separated Bicycle Lane or Shared Use Path. The report presented two preferred options, Alternatives #5 and #6, each of which involve removing a driving lane and adding a median; Alternative #6 would place the bikeway between the curb and parked cars, to decrease the chance of “dooring.” These alternatives recall those suggested by the 2013 Master Plan.

2021 – Atlantic Avenue Road Diet Implementation

Twelve years after Atlantic City passed its Complete Streets policy, a road diet will be built, extending the length of Atlantic Avenue. The four-lane road will be reduced to two travel lanes with a center median. Protected bicycle lanes will be located between the travel lane and curbside parking, in both directions. Other countermeasures to be implemented echoed those called for in the 2013 Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, including leading pedestrian intervals, traffic signal heads with backplates, and targeted left turn restrictions. According to City Engineer Uzo Ahiarakwe, improvements to some intersections will include bump-outs to decrease the distance that pedestrians need to cross Atlantic Avenue, synchronization of traffic lights, higher visibility crosswalk striping, and ADA-compliant curb cuts.

Atlantic Avenue’s road diet conversion and additional infrastructure improvements will cost between $8 and $10 million. The City expects to cover 10 percent of the project cost and to receive federal funding for the remaining 90 percent. The project is set to go out to bid in Fall 2021 with construction due to be complete in Summer 2022 (Brunetti).

 

Resources

Brunetti, Michelle. Atlantic City putting Atlantic Avenue on a ‘diet’. March 5, 2021. Press of Atlantic City. https://pressofatlanticcity.com/news/local/atlantic-city-putting-atlantic-avenue-on-a-diet/article_f9b1e44f-43f0-5cf2-9b8a-91e4c1d3fb0e.html

City of Atlantic City. (2011). Resolution Establishing and Adopting a City of Atlantic City Complete Streets Policy. City of Atlantic City. http://njbikeped.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Atlantic-City-Complete-Streets-Resolution.pdf

City of Atlantic City. (2013). Atlantic City Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. Local Planning Assistance Program. City of Atlantic City. https://njcrda.com/wp-content/uploads/Atlantic-City-LTA-Final-Report.pdf

Federal Highway Administration. Road Safety Audits. Federal Highway Administration. https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/rsa/

Federal Highway Administration. Proven Safety Countermeasures: Road Safety Audits. Federal Highway Administration. https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/provencountermeasures/road_safety_audit/

Federal Highway Administration. Proven Safety Countermeasures: Road Diets. Federal Highway Administration. https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/provencountermeasures/road_diets/

JMT. (2020, January). Road Safety Assessment: Atlantic Avenue, Atlantic City, Atlantic County, NJ. City of Atlantic City. https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/19-01474_Road_Safety_Assessment_Report.pdf

South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization. Atlantic Avenue Road Safety Audit. South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization. https://www.sjtpo.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/2014_AC_Atlantic-Avenue-RSA-Report.pdf

 

Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP)

What is Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP)?

Pedestrians account for over 17.5 percent of all fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes, and the majority of these deaths occur at uncontrolled crossing locations (such as non-intersections) or at intersections with no traffic signal or STOP sign. Cost-effective countermeasures with known safety benefits can help reduce pedestrian fatalities in these scenarios.

FHWA promoted the following safety countermeasures through EDC-4 and EDC-5:

Road Diets can reduce vehicle speeds, limit the number of lanes pedestrians cross, and create space to add new pedestrian facilities.

Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons (PHBs) are a beneficial intermediate option between Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons (RRFBs) and a full pedestrian signal. They provide positive stop control in areas without the high pedestrian traffic volumes that typically warrant signal installation.

Pedestrian Refuge Islands provide a safe place to stop at the midpoint of the roadway before crossing the remaining distance. This is particularly helpful for older pedestrians or others with limited mobility.

Raised Crosswalks can reduce vehicle speeds.

Crosswalk Visibility Enhancements, such as crosswalk lighting and enhanced signing and marking, help drivers detect pedestrians—particularly at night.

Learn more about this EDC-4 and EDC-5 Innovation.

NJ's Progress Towards Institutionalizing STEP

Stage of Innovation:
INSTITUTIONALIZED
(January 2021)

NJ's work on STEP began with EDC-4 and continued to progress during EDC-5:

Developed an Action Plan for Implementing Pedestrian Crossing Countermeasures at Uncontrolled Locations. For this collaborative effort, NJDOT and FHWA reviewed existing practice and policies impacting crossings and recommended actions for targeting specific safety countermeasures to help reduce the number and rate of pedestrian crashes, fatalities, and injuries on NJ highways.

Devised Recommendations Following STEP Guidance for Implementing Lower-Cost Countermeasures. The recommended countermeasures can be deployed based on specific needs, have a proven record of reducing crashes, and represent underutilized innovations that can have an immediate impact.

Developed NJ 2020 Strategic Highway Safety Plan. STEP strategies have been included in the 2020 NJ Strategic Highway Safety Plan update, completed in August 2020 and implementation efforts of proposed actions items are underway.

What's Next?

New Jersey has developed strategies in the 2020 Strategic Highway Safety Plan and will implement these strategies with the goal of eliminating all pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads.

Click for the STEP Fact Sheet.

SAFE TRANSPORTATION FOR EVERY PEDESTRIAN (STEP): NEW & NOTEWORTHY 

Research Spotlight: Evaluating the Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon’s Effectiveness:  A Case Study in New Jersey

Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons, one of FHWA’s seven Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP) countermeasures, proven methods of reducing pedestrian collisions, are the subject of a ...
Image of a street iwth four lanes for traffic, three parked cars, and a series of shops, such as center city deli, hi five, Ocean Therapy, and casino city barber and salon

ATLANTIC AVENUE, ATLANTIC CITY: Planning for Safer Conditions for All Roadway Users

Following a decade of transportation planning studies, including a Road Safety Audit (RSA), pedestrian and cyclist improvements are being programmed for Atlantic City's Atlantic ...

STEP-Aligned HAWK Signal Installed in Bergen County

EDC STEP-aligned projects have been successfully deployed in locations across New Jersey, including a recent pedestrian improvement project along Washington Avenue in the Borough of ...

TECH TALK! Webinar: EDC Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian

Please join the NJDOT Bureau of Research on April 2nd for an Innovation Exchange Webinar, EDC Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP), that we are ...

NJLTAP – Proven Safety Countermeasures Workshops – Upcoming Events

The New Jersey Local Technical Assistance Program (NJLTAP) has partnered with the FHWA Division Office, NJDOT Bureau of Safety, Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs and Local ...

EDC-5 STEP – Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian

On October 30th the NJDOT Bureau of Research hosted the Lunchtime Tech Talk! Event on EDC-5 STEP: Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian. ...

NJDOT Safety Countermeasures Training and Education Videos

The following videos describe six of FHWA’s Proven Safety Countermeasures that improve pedestrian safety. NJDOT developed these videos to train and educate viewers on the ...

NJLTAP – Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian Workshop

The NJ Local Technical Assistance Program is holding an all-day workshop training event to learn more about the FHWA EDC-5 innovative initiative: Safe Transportation for ...

Local Safety Peer Exchanges: Summary Report

The Local Safety Peer Exchange Summary Report describes a series of peer exchange events that highlighted local initiatives that demonstrate best practice in addressing traffic ...

Local Peer Safety Exchange – 3rd Event

The third event in the series to discuss local initiatives that demonstrate best practice in addressing traffic safety was held on March 26, 2019. ...

New Jersey To Expand Data-Driven Approach to Highway Safety Management

Aided by STIC funding, NJDOT pilots a sofware package to proactively identify sites for safety improvement. ...

Local Safety Peer Exchange – 2nd Event

The second event in the series to discuss local initiatives that demonstrate best practice in addressing traffic safety was held on June 13th. ...

Road Diets Are Making Roads Safer in New Jersey

FHWA recognizes road diets as one of 20 “Proven Safety Countermeasures” to reduce serious injuries and fatalities on American highways and roads. ...
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Local Safety Peer Exchange – 1st Event

The first event in the series to discuss local initiatives that demonstrate best practice in addressing traffic safety was held on December 6th. ...

STEP-Aligned HAWK Signal Installed in Bergen County

Every Day Counts (EDC) is an initiative developed by the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Center for Accelerating Innovation to improve safety along our roadways. Every two years, EDC identifies a number of highway safety innovations that are then supported for rapid deployment. A set of innovations targeted at pedestrian safety was identified within the 2019–2020 EDC cycle. Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP) provides a set of pedestrian improvements ranging from small scale signage installation to fully revamped roadway layout through road diets. STEP-aligned projects have been successfully deployed in locations across New Jersey, including a recent pedestrian improvement project along Washington Avenue in the Borough of Carlstadt in Bergen County, New Jersey.

Washington Avenue is a four-lane, bidirectional road with a speed limit of 40 miles per hour. The corridor hosts a number of industrial businesses and therefore witnesses a great deal of truck traffic. Many employees working at these sites arrive by bus and dash across the four lane roadway to avoid walking 700 feet to the nearest lighted intersection at Veterans Boulevard.

In early 2013, a pedestrian fatality occurred along the corridor. According to Christine Mittman, North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, concerned county officials submitted an application to the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) through the Local Safety Program which utilizes Highway Safety Improvement Program funds. In order to develop comprehensive and effective solutions for the corridor, the New Jersey Department of Transportation and NJTPA recommended a road safety audit for a 1.6-mile section of Washington Avenue from Moonachie Avenue to Road A, just north of the Paterson Plank Road.

Figure 1. At this location along Washington Avenue, pedestrians were forced to walk in the travel lane (photo credit: Christine Mittman, NJTPA).

Figure 1. At this location along Washington Avenue, pedestrians were forced to walk in the travel lane (photo credit: Christine Mittman, NJTPA).

A road safety audit is a tool promoted by FHWA to identify safety issues for all users along a designated area of roadway. An independent multidisciplinary team walks the corridor observing and taking notes related to safety concerns, user conflicts, and roadway performance issues. Often the auditors use a standardized form to take notes about each section of the corridor being studied. Some issues that may arise include missing street lights, uneven sidewalks, areas where turning conflicts are common, and high volumes of pedestrians crossing the roadway outside of crosswalks. Additional guidance from FHWA can be found here.

During the Washington Avenue road safety audit, it became obvious that the pedestrian infrastructure along the corridor was insufficient. Paths were worn into the grass along either side of the roadway where sidewalks were missing. Workers crossed the road all along the corridor as trucks flew by. In some areas of the corridor, pedestrians were forced to walk within the vehicular travel lane as the pedestrian right of way was blocked and there was no shoulder along Washington Avenue (see Figure 1). The situation was clearly dangerous.

Once the recommendations were made through the road audit report, the project was advanced through the Local Safety program which included funding for both design and construction. A number of recommendations from the report made it into the final designs, including several pedestrian safety improvements at Barrell Avenue. These recommendations included completing the sidewalk network, relocating the bus stops for safer pedestrian crossings, and extending the Jersey barrier median with fencing along the top. The most innovative part of the design was the installation of a high-intensity activated crosswalk beacon (HAWK) signal, the first of its kind in Bergen County.

A HAWK signal, or Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon, is a traffic control signal that assists pedestrians in locations where a traffic intersection is not signalized.  When pedestrians are not present, the HAWK signal is unlit. But, as its name implies, when the HAWK is activated by the push of a button it proceeds through a light sequence that stops traffic while the pedestrian safely crosses the roadway with a countdown. A video of the HAWK signal control process can be found here.

A HAWK signal was installed just north of the intersection of Barrell Avenue and Washington Avenue for a number of reasons (see Figure 2). The first consideration was the high volume of pedestrian traffic coupled with a lack of traffic control at the T-intersection. Secondly, the area is situated about midway between the two nearest signal controlled intersections with pedestrian crosswalks.  Additionally, the overhead nature of the HAWK plays a much stronger role in capturing drivers’ attention as compared to placing rectangular rapid flashing beacons on either side of the roadway. Bus stops were relocated on either side of Washington Avenue near the HAWK signal to ensure the stops are safely accessible to patrons from both sides of the roadway.

Figure 2. HAWK signal located north of the intersection of Barrell Avenue and Washington Avenue.

Figure 2. HAWK signal located north of the intersection of Barrell Avenue and Washington Avenue.

According to Nancy Dargis from the Bergen County Division of Planning and Engineering, local officials were concerned that drivers would not understand how to respond to the new signal. However, since the project’s completion in late 2018, driver compliance rates have been high according to the Carlstadt Police Department. A post-implementation crash data analysis will be performed once three years of data is available, at which time more details will be available regarding the HAWK signal’s effectiveness on Washington Avenue.

Additional research related to the general effectiveness of HAWK signals is currently being undertaken by an NJDOT-funded study out of Rutgers University’s Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center and Rowan University. The study seeks to measure both the public’s understanding of the HAWK signal and its effectiveness in increasing driver yielding at pedestrian crossings.  The study will be completed this year.

The Washington Avenue HAWK signal was part of a $4.2 million project improving the safety of a 1.6-mile corridor of Washington Avenue. The project costs included sidewalk installations, drainage, new and upgraded signals, ADA compliance improvements throughout the corridor, guardrail upgrades, and an extended Jersey barrier median with six feet of fencing along the top.

Officials learned during implementation that the fencing along the median barrier would create sight line issues for drivers approaching the crosswalk when pedestrians were in the crosswalk on the opposite side of the road. After some research, they determined the safest course of action would be to take down the fencing for the 100 feet approaching the crosswalk in both directions. Additionally, officials pointed out the importance of installing the HAWK signal at an appropriate location. Specifically, the HAWK signal should not be placed at an intersection in place of a full traffic signal. The Washington Avenue HAWK signal is installed near, but not at, the Barrell Avenue intersection which is a T-intersection with a minimally trafficked side street.

The Washington Avenue HAWK signal was the first HAWK signal installed in Bergen County, and so far it has been a success. The signal has been seamlessly incorporated into the traffic movements in the area and local officials are happy with the results.  Several more HAWK signals are in the works in locations throughout the NJTPA region as officials work to implement safety improvements aligned with the EDC STEP initiatives.

 

RESOURCES

Every Day Counts Initiative: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/everydaycounts/about-edc.cfm

Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP): https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/everydaycounts/edc_5/step2.cfm

FHWA Road Safety Audit information and resources: https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/rsa/

NJDOT videos describing FHWA’s Pedestrian Safety Countermeasures: https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/2019/09/27/njdot-safety-countermeasures-videos/

FHWA HAWK information and statistics: https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/provencountermeasures/ped_hybrid_beacon/


This article is cross-posted on the NJ Bike & Pedestrian Resource Center blog.

 

TECH TALK! Webinar: EDC Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian

UPDATE: This live webinar has been postponed and will be rescheduled for a later date.

Those who are registered will remain registered.

 

Please join the NJDOT Bureau of Research on April 2nd for an Innovation Exchange Webinar, “EDC Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP)”, that we are convening in Training Room A in the E&O Building at NJDOT Headquarters.

Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP), an Every Day Counts (EDC) innovation, is about a new type of “STEP” to keep pedestrians safe at uncontrolled road crossing locations. This webinar will outline five cost-effective countermeasures available to local agencies, and identify resources to guide in their selection and installation. Stories from local agencies will tell of county, city, and Tribal deployment leadership, with details on site and countermeasure selection, installation, monitoring, and improved safety measures of success.

AICP and NJ PE credits are available. This “live” webinar event is free to attend, but you must register ahead of time to guarantee a seat as there is limited space in the training room:

WEBINAR: EDC Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP)

POSTPONE AND WILL BE RESCHEDULED.

Time: 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM; Sign-in: 12:50 pm
Location:  NJDOT E&O Building, Training Room A
1035 Parkway Avenue, Trenton, NJ 08625

This Innovation Exchange webinar is one in a series sponsored by the Center for Local Aid Support (CLAS) in the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Innovative Program Delivery.  Through Innovative Exchange webinars, CLAS is bringing cutting-edge transportation leaders to the table to share ideas and out of the box innovative practices that have proven results.

 

NJLTAP – Proven Safety Countermeasures Workshops – Upcoming Events

New Jersey is currently a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) focus approach state for both Pedestrians and Intersections, with approximately 24% of fatal and serious injury crashes involving Intersections and 27% involving Pedestrians and Bicycles. In New Jersey, approximately 60% of fatal and serious injury crashes are occurring on the local system.

The New Jersey Local Technical Assistance Program (NJLTAP) has partnered with the FHWA Division Office, NJDOT Bureau of Safety, Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs and Local Aid and Economic Development, and our three Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to develop a half-day workshop focused on the FHWA Proven Safety Countermeasures and the funding available for improvements to the local system.

This workshop provides guidance on the FHWA Proven Safety Countermeasures that local public agencies can implement to successfully address roadway departure, intersection, and pedestrian and bicycle crashes. The course will provide emphasis on intersection and pedestrian safety countermeasures, as well as potential funding sources (both federal and state) for implementing such countermeasures. Further, emphasis will be provided to include ways to implement the countermeasures into existing projects as proactive low-cost solutions to safety improvements.

Registration is required to attend any of these workshop events to be in North, South and Central regions of NJ. AICP and PE credits will be available. There is no fee for these workshops, but advance registration is required.

Visit the NLTAP Training and Events page for more information and to register for any of the 3 workshops:

EDC-5 STEP – Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian

On October 30th the NJDOT Bureau of Research hosted the Lunchtime Tech Talk! Event on “EDC-5 STEP: Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian.” This event featured Peter Eun, a Transportation Safety Engineer with the Federal Highway Administration’s Resource Center’s Safety & Design Technical Service Team in Olympia, Washington. Mr. Eun discussed recent initiatives from FHWA regarding improvements in pedestrian safety and accessibility.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, while 2018 featured a decline in overall fatalities on our roads, there was an increase of pedestrian fatalities, highlighting the increased need for action. Considering that over 72% of pedestrian fatalities occur at non-intersection locations, Mr. Eun focused much  of his presentation on cost-effective countermeasures that can be systemically applied to reduce these crashes and save lives.

In his talk, he described how roadway configuration, traffic volumes, and posted speed limits inform the selection of appropriate countermeasures. By way of example, he referred to the Crosswalk Markings section of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD Section 3B.18):

Crosswalk Visibility Enhancements

Crosswalk Visibility Enhancements

“new marked crosswalks alonewithout other measures designed to reduce traffic speeds, shorten crossing distances, enhance driver awareness of the crossing, and/or provide active warning of pedestrian presence, should not be installed across uncontrolled roadways where the speed limit exceeds 40 mph and /or either has 4 or more lanes without a raised median or island and ADT of 12,000 or more, or 4 or more lanes with raised median island and ADT of 15,000 or more”.

Setting the foundation for countermeasures,  Mr. Eun cited grave statistics from research on how increasing speeds lead to greater serious injuries or fatalities for pedestrians and warned of a diminishing “cone of vision” at higher speeds as visual field and peripheral vision narrows. He shared a provocative safety video to convey how even small differences of speed can affect the ability of drivers to react and avoid crashes to the detriment of pedestrians.

Describing them as the “Spectacular Seven”, Mr. Eun highlighted the following countermeasures:

  • Rectangular rapid flashing beacons (RRFBs) are active (user-actuated) or passive (automated detection) amber LEDs that use an irregular flash pattern at mid-block or uncontrolled crossing locations. They significantly increase driver yielding behavior.
  • Leading pedestrian intervals (LPIs) at signalized intersections allow pedestrians to walk, usually 3 to 4 seconds, before vehicles get a green signal to turn left or right. The LPI increases visibility, reduces conflicts, and improves yielding.
  • Crosswalk visibility enhancements, such as crosswalk lighting and enhanced signage and markings, help drivers detect pedestrians–particularly at night.

    Pedestrian Refuge Islands

    Pedestrian Refuge Islands

  • Raised crosswalks can serve as a traffic calming measure and reduce vehicle speeds.
  • Pedestrian crossing/refuge islands allow pedestrians a safer place to stop at the midpoint of the roadway before crossing the remaining distance. This is particularly helpful for pedestrians with limited mobility.
  • Pedestrian hybrid beacons (PHBs) provide positive stop control for higher-speed, multilane roadways with high vehicular volumes. The PHB is an intermediate option between a flashing beacon and a full pedestrian signal.
  • Road Diets can reduce vehicle speeds and the number of lanes pedestrians cross, and they can create space to add new pedestrian facilities such as pedestrian crossing/refuge islands.

Using case examples from all over the country, Mr. Eun discussed several example situations where these countermeasures could be used, as well as the benefits to implementing them and the difficulties that may be encountered during implementation. Since expecting pedestrians to travel significantly out of their way to cross a roadway is unrealistic and counterproductive, improvements must be made to make crossings more accessible and more safe. By focusing on uncontrolled locations, agencies can address a significant national safety problem and improve quality of life for pedestrians of all ages and abilities.

Click for presentation

Mr. Eun then addressed a systemic approach to identifying safety issues and appropriate STEP countermeasures. Using this systemic approach, agencies can focus on countermeasures that address risk rather than specific locations. Once a risk factor characteristic of a number of crashes has been identified, agencies can be proactive and address that risk wherever it appears within the system. A system-based approach acknowledges crashes alone are not always sufficient to determine what countermeasures to implement, particularly on low-volume local and rural roadways where crash densities are lower, and in many urban areas where there are conflicts between vehicles and vulnerable road users (pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists). As such, systemic safety analysis does not require extensive data or complex analysis methods to be effective, just the desire to make the biggest safety impact with limited resources.

Resources

View the presentation: Eun Peter (2019). Every Day Counts so STEP up (Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian).

View the Australian Safety PSA Video:

NJDOT Safety Countermeasures Training and Education Videos

The following videos describe six of FHWA’s Proven Safety Countermeasures that improve pedestrian safety. NJDOT developed these videos to train and educate viewers on the design features and safety benefits of these initiatives.

FHWA began promoting Proven Safety Countermeasures in 2008 to encourage implementation among state, tribal and local transportation agencies. The list was updated in 2012 and 2017 and now comprises 20 countermeasures that support infrastructure improvements. These safety treatments and strategies were chosen based on proven effectiveness and benefits and can be adopted to reduce roadway departures, and intersection, and pedestrian and bicycle crashes.

Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP) has been included as an Innovation under FHWA’s Every Day Counts (EDC) Rounds 4 and 5.  NJDOT has prepared videos for training purposes on several of the topics featured under STEP – specifically, Pedestrian Crossing/Refuge Islands, Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons, Road Diets and Leading Pedestrian Intervals. Other strategies advanced under STEP are Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons, Crosswalk Visibility Enhancements, and Raised Crosswalks.

NJDOT chose the following safety initiatives as subjects for safety videos:

 

What is a Leading Pedestrian Interval?

Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPIs) give pedestrians the opportunity to enter an intersection 3-7 seconds before vehicles are given a green indication. With this head start, pedestrians can better establish their presence in the crosswalk before vehicles have priority to turn left.

What is a Walkway?

Walkways are any type of defined space or pathway for use by a person traveling by foot or using a wheelchair. These may be pedestrian walkways, shared use paths, sidewalks, or roadway shoulders. FHWA defines a pedestrian walkway as a continuous way designated for pedestrians and separated from motor vehicle traffic by a space or barrier. By contrast, sidewalks are walkways that are paved and separated from the street, generally by a curb and gutter.

What is a Pedestrian Crossing Island?

Medians and Pedestrian Crossing Islands in Urban and Suburban Areas are located between opposing lanes of traffic, excluding turn lanes. They provide a safe place for pedestrians to stop at the midpoint of the roadway before crossing the remaining distance. This is particularly helpful for older pedestrians or others with limited mobility.

What is a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon?

Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons (PHBs) are a beneficial intermediate option between Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons (RRFBs) and a full pedestrian signal. They provide positive stop control in areas without the high pedestrian traffic volumes that typically warrant signal installation.

What is a Road Diet?

Road Diets are the removal of a travel lane or lanes from a roadway and use of the space for other purposes and travel modes, such as bike lanes, pedestrian refuge islands, or transit.

What is a Reduced Left-Turn Conflict Intersection?

Reduced Left-Turn Conflict Intersections are geometric designs that alter how left-turn movements occur in order to simplify decisions and minimize the potential for related crashes. Two highly effective designs that rely on U-turns to complete certain left-turn movements are known as the restricted crossing U-turn (RCUT) and the median U-turn (MUT).

NJLTAP – Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian Workshop

Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP) is a Federal Highway Administration Every Day Counts (EDC-5) initiative.  The NJ Local Technical Assistance Program (NJLTAP), in association with NJDOT and FHWA, is holding an all-day workshop training event on October 31st with an instructor from FHWA Resource Center’s Safety & Design Technical Service Team.  The workshop training will provide an overview of the pedestrian safety crossing problem and identify resources and strategies for addressing it.

Pedestrian fatalities are on the rise, and account for more than 16% of all traffic fatalities nationwide. New Jersey is a pedestrian safety focus state, meaning we have more pedestrian fatalities than the national average, at about 25%.  The “Spectacular 7” safety treatments to address pedestrian safety crossing problems will be reviewed. These are:

  • Rectangular rapid flashing beacons (RRFBs)
  • Leading pedestrian intervals (LPIs)
  • Crosswalk visibility enhancements
  • Raised crosswalks
  • Pedestrian crossing/refuge islands
  • Pedestrian hybrid beacons
  • Road diets

This is a full-day workshop with a group field exercise where participants will evaluate a nearby location for pedestrian safety and make recommendations for improvement if needed.

Agenda:

  • Welcome and Introductions
  • Why STEP: Background and Data
  • Policies and Process
  • STEP Treatments
  • Site Visit
  • Report Out
  • Final Remarks and Evaluation

Instructor: Peter Eun, Transportation Safety Engineer, FHWA Resource Center’s Safety & Design Technical Service Team

Credits: 6 PDH, DCA CPWM credits applied for: 6 technical

There is no fee for this workshop, however advance registration is required.

For more information and to register for the event, visit NJLTAP Training & Events

Local Safety Peer Exchanges: Summary Report

NJDOT, FHWA and NJDOT held a series of three Local Safety Peer Exchange events for municipal and county representatives to share best practices in addressing traffic safety.  These full-day events brought together representatives of NJDOT, FHWA, counties, municipalities, and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to discuss project prioritization, substantive safety, implementation of FHWA safety countermeasures, and use of a systemic safety approach.

The Local Safety Peer Exchanges Summary Report provides an overview of the event proceedings, including the presentations, workshop activities and key observations from the Local Safety Peer Exchanges held in December 2017, June 2018, and March 2019.

The Local Safety Peer Exchanges were funded, in part, though the use of a State Transportation Incentive Funding (STIC) grant.  The Local Safety Peer Exchange events are well-aligned with the FHWA Technology Innovation Deployment Program (TIDP) goal: “Develop and deploy new tools and techniques and practices to accelerate the adoption of innovation in all aspects of highway transportation.”  The focus of the Local Safety Peer Exchanges is also consistent with two of the FHWA's Every Day Counts (EDC-4) Innovative Initiatives: Safe Transportation for Every Person (STEP) which supports the use of cost-effective countermeasures with known safety benefits to address locations of fatal pedestrian crashes; and Data-Driven Safety Analysis (DDSA) that uses crash and roadway data to reliably determine the safety performance of projects.

 

 

On December 6, 2017 municipal and county representatives gathered to discuss best practices to address traffic safety. Topics discussed included NJ safety performance targets, use of Safety Voyager, substantive vs. nominal approaches to design, systemic vs. hot spot approaches to safety, and discussion of FHWA safety countermeasures.

The summary report provides documentation of the agenda, presentations, highlighted tools and model practices, and workshop activities for each of the Local Safety Peer Exchange events, including the December 2017 event.