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Safe and frequent pedestrian crossings support a walkable environment. Pedestrians are especially sensitive to minor shifts in grade and geometry, detours, and the quality of sidewalk materials and lighting. Pedestrian crossing design has the potential to shape pedestrian behavior, while guiding people toward the safest possible route.
São Paulo, Brazil. A colorful pedestrian scramble in the city center.
Provide level crossings every 80–100 m at minimum. If it takes a person more than three minutes to walk to a pedestrian crossing, he or she may decide to cross along a more direct, but unsafe or unprotected, route.
Pedestrian crossings can be located at an intersection or mid-block.
Provide pedestrian crossings at all legs of intersections. Pedestrians are unlikely to comply with a three-stage crossing and may place themselves in a dangerous situation as a result.
Install a pedestrian crossing where there is a significant pedestrian desire line. Frequent applications include mid-block bus stops, metro stations, parks, plazas, monuments, or public building entrances.
Provide level crossings every 80–100 m in urban environments.1 Distances over 200 m should be avoided, as they create compliance and safety issues.
If it takes a person more than three minutes to walk to a pedestrian crossing, he or she may decide to cross along a more direct, but unsafe route.
Pedestrian crossing spacing criteria should be determined according to the pedestrian network, built environment, and desire lines. Designers should take into account both existing and projected crossing demand.
Always mark the pedestrian crossing, regardless of the paving pattern or material.
High-visibility ladder and zebra markings are preferable to parallel or dashed pavement markings. These are more visible to approaching vehicles and have been shown to improve yielding behavior by drivers.
Where vehicle speeds are above 30 km/h and pedestrian volumes and crossing demands are moderate to high, provide signalized crossings to support a safe walking environment.
Uncontrolled crossings are generally safe on streets with low traffic volumes, and speeds below 30 km/h.
Length (Crossing Distance)
Keep crossing distances as short as possible using tight corner radii, curb extensions, pedestrian refuge islands, and medians.
Medians and refuge islands create a two-stage crossing for pedestrians, which is easier and safer when crossing multiple lanes of traffic.
A pedestrian crossing should be at least as wide as the sidewalks it connects to and not be less than 3 m wide.
Visibility and Daylighting
Provide adequate waiting areas for pedestrians to see oncoming traffic and increase visibility for drivers by adding curb extensions or refuge islands.
Restrict parking or install curb extensions in order to make pedestrians more visible to motorists and cars more visible to pedestrians. This is called street daylighting and must be provided at all crossings.
Additional Safety Measures
The presence of a pedestrian crossing does not alone render a street safe. Based on pedestrian and traffic volumes, speed, and roadway width and configuration, pedestrian crossings may require additional safety measures such as refuge islands, signals, or traffic calming strategies.
Always provide pedestrian crossings at grade, except in instances where they cross limited-access highways or natural feature such as rivers.
Pedestrian overpasses and underpasses take up sidewalk space, dramatically increase walking distance, and are frequently avoided by pedestrians in favor of a more direct crossing. They are very expensive and need regular maintenance to keep them clean and safe. In many cases, they are underutilized and poorly maintained. By removing pedestrians from the natural surveillance of the street, they raise personal safety issues.
Pedestrian Crossing Spacing: Safe, accessible crossings should be provided every 80–100 m, and at all legs of an intersection, to ensure a connected walkable network.
At-Grade Pedestrian Crossings: Unless connections are required across limited access highways, heavy rail lines, or natural features, pedestrian crossings should be provided at the same level as the street. Elevated crossings unnecessarily increase walking distances and times, take up valuable sidewalk space, and cost up to 20 times the price of at-grade signalized crossings.
1. Jure Kostanjsek and Lipar,Peter, “Pedestrian crossings priority for pedestrian safety” (Paper presented at the 3rd Urban Street Symposium, Seattle, June 2007).
Adapted by Global Street Design Guide published by Island Press.