National Academies Press: OpenBook

Traffic Signal Control Strategies for Pedestrians and Bicyclists (2022)

Chapter: Chapter 1 - Introduction

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Traffic Signal Control Strategies for Pedestrians and Bicyclists. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26491.
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Page 1
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Traffic Signal Control Strategies for Pedestrians and Bicyclists. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26491.
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Page 2
Page 3
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Traffic Signal Control Strategies for Pedestrians and Bicyclists. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26491.
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1   Transportation agencies across the country are paying more attention to walking and bicy- cling as healthy, sustainable, economical, and practical modes of transportation. The domain of traffic signal control offers many opportunities for improving service to these historically underserved modes of travel. Until recently, traffic signal operation and design in the United States was predominantly focused on motorized vehicles, with solutions that often inadver- tently harmed service and safety for non-motorized road users. While agencies across the United States and abroad have developed various strategies to improve service for pedestrians and bicyclists at signalized intersections, many of them remain poorly understood. A dearth of analytical tools and performance measures limits practitioners’ ability to implement solu- tions that adequately address the needs of non-motorized users and implement policies, such as Vision Zero, that call for intersections that are safer for all and especially for vulnerable road users. This guidebook provides tools, performance measures, and policy information to help agen- cies design and operate signalized intersections in a way that improves safety and service for pedestrians and bicyclists while still meeting the needs of motorized road users. There is a spectrum of approaches, shown in Exhibit 1-1, that agencies have taken to address the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists at signalized intersections—from complying only with minimum standards to a practice of integration in which pedestrians and bicyclists are considered in all aspects of signal control. This guidebook moves beyond accommodating pedestrians and bicyclists at traffic signals and toward a multimodal signal timing and design process that optimizes for all users. It contains a user-friendly toolbox describing 28 signal design and operations treatments that can improve the safety, comfort, and convenience of pedestrians and bicyclists while considering the needs of users in motorized vehicles. A goal of this guidebook is to help practitioners raise their minimum standards, raise the bar for serving non-motorized users, and raze the barriers for implementation, bringing agencies closer to full integration. Practitioners designing for motorized or non-motorized users have traditionally been siloed, with one group having a limited understanding of traffic signal operations and the other having a limited understanding of pedestrians’ and cyclists’ needs. This guidebook is an opportunity to build bridges between these groups, providing the resources to support intersection planning and design so that the needs of non-motorized users are fully integrated. The guidebook creates connections among the technical subject matter areas of planning, design, operations, safety, and implementation to create an easily accessible and understandable toolbox for practitioners. It is tailored to serve a wide range of stakeholders and to address diverse operating environments and intersection characteristics, resource levels, and system components. C H A P T E R 1 Introduction This guidebook focuses on integrating non-motorized users into the signal design and operations process, moving beyond reactionary systems where accommo- dations are made as issues arise.

2 Traffic Signal Control Strategies for Pedestrians and Bicyclists 1.1 Guidebook Contents This guidebook presents a variety of treatments to address the needs of non-motorized users at signalized intersections and instructions on how to select, implement, and evaluate those treat- ments. Accessibility considerations are integrated throughout most treatments. The guidebook is organized into 10 chapters. Key questions addressed in each chapter include the following: Chapter 1: Introduction Why emphasize non-motorized users at signals? What is in the guidebook? How should the guidebook be used? Chapter 2: Understanding User Needs and Establishing Priorities What are pedestrian and bicyclist needs at signalized intersections? What level of priority should pedestrian and bicyclist needs be given in intersection design and operation, and how should accessibility be considered? How do funding, maintenance, personnel, equipment, and policy affect an agency’s capabilities to implement various treatments? Chapter 3: Performance Measures Related to Serving Pedestrians and Bicyclists What performance measures can be used to indicate the degree to which user needs and other objectives are met and to evaluate the success of a treatment? How can average pedestrian delay be calculated and evaluated against a standard? What data are available for calculating perfor- mance measures? Chapter 4: Signal Timing Basics What are the fundamental signal timing principles for pedestrians and bicycles? What typical traffic signal controller features can be used to implement these principles? Chapter 5: Introduction to Treatments Considering the variety of user needs, what broad categories of treatments can be applied to meet those needs, and what treatments belong to each category? How is the toolbox organized? Chapter 6: Treatments that Reduce or Eliminate Conflicts with Turning Traffic What treatments can be applied to reduce or eliminate conflicts between non-motorized users and turning vehicles? Chapter 7: Treatments that Reduce Pedestrian and Bicycle Delays What treatments can be applied to reduce delay for non-motorized users? Compliance Meet applicable local, state, and federal requirements Accommodation Discover and apply a select number of treatments to improve service for non- motorized users Integration Safety, comfort, and convenience for non- motorized users is fundamental to traffic signal control, with strong policy and a wide range of treatments to realize it Exhibit 1-1. Approaches for non-motorized user planning and design.

Introduction 3   Chapter 8: Treatments Offering Added Information and Convenience What treatments can be applied to improve information and convenience for pedestrian crossings? Chapter 9: Treatments Addressing Special Bicycle Needs What treatments can be applied to support specific bicycle needs at signalized intersections? Chapter 10: Techniques for Multistage Crossings What treatments can be applied to improve pedestrian and bicycle service at multistage crossings? 1.2 Using the Guidebook There are two principal ways this guidebook can be used: (1) project-based or site-oriented and (2) policy-oriented. In both cases, Chapter 2 provides key first steps in understanding and prioritizing user needs. In a project-based or site-oriented approach, an agency has selected a site for improvement, whether through an external process—such as development mitigation—or a scheduled cor- ridor improvement project or through processes that identify deficiencies in pedestrian or bicycle safety and service, such as an analysis of crash history, a bicycle or pedestrian network plan, or citizen complaints. Site-specific operational and safety deficiencies can then be identi- fied and addressed by finding the appropriate tool in this toolbox. For example, if the problem identified is pedestrian conflicts with right-turning vehicles, the introduction to treatments in Chapter 5 has a group of treatments aimed at eliminating or mitigating conflicts with turning vehicles, with detailed descriptions found in Chapter 6. Those treatments can be reviewed, and the most appropriate alternative(s) can be chosen for the site. In a policy-oriented approach, an agency may be seeking a more systemic way to integrate pedestrians and bicyclists into its signalized intersection design and operations. The agency may start with goals such as improving pedestrian safety, improving bicycle safety, or minimizing pedestrian and bicycle delays. Based on its chosen goals and objectives, an agency can use treatments listed in Chapter 5 to determine which strategies best suit its needs, and it can use the detailed treatment descriptions to add specific treatments to its best-practices portfolio. The agency can then make it a policy to apply these best practices whenever signals are modified, whether in connection with routine maintenance, mitigation for private development, or corridor improvement projects. Taking it a step further, an agency can initiate a program of proactively applying the chosen best practices systemwide.

Next: Chapter 2 - Understanding User Needs and Establishing Priorities »
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In the United States, traffic signal timing is traditionally developed to minimize motor vehicle delay at signalized intersections, with minimal attention paid to the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists. The unintended consequence is often diminished safety and mobility for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The TRB National Cooperative Highway Research Program's NCHRP Research Report 969: Traffic Signal Control Strategies for Pedestrians and Bicyclists is a guidebook that provides tools, performance measures, and policy information to help agencies design and operate signalized intersections in a way that improves safety and service for pedestrians and bicyclists while still meeting the needs of motorized road users.

Supplemental to the report are presentations of preliminary findings, strategies, and summary overview.

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