No Safe Options Mean Pedestrians Engage in Risky Behavior

Pedestrians are often blamed first for accidents, but they have few choices when the infrastructure is lacking, a new study shows.
January 10, 2019, 2pm PST | Camille Fink
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Mircea Iancu

Michael Smith, a University of Illinois graduate student, collected video at intersections on a road in Rockford, Illinois, to understand better how pedestrians interact with the built environment. Often pedestrians are blamed for accidents, with the assumption being that they were jaywalking or not paying attention to their surroundings.

"But Smith’s videos found pedestrians’ behavior is influenced a lot by the environment: They’re more likely engage in risky behavior — like walking or rolling in the street or crossing mid-block — when the pedestrian infrastructure is incomplete or lacking," reports Angie Schmitt.

At one intersection, Smith repeatedly saw examples of people backtracking and going into the street because there was not an ADA-compliant ramp at the corner, even though the location was near a housing development for older people. He also noticed that people waiting for buses at a stop without a bench or shelter would wait on the other side of the street at a shopping center and then dart across when the bus came.

"People were adapting their behavior to the conditions, often in ways that put them at risk," notes Schmitt. Smith’s recommendations include a decrease in the speed limit, enhanced crosswalks, and leading pedestrian intervals at signaled intersections.

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Published on Monday, January 7, 2019 in Streetsblog USA
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