by Gavin Davidson, Principal, Alta Planning + Design

The results of Alta’s work improving Pedestrian Safety throughout the City of Vancouver in 2012 are beginning to manifest themselves and were recently reported through some of Vancouver’s major news agencies (see Vancouver Sun article March 7, 2014).

Vancouver is a highly walkable city with walking mode share for work trips of over 12% (as compared to 5% in Portland). Its pedestrian safety record is also enviable with a pedestrian fatality rate of 1 per million walk trips (as compared to 5.2 per million trips in LA). Yet, there continues to be an average of over 500 collisions per year involving pedestrians. The purpose of the Pedestrian Safety Study was to utilize a detailed crash analysis to document the key issues contributing to collisions involving pedestrians and identify countermeasures that have been proven effective at improving pedestrian safety. Since the study was completed, Vancouver has implemented safety improvements at 30 of 44 of the City’s most dangerous intersections, at a cost of over $7 million.

Median Barrier

Improvements implemented include:

  • Countdown signal timers as standard practice for new signals and at high pedestrian collision intersections (note however that this tactic was recently called into question by a study in Toronto by Andrew Howard at The Hospital for Sick Children)
  • Corner bulges, medians and marked and raised crosswalks
  • Improved lighting at intersections with high night-time pedestrian volumes and/or collisions.
  • Pedestrian activated lights and leading pedestrian intervals
  • Left turn bays as well as protected or prohibited left turns
  • Increased pedestrian walk and clearance intervals

Enforcement and awareness campaigns have also been implemented to target risky behavior, particularly at intersections with high rates of collisions involving pedestrians. The following image shows curb extensions and high visibility pavement markings that encourage drivers to stop for pedestrians at Broadway and MacKenzie Street, an uncontrolled intersection with an historically high number of collisions involving pedestrians.

Pedestrian Fatality Rate