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Ensuring Accessibility: Innovative Traffic Solutions for Pedestrians and Cyclists

In 2021, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 7,399 pedestrians lost their lives in traffic accidents in the United States. That’s an average of 20 pedestrians each day and 142 each week. For cyclists, the situation is just as dire, with 966 bicyclists killed in traffic accidents in 2021 alone, according to the NHTSA. Safe traffic control isn’t just about cars; it’s also about pedestrians and cyclists. That’s why in this month’s blog, we’re highlighting the importance of safer traffic control for cyclists and pedestrians with a specific focus on the traffic solutions that reflect North America Traffic’s dedication to keeping all road users safe.

The Importance of Safer Traffic Control for Cyclists

Cycling is on the rise in North America, with more people choosing bicycles for commuting, exercise, and leisure. Canada saw a significant increase in bicycle traffic, rising by 10 percent from 2022 to 2023. This surge is not surprising considering the numerous benefits cycling offers. It’s good for our health, both physically and mentally, and benefits the environment. In addition, cycling has the potential to reduce traffic congestion. Studies suggest that replacing just 10 percent of short car trips with micro-mobility options like bicycles and e-bikes during peak traffic hours could significantly alleviate road congestion. However, bicyclists face unique challenges, especially near work zones and construction areas. Globally, thousands of cyclists lose their lives in road traffic incidents each year, emphasizing the importance of cyclist safety.

As bicycling becomes more popular as a sustainable mode of transportation, it’s essential to provide additional support and ensure the safety of all cyclists on the road.

5 Ways Cities Can Increase Road Safety for Cyclists

Improving road safety for cyclists’ benefits everyone. Below are five specific ways cities can make roads safer for bicyclists.

1. Establishing Designated Bike Lanes

Cyclists face greater risks on the road compared to motorists, making their safety a top priority for cities across North America. Designated bike lanes are crucial for improving cyclist safety, providing them with a dedicated space away from fast-moving vehicles. Creating these lanes involves careful consideration of factors like existing traffic patterns, sufficient buffers to shield cyclists from parked and moving vehicles, and enforcement to prevent motorized vehicles from intruding into bike lanes or double-parking. The key elements of effective bike lanes include their location, width, and level of protection. These lanes should be strategically positioned to minimize risks, wide enough to accommodate cyclists comfortably, and equipped with physical barriers for full protection. Ultimately, bike infrastructure should be accessible and convenient for cyclists of all ages and abilities.

2. Routine Maintenance of Bike Lanes

Keeping designated bike lanes in good condition is just as important as creating them. Regular upkeep is necessary to ensure they remain safe for cyclists. Clear lane markings and stencils are essential for visibility. It’s necessary to keep bike lanes free of hazards like potholes, glass shards, and debris. After any utility work, the road surface should be restored to its original smoothness to prevent accidents. Proper lighting is also important, especially in areas with poor visibility. Regularly check and replace any burnt-out bulbs to maintain adequate lighting. These maintenance tasks ensure that cyclists can travel safely without encountering obstacles or risks.

3. Creating Bike Signage and Warnings

Just like drivers depend on road signs for guidance and warnings, bicyclists rely on clear signage for safe navigation. Bike signage covers different types, such as way-finding, regulatory, and warning signs. Some signs also provide instructions to motorists regarding bicyclists. It’s essential to place all signs and warnings related to construction zones well in advance, giving cyclists enough time to adjust their route or slow down as they approach work areas. Additionally, there are markings on bikeways, which are applied on the pavement surface to designate specific right-of-way, directions, conflict areas, or route options. To ensure safe movement, they must be highly visible and easily identifiable to both motorists and cyclists.

4. Providing Safety Training for Work Crews & Real-Time Information for Cyclists

Training is central to ensuring work crews are equipped to handle bicyclists. All work crews should receive updated training on cyclist safety awareness and confirm that they fully understand the rules, and how to interact with bicyclists on-site. Additionally, cyclists can receive real-time updates via mobile apps and signage about construction projects, potential delays, and alternative routes.

5. Employing Portable Bicycle Signals for Work Zones

To improve cyclist safety, it’s important to utilize traffic solutions like portable traffic signals and barriers. These tools help maintain order and minimize conflicts between cyclists and other road users. At North America Traffic, we offer a variety of Portable Traffic Signals and Automated Flagger Devices to enhance safety for all road users, including cyclists. In May 2018, Paul Indelicato from Pacific Highway Rental reached out to us about a work zone layout requested by Caltrans, which included a bicycle lane. They required a system to manage traffic flow in a single lane alternating scenario and extend green clear time if cyclists entered the work zone. Our Product Development Manager, along with our team, brainstormed solutions and devised a concept. With our Gen 3 Signals, each unit can be isolated. Leveraging this, we modified one signal to act as a bicycle head, staying red until triggered by a push button. These portable bicycle signals work alongside existing traffic signals, featuring a bright and user-friendly design to guide cyclists to take specific actions, enhancing safety. This ensures they can navigate streets around work zones or construction sites safely, regardless of the time of day.

The Importance of Innovative Traffic Solutions for Pedestrians

Walking offers a multitude of benefits, from boosting mental well-being to improving cardiovascular fitness and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. It’s not just good for your health; it’s also a popular way to get around. According to a survey by the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC), about 143 million adults (53.8 percent) walk for transportation or leisure. As more people embrace walking and cities become more pedestrian-friendly, ensuring pedestrian safety is essential. It involves creating safe walking paths, installing legible signs, and implementing traffic solutions to safeguard pedestrians, especially in work zones. Construction areas can pose risks to pedestrians due to equipment and disruptions to traffic flow. As a result, traffic solutions must not only manage vehicle traffic but also the safety and uninterrupted movement of pedestrians in these areas.

How Cities Can Improve Roads for Pedestrian Safety

1. Install Barrier Systems and Temporary Sidewalks

One way cities can enhance pedestrian safety is by installing barrier systems. Placing these barriers between pedestrian walkways and vehicle lanes, particularly in work zones, creates separation and shields pedestrians from potential dangers. Another helpful addition is temporary sidewalks, especially if road work blocks existing ones. Temporary sidewalks offer pedestrians access and safety during construction.

2. Check to Make Sure Lighting is Adequate

Ensuring pedestrian safety requires excellent visibility, regardless of the time of day. Proper placement and quality of lighting can improve comfort and safety. Pedestrians may assume they’re visible to drivers at night because they can see the vehicles, but that’s not always the case. A single light might not illuminate a pedestrian enough for the driver to see them clearly. It’s best to have streetlights on both sides of the main streets and consistent lighting along the road, including at crosswalks. Assessing the lighting and visibility during both day and night is best practice. Any needed changes should be made to ensure safety around the clock.

3. Confirm Design is Accessible for All Pedestrians

Pedestrians have different needs. Some are young kids, others are elderly and move slowly, and some have disabilities. But they all share one thing– they use crosswalks near work zones, construction sites, or special events. The road system must accommodate everyone’s safety. Making designs accessible ensures that routes and signals work for all pedestrians, not just a select few.

4. Ensure Safe Crossing Points with NAT’s Portable Pedestrian Signal

Make it easier for pedestrians to cross roads safely with North America Traffic’s PED2.9 Portable Pedestrian Signal! Designed to work seamlessly with our other portable traffic signals, it’s perfect for keeping pedestrians out of harm’s way within your construction projects, work zones, and special events. With a MUTCD-compliant LED signal display and a countdown timer, pedestrians know exactly when it’s safe to cross. Whether for designated intersections, busy roads, or local weekend festivals, this versatile portable traffic signal features a quick set-up time and a small trailer footprint. Easy to use, all pedestrians have to do is press the Piezo push button and wait for the signal to provide the go-ahead. We can make your job site traffic and pedestrian safe while maintaining efficiency with the Portable Pedestrian Signal. Click here to learn more about the PED Portable Pedestrian Signal.

Prioritize Safe Traffic Control for All Road Users With NAT

Whether you’re focused on protecting cyclists, pedestrians, flaggers, or all three, our advanced portable traffic signals, portable bicycle signals and automated flagger devices are up to the task. With three decades of industry leadership, you can rely on our smart traffic control solutions. Reach out to us today or request a quote to get started. Let’s work together to make the roads safer for everyone.