Redesigning Road Infrastructure for Vulnerable Users

To help address the issue of rising traffic fatalities, the US government is investing $800 million into improving and redesigning road and sidewalk infrastructure, largely for the benefit of vulnerable road users. Funding will be made available for over 500 projects throughout the US that will include the construction of more dedicated lanes for cyclists and improved crosswalks for pedestrians. By making these and other similar road adaptations, civil engineers can help to save lives in some of the country’s cities that are currently the most dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. 

Redesigning Road Infrastructure for Vulnerable Users

Cycle Lanes and Bike Boxes

Several of the planned projects are to begin in Hillsborough County, Florida where $19.7 million has been allocated to implement road safety measures including more dedicated bike lanes to protect cyclists. Collisions between motor vehicles and bicycles are some of the most damaging, resulting in serious injuries to riders. Successfully negotiating a bicycle accident settlement can help injured cyclists to cover medical bills and provide accommodations for the future, but taking steps to improve the roads for cyclists is the only way to reduce the risks that they face on a regular basis. Around 50% of collisions between bike riders and vehicles occur at signalized intersections but a study published by researchers at Oregon State University of Engineering shows how cyclist safety can be significantly enhanced with the introduction of bike boxes at urban crossings. In addition to clearer road markings, further physical changes to the road, such as the inclusion of safety buffer spaces between bike and car lanes, can protect bike riders from both moving and parked vehicles.

Curb Extensions and Pedestrian Islands 

One of the most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians in the US is centered around the city of Melbourne in Florida.  As well as the narrowing of roads to include a 7-foot wide bike lane, a  recent upgrade to a third of a mile stretch of a major road in the city involved the incorporation of decorative crosswalks and the addition of landscaped curb extensions. 

The construction of concrete curb extensions, also known as bulb outs, involves extending the sidewalk into the parking lane, effectively reducing the width of the street. As this shortens the crossing distance, pedestrians spend less time on the road and minimize their risk of being involved in a collision. Similar street improvements in New York, including sidewalk extensions, road diets and pedestrian islands, have already helped to reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities by 30%.  The improvements were originally prompted by a pedestrian safety study which showed that allocating more street space for the use of pedestrians was the most effective way to reduce the risk of accidents.

 Civil engineering projects to create new road and curb infrastructure can help to save the lives of vulnerable road users.  The construction of bike lanes and extensions to narrow curbs allow cyclists and pedestrians to spend less time in close proximity to dangerous traffic, reducing the risk of unnecessary accidents and injuries.