Best Pedestrian Safety Improvement
Leading Pedestrian Intervals
If you think about it, one of the most nerve-wracking things about crossing streets on foot is having to start the journey with a whole bunch of cars. And, sometimes, there are vehicles trying to turn directly into your path. It doesn’t make sense as to why pedestrians should be treated the same as fast-moving hulks of metal. A key insight of advanced traffic engineering: They shouldn’t. If you give bipeds a few seconds’ head start, they can claim the street first, becoming clearly visible in the crosswalk. “Then the driver gets the green, and has no choice but to wait,” explains George Branyan, pedestrian program coordinator for the District Department of Transportation. This simple signal timing tweak is called a “leading pedestrian interval,” and DDOT established them at about 50 intersections last year, with plans to double the number this year. The agency prioritizes the worst crash points in the city, since studies elsewhere have shown that giving pedestrians a head start helps reduce accidents dramatically. And when you see that walk sign while cars are still stopped, it’s easy to breathe a sigh of relief.