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Non-Motorized User Safety A Manual for Local Rural Road Owners

by Dr. Airton G. Kohls (Source: FHWA - Office of Safety)

Rural road with no shoulder entering an area with pedestrian/bicycle activity.

In March 2012, FHWA published a document to assist local rural practitioners in making effective use of current practices and resources addressing non-motorized mobility and safety, thereby creating a more accommodating and viable transportation system for all road users. Non-motorized transportation is primarily comprised of biking, walking, equestrian, and horse-drawn vehicles. Approximately 60 percent of all road miles in the US are non-interstate, rural roads maintained and operated by local agencies. The document addresses:

One of the challenges in the process is to appropriately select countermeasures. When selecting countermeasures, one needs to consider the extent of the problem. Is it a spot location, corridor, or network? It is equally important to address the safety of all roadway users, non-motorized and motorized. Proposed countermeasures must be appropriate for the roadway conditions and the environment, for example, a marked crossing may be appropriate on 4a two-lane rural road through a rural village, where vehicle speeds are relatively lower, but probably will not be appropriate on a two-lane section of road through an undeveloped area where vehicles speeds are relatively high and motorists' expectancy of encountering a crossing is low unless other measures are included as well. There are also behavioral considerations, like speeding, that needs to be addressed using engineering, education, enforcement and emergency medical services. Finally, the ability to apply countermeasures in near, mid, and long range timeframes provides opportunities for the immediate implementation of some countermeasures to address certain safety issues before longer-range measures are implemented.

Example - High speeds in an active pedestrian/ bicycle zone: addressing issues at spot locations and short corridors.

A straight rural road with no shoulder and a posted speed of 45 mph enters an area active with pedestrians and cyclists. This area has a posted speed of 35 mph. Adjacent to the roadway is a school, and across the street is a park. There is information indicating some motorists are traveling 55 mph through the 35 mph zone. There are few gaps in traffic during student drop-off and pick-up at the school. Some children from nearby residences walk along the road to and from school.

Short-range measures can be implemented rather quickly at this type of location and can have an immediate positive effect.

Mid-range measures should be implemented to help create a lasting effect on non-motorized safety, as it may be difficult to sustain the short-range enforcement of the speed zone.

Long-range measures can be applied to help change the nature of the roadway in the area with high non-motorized activity, which should alert motorists that conditions have changed and to reduce speed.

For additional examples and for more information on the Non-Motorized user Safety - A Manual for Local Rural Road Owners, go to


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