Addressing Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety


Research reports safety as a commonly identified barrier to walking or bicycling to school. The literature on bicycle and pedestrian safety suggests that as safety increases, so does participation in active travel.

The research in this section identifies patterns of active transportation, injury, environmental attributes associated with pedestrian safety, as well as successful strategies to increase safety implemented by Safe Routes to School projects. Implications of this research suggest infrastructure improvements, traffic education for students, and driver enforcement can provide positive impacts on overall pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

Research Highlights:

  • For students living within 1 mile of school, implementation of effective pedestrian interventions can reduce the traffic dangers that prevent children from walking to school (Beck, et al., 2008).
  • Pedestrian injuries represented 8% of the unintentional injury deaths among children 0 to 19 years of age.(Borse, 2008).
  • A motorist is less likely to collide with a person walking and bicycling if more people walk or bicycle. For example, an individual’s risk while walking in a community with twice as much walking will reduce to 66% (Jacobsen, 2003).

See 2011 and Earlier Archived Articles

Academic Research Articles and Findings:

“Effects of a cycle training course on children's cycling skills and levels of cycling to school” (2014)

  • The primary aim of the present study was to evaluate the short- and longer-term effects of a cycle training on children's cycling skills. A second aim of the study was to examine the effects of a cycle training, with and without parental involvement, on levels of cycling to school and on parental attitudes towards cycling
  • Three participating schools were randomly assigned to the “intervention” (25 children), the “intervention plus parent” (34 children) or “control” condition (35 children). A cycle training (4 sessions of 45 min.) took place only in the intervention schools. Parents in the “intervention plus parent” condition were asked to assist their child in completing weekly homework tasks. Children's cycling skills were assessed, using a practical cycling test. All participating children also received a short parental questionnaire on cycling behavior and parental attitudes towards cycling. Assessments took place at baseline, within one week after the last session and at 5-months follow-up. Repeated Measure analyses were conducted to evaluate the effects of the cycle training
  • Children's total cycling skill score increased significantly more from pre to post and from pre to 5-months follow-up in the intervention group than in the control group. On walking with the bicycle (F = 1.6), cycling in a straight line (F = 2.6), cycling a slalom (F = 1.9), cycling over obstacles (F = 2.1), cycling on a sloping surface (F = 1.7) and dismounting the bicycle (F = 2.0), the cycle training had no effect. For all other cycling skills, significant improvements were observed on short- and longer-term. No significant intervention effects were found on children's cycling to school levels (F = 1.9) and parental attitudes towards cycling.
  • The cycle training course was effective in improving children's cycling skills and the improvements were maintained five months later. However, the cycle training course was not effective in increasing children's cycling to school levels.

Fabian Ducheyne, Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij, Matthieu Lenoir,  Greet Cardon,. (2014). Effects of a cycle training course on children's cycling skills and levels of cycling to school. Accident  Analysis & Prevention, 4 Feb 2014(4 Feb 2014 (online)). 

“Active Transportation: Do Current Traffic Safety Policies Protect Non-Motorists?” (2014)

  • This study investigated the impact that state traffic safety regulations have on non-motorist fatality rates.
  • Data obtained from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) were analyzed through a pooled time series cross-sectional model using fixed effects regression for all 50 states from 1999 to 2009.
  • Two dependent variables were used in separate models measuring annual state non-motorist fatalities per million population, and the natural log of state non-motorist fatalities. Independent variables measuring traffic policies included state expenditures for highway law enforcement and safety per capita; driver cell phone use regulations; graduated driver license regulations; driver blood alcohol concentration regulations; bike helmet regulations; and seat belt regulations. Other control variables included percent of all vehicle miles driven that are urban and mean per capita alcohol consumption per year
  • Non-motorist traffic safety was positively impacted by state highway law enforcement and safety expenditures per capita, with a decrease in non-motorist fatalities occurring with increased spending. Per capita consumption of alcohol also influenced non-motorist fatalities, with higher non-motorist fatalities occurring with higher per capita consumption of alcohol. Other traffic safety covariates did not appear to have a significant impact on non-motorist fatality rates in the models
  • The research suggests that increased expenditures on state highway and traffic safety and the initiation/expansion of programs targeted at curbing both driver and non-motorist intoxication are a starting point for the implementation of traffic safety policies that reduce risks for non-motorists.

Emily M. Madera, Cathleen D. Zickb. (2014). Active Transportation: Do Current Traffic Safety Policies Protect Non-Motorists? Accident  Analysis & Prevention, 4 Feb 2014. doi:

Walking and child pedestrian injury: a systematic review of built environment correlates of safe walking

  • BACKGROUND: The child active transportation literature has focused on walking, with little attention to risk associated with increased traffic exposure. This paper reviews the literature related to built environment correlates of walking and pedestrian injury in children together, to broaden the current conceptualization of walkability to include injury prevention.
    • Two independent searches were conducted focused on walking in children and child pedestrian injury within nine electronic databases until March, 2012. Studies were included which: 1) were quantitative 2) set in motorized countries 3) were either urban or suburban 4) investigated specific built environment risk factors 5) had outcomes of either walking in children and/or child pedestrian roadway collisions (ages 0-12).
    • Built environment features were categorized according to those related to density, land use diversity or roadway design. Results were cross-tabulated to identify how built environment features associate with walking and injury.
  • RESULTS of 85 Studies: Fifty walking and 35 child pedestrian injury studies were identified.
    • Only traffic calming and presence of playgrounds/recreation areas were consistently associated with more walking and less pedestrian injury.
    • Several built environment features were associated with more walking, but with increased injury.
    • Many features had inconsistent results or had not been investigated for either outcome.
  • CONCLUSIONS: The findings emphasize the importance of incorporating safety into the conversation about creating more walkable cities.

Rothman, L., Buliung, R., Macarthur, C., To, T., & Howard, A. (2013). Walking and child pedestrian injury: a systematic review of built environment correlates of safe walking. Inj Prev. doi: 10.1136/injuryprev-2012-040701

How to Increase Bicycling for Daily Travel (2013)

  • Bicycling is healthy: it increases physical activity, improves cardiovascular health, and reduces obesity and disease. Bicycling also can be an excellent mode of transportation for people of all ages. In fact, bicycling to school has been shown to improve cardiovascular fitness and overall health among children and adolescents.
  • As with virtually any kind of sport or physical activity, bicycling poses some risk of injury, but recent studies show that the health benefits of bicycling far exceed the health risks. Moreover, as bicycling levels increase, injury rates fall, making bicycling safer and providing even larger net health benefits.
  • Only 1 percent of all daily trips in the United States are made by bicycle, including fewer than 1 percent of trips to school by children younger than age 16. Many more trips could be made by bicycle, as 40 percent of trips made in the United States are shorter than two miles, which is a reasonable bicycling distance for most people.
  • Recognizing this potential, many government agencies and public health organizations have advocated for increasing bicycling as a way to improve people’s health and reduce air pollution, carbon emissions, congestion, noise, traffic dangers, and other harmful effects of car use.
  • But what are the most effective strategies cities can use to increase bicycling? A growing number of studies have assessed the effectiveness of many strategies for increasing levels of bicycling, including on-street bike lanes, off-street bike paths, and other bicycling infrastructure; promotional and educational programs, such as bike-to-work days and bicycle training classes; and policies, including parking restrictions and traffic-calmed neighborhoods.
  • This brief summarizes the available evidence about strategies for increasing bicycling levels and encouraging bicycling as a mode of transportation. It also presents related policy implications.

Dill, J.  Handy, S. Pucher, J. (2013). How to Increase Bicycling for Daily Travel. In D. R. Bassett, D. (Ed.), (pp. 9). San Diego, California: Active Living Research, University of California, San Diego.

Fears of Violence During Morning Travel to School

  • Children’s safety as they travel to school is a concern nationwide. The authors investigated how safe children felt from the risk of being assaulted during morning travel to school.
  • Children between 10 and 18 years old were recruited in Philadelphia and were interviewed with the aid of geographic information system (GIS) mapping software about a recent trip to school, situational characteristics, and how safe they felt as they travelled based on a 10-point item (1 = very unsafe, 10 = very safe). Ordinal regression was used to estimate the probability of perceiving different levels of safety based on transportation mode, companion type, and neighborhood characteristics.
  • Among 65 randomly selected subjects, routes to school ranged from 7 to 177 minutes (median = 36) and .1-15.1 street miles (median = 1.9), and included between 1-5 transportation modes (median = 2). Among students interviewed, 58.5% felt less than very safe (i.e., <10) at some point while traveling to school and one-third (32.5%) of the total person time was spent feeling less than very safe. Nearly a quarter of students felt a reduction in safety immediately upon exiting their home. The probability of reporting a safety of >8, for example, was .99 while in a car and .94 while on foot but was .86 and .87 when on a public bus or trolley. Probability was .98 while with an adult but was .72 while with another child and .71 when alone. Perceived safety was lower in areas of high crime and high density of off-premise alcohol outlets.
  • Efforts that target situational risk factors are warranted to help children feel safe over their entire travel routes to school.

Douglas J. Wiebe, PhD, Wensheng Guo, PhD, Paul D. Allison, PhD, Elijah Anderson, PhD, Therese S. Richmond, PhD, Charles C. Branas, PhD. (2013). Fears of violence during morning travel to school. Journal of Adolescent Health, April 15, 2013. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.01.023.

"Effectiveness of a Safe Routes to School Program in Preventing School-Aged Pedestrian Injury" (2013)

  • In 2005, the US Congress allocated $612 million for a national Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program to encourage walking and bicycling to schools. The authors analyzed motor vehicle crash data to assess the effectiveness of SRTS interventions in reducing school-aged pedestrian injury in New York City.
  • Using geocoded motor vehicle crash data for 168,806 pedestrian injuries in New York City between 2001 and 2010, annual pedestrian injury rates per 10,000 population were calculated for different age groups and for census tracts with and without SRTS interventions during school-travel hours (defined as 7 AM to 9 AM and 2 PM to 4 PM, Monday through Friday during September through June).
  • During the study period, the annual rate of pedestrian injury decreased 33% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 30 to 36) among school-aged children (5- to 19-year-olds) and 14% (95% CI: 12 to 16) in other age groups. The annual rate of school-aged pedestrian injury during school-travel hours decreased 44% (95% CI: 17 to 65) from 8.0 injuries per 10 000 population in the pre-intervention period (2001–2008) to 4.4 injuries per 10 000 population in the post-intervention period (2009–2010) in census tracts with SRTS interventions. The rate remained virtually unchanged in census tracts without SRTS interventions (0% [95% CI: –8 to 8])
  • Implementation of the SRTS program in New York City has contributed to a marked reduction in pedestrian injury in school-aged children.

Charles DiMaggio, PhD, MPH and Guohua Li, MD, DrPH. (2013). Effectiveness of a Safe Routes to School Program in Preventing School-Aged Pedestrian Injury. Pediatrics, 131(2), 290-296.

“Route Infrastructure and the Risk of Injuries to Bicyclists: A Case-Crossover Study” (2012)

  • The authors compared cycling injury risks of 14 route types and other route infrastructure features. They recruited 690 city residents injured while cycling in Toronto or Vancouver, Canada. A case-crossover design compared route infrastructure at each injury site to that of a randomly selected control site from the same trip.
  • Of the fourteen route types, cycle tracks had the lowest risk, about one ninth the risk of the reference: major streets with parked cars and no bike infrastructure. Risks on major streets were lower without parked cars and with bike lanes. Local streets also had lower risks. Other infrastructure characteristics were associated with increased risks: streetcar or train tracks, downhill grades, and construction.
  • Of the 690 injured cyclists in the study, 59% were male. The injury trips were mainly on weekdays (77%), less than 5 km long (68%), and for utilitarian purposes (74%). Of the injury events, 72% were collisions (with motor vehicles, route features, people, or animals) and 28% were falls.
  • The authors found that route infrastructure does affect the risk of cycling injuries. The most commonly observed route type was major streets with parked cars and no bike infrastructure. It had the highest risk. In comparison, the following route types had lower risks (starting with the safest route type): cycle tracks (also known as “separated” or “protected” bike lanes) alongside major streets (about 1/10 the risk) residential street bike routes (about 1/2 the risk) major streets with bike lanes and no parked cars (about 1/2 the risk) off-street bike paths (about 6/10 the risk) The following infrastructure features had increased risk: streetcar or train tracks (about 3 times higher than no tracks) downhill grades (about 2 times higher than flat routes) construction (about 2 times higher than no construction).
  • The lower risks on quiet streets and with bike-specific infrastructure along busy streets support the route-design approach used in many northern European countries. Transportation infrastructure with lower bicycling injury risks merits public health support to reduce injuries and promote cycling.

Teschke, K., M. A. Harris, et al. (2012). Route Infrastructure and the Risk of Injuries to Bicyclists: A Case-Crossover Study. American Journal of Public Health 102(12): 2336-2343.

“Where Do Cyclists Ride? A Route Choice Model Developed with Revealed Preference GPS Data” (2012)

  • To better understand bicyclists’ preferences for facility types, GPS units were used to observe the behavior of 164 cyclists in Portland, Oregon, USA for several days each. Trip purpose and several other trip-level variables recorded by the cyclists, and the resulting trips were coded to a highly detailed bicycle network.
  • The authors used the 1449 non-exercise, utilitarian trips to estimate a bicycle route choice model. The model used a choice set generation algorithm based on multiple permutations of path attributes and was formulated to account for overlapping route alternatives.
  • The findings suggest that cyclists are sensitive to the effects of distance, turn frequency, slope, intersection control (e.g. presence or absence of traffic signals), and traffic volumes. In addition, cyclists appear to place relatively high value on off-street bike paths, enhanced neighborhood bikeways with traffic calming features (aka “bicycle boulevards”), and bridge facilities.
  • Bike lanes more or less exactly offset the negative effects of adjacent traffic, but were no more or less attractive than a basic low traffic volume street. Finally, route preferences differ between commute and other utilitarian trips; cyclists were more sensitive to distance and less sensitive to other infrastructure characteristics for commute trips.

Broach, J., J. Dill, et al. (2012). Where Do Cyclists Ride? A Route Choice Model Developed with Revealed Preference GPS Data. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice 46(10):1730-1740.

“The Roles of Gender, Age and Cognitive Development in Children's Pedestrian Route Selection” (2012)

  • Thousands of American children under the age of 10 years are injured annually as pedestrians. Despite the scope of this public health problem, knowledge about behavioral control and developmental factors involved in the etiology of child pedestrian safety is limited. The present study examined the roles of gender, age and two aspects of cognitive development (visual search and efficiency of processing) in children's safe pedestrian route selection.
  • Measures of cognitive functioning (visual search and efficiency) and selections of risky pedestrian routes were collected from 65 children aged 5–9 years.
  • Boys, younger children and those with less developed cognitive functioning selected riskier pedestrian routes. Cognitive functioning also subsumed age as a predictor of risky route selections.
  • The findings suggest developmental differences, specifically less developed cognitive functioning, play important roles in children's pedestrian decision making.

Barton, BK, Ulrich, T, Lyday, B. (2012). “The roles of gender, age and cognitive development in children's pedestrian route selection.” Child: Care, Health and Development 38(2): 280–286.

“Neighborhood Social Inequalities in Road Traffic Injuries: The Influence of Traffic Volume and Road Design” (2012)

  • Researchers examined the extent to which differential traffic volume and road geometry can explain social inequalities in pedestrian, cyclist, and motor vehicle occupant injuries across wealthy and poor urban areas.
  • They performed a multilevel observational study of all road users injured over 5 years (n = 19 568) at intersections (n = 17 498) in a large urban area (Island of Montreal, Canada). They considered intersection-level (traffic estimates, major roads, number of legs) and area-level (population density, commuting travel modes, household income) characteristics in multilevel Poisson regressions that nested intersections in 506 census tracts.
  • There were significantly more injured pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicle occupants at intersections in the poorest than in the richest areas. Controlling for traffic volume, intersection geometry, and pedestrian and cyclist volumes greatly attenuated the event rate ratios between intersections in the poorest and richest areas for injured pedestrians (−70%), cyclists (−44%), and motor vehicle occupants (−44%).
  • Roadway environment can explain a substantial portion of the excess rate of road traffic injuries in the poorest urban areas.

Morency, P., L. Gauvin, et al. (2012). "Neighborhood Social Inequalities in Road Traffic Injuries: The Influence of Traffic Volume and Road Design." American Journal of Public Health 102(6): 1112-1119.

“Impact of a Pilot Walking School Bus Intervention on Children's Pedestrian Safety Behaviors: A Pilot Study” (2012)

  • Walking school buses (WSB) increase children’s physical activity, but their impact on pedestrian safety behaviors (PSB) is unknown.
  • To fill this knowledge gap, the authors tested the feasibility of a protocol evaluating changes to PSB during a WSB program.
  • Outcomes were school-level street crossing PSB prior to (Time 1) and during weeks 4–5 (Time 2) of the WSB. The protocol collected 1252 observations at Time 1 and 2548 at Time 2.
  • This pilot study demonstrated the feasibility of collecting school-level pedestrian safety behavior outcomes and changes to those outcomes during a WSB program study. Mixed model analyses indicated that intervention schoolchildren had 5-fold higher odds of crossing at the corner/crosswalk but 5-fold lower odds of stopping at the curb.
  • The WSB was associated with more children crossing at an intersection, but fewer children fully stopping at the curb. These mixed results suggest modification to the WSB program may be necessary in order to improve children's pedestrian safety behaviors on the walk to and from school.
  • Further WSB studies, preferably fully powered experimental trials that longitudinally follow participants' pedestrian safety behaviors in the long term, should be conducted in a variety of settings among diverse populations to formally evaluate pedestrian safety and physical activity outcomes. Moreover, studies that examine the influence of the built environment, use objective measures of neighborhood safety, and consider vehicular traffic are also necessary to evaluate their influences on the WSB and children's pedestrian safety.
  • The protocol appears feasible for documenting changes to school-level PSB.

Mendoza, J. A., K. Watson, et al. (2012). "Impact of a pilot walking school bus intervention on children's pedestrian safety behaviors: A pilot study." Health & Place 18(1): 24-30.

“Parental Attitudes towards Children Walking and Bicycling to School: A Multivariate Ordered Response Analysis” (2012)

  • Recent research suggests that, besides traditional socio-demographic and built environment attributes, the attitudes and perceptions of parents towards walking and bicycling play a crucial role in deciding their children’s mode choice to school. However, very little is known about the factors that shape these parental attitudes towards their children actively commuting to school.
  • This study investigated this unexplored avenue of research and identified the influences on parental attitudes towards their children walking and bicycling to school, as part of a larger nationwide effort to make children more physically active and combat rising trends of childhood obesity in the US.
  • Through the use of a multivariate ordered response model (a model structure that allows different attitudes to be correlated), the study analyses five different parental attitudes towards their children walking and bicycling to school, based on data drawn from the California add-on sample of the 2009 National Household Travel Survey. In particular, the subsample from the Los Angeles – Riverside – Orange County area is used in this study to take advantage of a rich set of micro-accessibility measures that are available for this region.
  • The study found that school accessibility, work patterns, current mode use in the household, and socio-demographic characteristics shape parental attitudes towards children walking and bicycling to school. The study findings provide insights on policies, strategies, and campaigns that may help shift parental attitudes to be more favorable towards their children walking and bicycling to school.

Seraj, S., R. Sidharthan, et al. (2012). Parental Attitudes Towards Children Walking and Bicycling to School: A Multivariate Ordered Response Analysis. Paper for the 91st  Annual Meeting of the TRB, Washington, DC, January 2012.

See 2011 and Earlier Archived Articles