intersection of Hardware Lane with Bourke Street

Unbundling for Walking

Armed with a model of vehicle interaction rates and the relative risk they present to each other it is possible to explore how shifting transport between modes would impact safety. Here we turn a focus on pedestrians and the impacts improvements in safety or segregation would have.

The previous analysis of cycling in the same manner provides the starting point for comparisons, where small improvements in safety or segregation could have increasing cycling mode share reducing the road toll.

modelled road toll varying bicycle mode share

Applying the same numbers to the pedestrian mode share percentage only yields increases in road toll, even with improvements in safety.

modelled road toll varying bicycle mode share

Pedestrians are the most vulnerable of all road users partly due to their lack of protection, but also through their unpredictability and choices. Risk is not a one way action and contributions come from both sides but rather than placing fault the pragmatic approach is reducing possible effects when mistakes are made to account for human fallibility and the assumption that these risks can never be completely eliminated. But with footpaths for the exclusive use of pedestrians (extensive segregation) where are all the interactions?

Media headlines are often grabbed by the pedestrian fatalities involving road users failing to stop at red lights or pedestrian crossings which is where the majority of pedestrian-vehicle interaction would be expected to occur, but the breakdown of pedestrian deaths by speed limit has some worrying distributions.

histogram of pedestrian deaths in Victoria by speed limit

Without exposure data for pedestrians in each speed limit the graph is simply the raw numbers of fatalities over the period, for instance the 90km/h (55 mph) is an unusual speed limit so is lower by limited exposure. Suburban roads and areas around shopping centres or public transport are typically 50km/h or 60km/h (31 mph to 37 mph) so it would be expected the majority of crashes occur there, leaving the question over the figures at 100km/h (60 mph) and above.

First we can refer to the Vicroads guides which requires differing levels of segregation for Pedestrians depending on the road category.

Vicroads pedestrian infrastructure guidance by road type

So it would be expected that 100% segregation is required for all 100km/h areas and certainly on the 110km/h interstate freeways, but inside every car is a pedestrian. When a vehicle stops on these roads and an occupant gets out for a roadside bathroom stop, mechanical breakdown, medical situation, etc (the guides use the term non-discretionary stops) they immediately become a pedestrian. Already within Melbourne there are sections of freeway with “hard shoulder running” where the existing paved safety/emergency shoulder is converted to a traffic lane eliminating any space for vehicles and pedestrians to be clear of the traffic. Various groups have suggested it as a low cost way to further increase road capacity but never considering the safety costs for users or lost capacity/time when vehicles are forced to stop and then cause collapse of throughput.

Over this period pedestrians in Victoria were almost 6 times more likely to die than would be expected from their mode share alone, while all motorised transport (other than motorcycles) had lower shares of the road toll than their mode share. The mode share data from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics would need to be out by over an order of magnitude to bring pedestrians risk down to a similar level with motorised transport. Pedestrian safety is huge problem that hasn’t been improving, its time to demand change, we’re all pedestrians at some point in our journeys.


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