New modeling for bike and ped traffic to improve planning and safety

bicyclist in downtown Minneapolis traffic

Photo: David Gonzalez, MnDOT

Giving people more options to bike or walk to their destinations has been a high priority for transportation planners in recent years. But as the number of pedestrians and bicyclists using the transportation system increases, so does the potential for serious—or even deadly—crashes involving these high-risk road users.

“To best prevent bicycle and pedestrian crashes, transportation planners need a better idea of how many people are using nonmotorized transportation and what their exposure to risk is,” says Greg Lindsey, a professor in the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs and researcher at the Roadway Safety Institute.

As part of a project sponsored by the Institute, Lindsey is working to develop new methods and tools to help transportation engineers estimate bicycle and pedestrian traffic volumes and assess these nonmotorized travelers’ exposure to risk.

So far, Lindsey and his team have collected bicycle and pedestrian counts in several Minnesota case communities, ranging in size from the large Twin Cities metropolitan area to much smaller cities such as Grand Marais and Bemidji. Because most studies of exposure and risk have occurred in larger urban areas, Lindsey expects the results from the smaller communities to be particularly useful.

With these counts complete, the researchers are developing models to adjust and extrapolate the data to measure the average annual daily number of bicyclists and pedestrians for specific road segments and networks. They are also creating models that estimate exposure to risk for nonmotorized traffic and then combining those models with traffic volume estimates to help predict and better understand potential for being involved in a crash or other hazardous situation. This information will help illustrate the need for countermeasures or different traffic controls at specific locations.

Lindsey began work on the project in 2014. While the final study has not yet been published, early papers based on the research are already earning national recognition. In a paper presented at the Transportation Research Board’s 2016 Annual Meeting, researchers outlined a simplified model that can be used to easily generate spatial estimates of pedestrian and bicyclist traffic volumes in the field.

For more information, read the full article in the April 2016 issue of CTS Catalyst.

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Posted in Bicycling, Land use, Planning, Public transit, Safety, Traffic data, Traffic operations, Transportation research, Travel Behavior

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