Research: 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.

Aside from distance to school, safety is most connected to the decision to participate in physical activity and walk or bike to school (Smith et al., 2015; Zhou et al., 2009). Children are less likely to walk when they feel unsafe (Topmiller et al., 2015; Voorhees et al., 2010). In addition, parents’ perceptions of the safety of the route to school, including street crossings, adequate sidewalks, and traffic speed and volume (Rothman et al., 2013; Lee et al., 2011; Jacobsen et al., 2009), have been connected with children’s physical activity and participation in active transportation to school (Ding et al., 2011). Residents of low-income neighborhoods often have more exposure to unsafe road conditions (Morency et al., 2012; Chakravarthy et al., 2010), yet low-income children are twice as likely to walk to school as children from higher-income families (McDonald, 2008), which could mean these children are exposed to greater risk. Infrastructure improvements have been connected with reduced injuries and increased active transportation (Ragland et al., 2014). Beyond avoiding injury from traffic collisions, safety also includes protection of personal safety from violence and crime, which has also been connected with physical activity (Cosma et al., 2015; Rader et al., 2014).

Safe Routes to School programs build capacity for walking and biking to school through engineering, environmental, educational, and engagement strategies, including school area speed limits and traffic control, biking and walking facilities, student education for pedestrian and bicyclist safety, and community mobilization. This section highlights research demonstrating the influence of safety from traffic and crime/violence on walking and biking.

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS:

  • According to the CDC, transportation-related injuries account for 66% of unintentional death and 15% of nonfatal injury among children ages 0-19 from 2000-2006 (Borse et al., 2009)
  • In 2013, 5% of pedestrian traffic fatalities and 15% of pedestrian traffic injuries were among children; 7% of cyclist traffic fatalities and 11% of cyclist injuries were among children (NHTSA, 2013)
  • After distance, parents reported safety-related concerns as four of the top five factors affecting children’s participation in walking or biking (Zhou et al., 2009):
    • traffic speed along route (53.7%)
    • traffic amount along route (51.3%)
    • violence or crime (42.1%)
    • intersection safety (38.2%)
  • Factors related to improved safety could change a parents’ decision to allow a child to walk or bike to school, including safety of intersections and crossings (22.0%) and presence of an adult cowalker (17.5%) (Zhou et al., 2009)
  • Girls may be twice as likely to walk or bike to school if they perceive their neighborhood as safe, as reported in a study of 890 eighth-grade students (Voorhees et al., 2010)
  • Based on data from California, rates of pedestrian injury were four times higher in low-income neighborhoods (Chakravathy et al., 2010)
  • In a cross-sectional study in Canada, 68% of students in grades 6-10 identified worrying about being bullied or attacked on the way to school as a barrier to walking or biking; this barrier was more commonly identified among girls (73.5%) and younger students grade 8 or below (74.1%) (Cosma et al., 2015)
  • A study in New York City found a 33 percent decline in overall pedestrian injury among school children (including a 44 percent decline during school travel times) in areas where federally funded Safe Routes to School projects were implemented, compared with areas without Safe Routes to School interventions, where the injury rate remained almost unchanged (DiMaggio and Li, 2013)
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Key takeaway:

  • This research fills a gap in transportation research by developing a methodology to guide practitioners and planners in evaluating the nighttime accessibility of transit stops and areas around transit stops for pedestrian and bicyclists.
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Key takeaway:

  • This research examines how built environment features (landscape, design features, traffic, vehicle and pedestrian volume) impact pedestrian, bicyclist, and driver safety and mobility. Pedestrian-friendly street interventions are necessary but not sufficient to prevent pedestrian injuries and fatalities.
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Key takeaway:

  • Bicycling is an essential, yet inadequate mode of transportation for migrant farmworkers in rural Ontario. Migrant farmworkers are offered bike safety education, but it unfairly regulates their bicycling conduct rather than unsafe bicycling road conditions. 
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Key takeaway:

  • This newly developed resource identifies the most dangerous intersections in New York City and provides data about pedestrian collisions in the city on a heat map.
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Key takeaway:

  • Barriers to children’s pedestrian safety include longer block lengths, missing sidewalks, crosswalk density, and commercial land uses around schools.
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Globally, people with lower incomes and people of color are disproportionately at risk of being injured or killed in motor vehicle crashes, especially as pedestrians.

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This is the first study that combines GPS, accelerometer, and travel diary data to measure pedestrian exposure to collision risk.

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San Francisco is the first city in the country to combine mapped hospital data with police injury data to analyze spatial patterns of severe and fatal injuries to target interventions in support of Vision Zero goals. 

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This paper examines pedestrian and crash data at several intersections in Minneapolis, Minnesota between 2000 and 2013 to see whether the Safety In Numbers effect is observable. 

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There has been a decline in active transportation to school in children and adolescents in recent decades in the United States and Spain. While there are several studies examining the associations between parents’ perceptions and modes of transport to school in children and adolescents in the United States and Australia, studies are lacking in Europe.

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