Can $25 save a pedestrian’s life?

Pedestrian safety doesn’t have to be expensive.

In fact, the City of Lakeland proved this through one of its most recent crosswalk developments. For just $25 and 30 minutes work, Lakeland has cut the number of crashes involving pedestrians by 60%, according to traffic operations manager Angelo Rao.

So, how did they do it? Rao outlined the city’s approach at the recent Intelligent Transportation Society of America summit in Jacksonville, in which BFF partners were in attendance.

The main development: leading pedestrian interval (LPI) systems. LPI systems have re-programed traffic and pedestrian lights. The pedestrian gets a “walk” signal at least three to five seconds ahead of the cars’ green light. This means that when drivers start to make a right or left turn, crossing pedestrians are already well into the crosswalk, and well into the driver’s line of sight. The following video explains more.

LPI systems not only reinforce the pedestrian’s right of way, but are an unconventional alternative to deterrents like warning signs and flashing beacons that drivers are used to seeing.

Lakeland recently installed five-second LPIs at 25 central business district signalized intersections. The city upgraded its existing traffic communications links with a 100% fiber network in 2017, which allowed for the addition of the new systems a for just about 25 bucks a piece.

Other cities in and outside of the U.S. have also integrated LPIs into their roads. The New York City Department of Transportation added 832 new LPI systems in 2017, pushing the total for the city to an incredible 2,547. In some NYC intersections, pedestrians have a walk signal for more than 15 seconds, before turning drivers get the green light.

A recent study by teams from Iowa State, Northern Arizona and Portland Universities as well as the Portland Transportation Bureau developed a cost-benefit analysis to help cities determine where and how to use LPIs. The analysis compares the probability of an incident at a particular intersection to the cost of resulting delays to vehicles.

Are LPIs a worthwhile investment for the greater Orlando area? There are several factors to consider.

The simple answer, estimated with testing on a Portland street, is that an LPI for any single street would be beneficial when the daily total of traffic conflicts is greater than 16. However, the study also recommends that LPIs may not be well suited for major streets where traffic volume is high and traffic flow is a priority.

Best Foot Forward’s program centers around the “Three E’s”: Education, Engineering and Enforcement.

BFF has already helped bring low-cost engineering changes to improve safety conditions for pedestrians. While LPIs may not be the right choice for every intersection, they are proven beneficial when installed in the right places.

BFF and community partners have already worked to install other low-cost engineering enhancements at 107 crosswalks in Orange and Osceola counties.

Any opportunity to increase safety and walkability in our cities is exciting. We send support to Lakeland and other cities actively working to keep pedestrians safe. We can’t wait to see what’s next.

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