The National Academies

NCHRP 17-115 [Active]

Guide for Marked Crosswalk Design, Spacing, Placement, and Safety

  Project Data
Funds: $500,000
Staff Responsibility: Dr. Yi Zhao
Research Agency: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Principal Investigator: Sarah O’Brien
Effective Date: 6/3/2024
Completion Date: 6/2/2027
Comments: Research in progress


An estimated 6,205 pedestrians were killed in traffic collisions in the United States in 2019, a 44% increase in pedestrian fatalities since 2010 representing 17% of total traffic fatalities. Over 80% of those pedestrian fatalities occurred at unmarked midblock locations. Research has found that locations where pedestrians are most likely to cross outside marked crosswalks are highly influenced by the surrounding roadway and land-use characteristics, such as transit stops, vehicular volume, distance between crosswalks, and crossing distance. Pedestrians are less likely to use a marked sidewalk when it is far out of their way. To reduce fatalities and injuries, agencies need to provide safely designed crosswalks that are properly spaced so that pedestrians can practically utilize them. While prior research has established the safety and effectiveness of countermeasures such as refuge islands, pedestrian hybrid beacons (PHBs), and rectangular rapid flashing beacons (RRFBs) and provides guidance (e.g., Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP) guide) for selecting countermeasures at uncontrolled crossing locations, current guidance and research on marked crosswalk spacing is limited. The ongoing study NCHRP Project 03-141,  “Guidance on Midblock Pedestrian Signals (MPS)” will assess the safety effects of MPS and develop language suitable for inclusion in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), but more work is needed to understand suitable spacing of marked crosswalks with appropriate treatments. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Council on Active Transportation’s Research Roadmap (July 2021) identifies “determining context-driven optimal spacing between marked crosswalks” as one of their six highest-priority needs. This research aims to reduce pedestrian fatalities and severe injuries through a better understanding of appropriate marked crosswalk spacing.


The objective of this research is to develop a guide and a tool to inform when to add marked crosswalks at unmarked intersections and midblock crossing locations.

At a minimum, the research team shall:

  1. Identify and evaluate factors that influence pedestrians’ choice to divert from an unmarked direct crossing path toward a marked crosswalk in terms of origin/destination proximity, land-use context, and crossing need, etc.;
  2. Determine the maximum additional cost, in terms of extra travel distance and delays, pedestrians will accept to use a marked crosswalk; and
  3. Develop marked crosswalk spacing recommendations in various contexts, based on pedestrian behavior and willingness-to-deviate from a more direct crossing path.


Status: Work has been initiated. The first interim report is expected in December 2024.

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