The National Academies

NCHRP 17-115 [Pending]

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

  Project Data
Funds: $500,000
Contract Time: 36 months
Staff Responsibility: Dr. Yi Zhao


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.

Accomplishment of the project objective will require at least the following tasks.


PHASE I — Planning

Task 1. Conduct a literature review of existing practice and research regarding marked crosswalk spacing, pedestrian/driver compliance and pedestrian safety outcomes with a focus on human factors. The review shall include current practice at state and local agencies; the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), AASHTO, and the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) guidelines and standards; safety data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); and published and unpublished research conducted through the NCHRP, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and other national, international, state, and pooled-fund sponsored research.

Task 2. Synthesize the results of the literature review to identify key factors that influence pedestrians’ choice to divert from an unmarked direct crossing path toward a marked crosswalk and knowledge gaps related to the research objectives. These knowledge gaps should be addressed in the final product or the recommended future research as budget permits.

Task 3. Propose a methodology to achieve the research objective. To be fully developed in Phase II, at the minimum, the methodology shall cover:

  • Data collection plan includes crosswalk location and land-use and transportation context, origin-destination, pedestrian/driver compliance and pedestrian safety outcomes, roadway environment such as lighting, geometry, facilities, transit stops, vehicle speeds and volumes, operational details, users, vehicles, equity context (age, gender, ability, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status), crash history, functional class, pedestrian gap-acceptance, etc.;
  • Survey design to explore pedestrians’ willingness to deviate to cross at a marked crosswalk across a variety of land-use, roadway, and traffic contexts, including tribal lands;
  • Investigation of pedestrian’s willingness to divert from crossing at an unmarked direct path to crossing at locations with a marked crosswalk and uncontrolled intersections without a marked crosswalk; and
  • Quantification analysis of pedestrian/driver compliance and pedestrian safety outcomes related to crosswalk spacing and context.

Task 4. Prepare a detailed outline for the proposed guide for marked crosswalk spacing, placement, and safety enhancements.

Task 5. Prepare Interim Report No. 1 documenting the results of Tasks 1 through 4 and provide an updated plan for the remainder of the research no later than 6 months after contract award. The updated plan must describe the process and rationale for the work proposed for Phases II and III.


PHASE II — Research Implementation  

Task 6. Execute Task 3 according to the approved Interim Report No.1 work plan.

Task 7. Develop a mock-up of a decision-making tool or other appropriate instrument for practitioners to develop their own local practice and policy for marked crosswalk spacing and placement.

Task 8. Draft the proposed guide for marked crosswalk spacing, placement, and safety enhancements based on comments from Interim Report No. 1.

Task 9. Prepare Interim Report No. 2 that documents Tasks 6 through 8 and provide an updated work plan for the remainder of the research no later than 18 months after approval of Phase I. The updated plan must describe the process and rationale for the work proposed for Phase III.


PHASE III — Final Deliverables

Task 10. Present the draft guide to appropriate AASHTO technical committees for comments and propose any revisions to NCHRP. Revise the guide after considering review comments.

Task 11. Develop an intuitive tool/instrument (including a user manual) for agencies to develop their own local practice and policy for pedestrian crosswalk spacing and placement.

Note: The draft tool and guide shall be submitted 5 months before the contract end date.

Task 12. Develop the draft final deliverables including the guide, the tool, and the following:

  1. A conduct of research that documents the entire research effort and any lessons learned and recommendations;
  2. Media and communication material (presentation, graphics, graphics interchange format (GIF)s, press releases); and
  3. A stand-alone technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products.” 


STATUS: Proposals have been received in response to the RFP.  The project panel will meet to select a contractor to perform the work.

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