Ohio State traffic engineer invited to join expert panel for safer crosswalk distance guidelines

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Ohio State students may see safer crosswalks after a traffic engineer was invited to join a panel dedicated to researching crosswalk guidelines. Credit: Zachary Rilley | photo editor

No need to fear, the Ohio State Traffic Engineer is here to help faculty, staff and students feel safe crossing the street thanks to his participation in a National Academies of science, engineering and medicine studying the placement of crosswalks.

According to the Ohio Department of Public Safety Collision Statistics System, from October 13, 2021 to October 13, 2022, 93 crashes were reported by the University Police Division – 16 involved pedestrians, skaters or cyclists; seven occurred outside marked crosswalks or the traffic lane and seven resulted in serious injury.

Balaji Ponnu, who obtained a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Ohio State in 2018, said he was invited to the Pedestrian crossing spacing and placement tips to improve safety project with the National Cooperative Road Research Program. He said the goal was to analyze the maximum distance pedestrians travel to use a crosswalk to determine appropriate spacing guidelines for future installations, which could prevent jaywalking.

“We will find that distance – that magic number,” Ponnu said. “If we have a thousand feet between two crosswalks, we should probably have one more between them so people don’t wander into dangerous places.”

According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, the number of deaths from road traffic collisions nationwide increased by 44% between 2010 and 2019, with an estimated 6,205 pedestrians killed. His research also showed that 80% of these pedestrian deaths occurred at locations without crosswalks.

Ponnu said he was likely invited to the panel because of his academic credentials, his research on crosswalks on college campuses, and his role as a traffic engineer for the state of Ohio.

Ponnu will vote for the research firm to work on the project, he said. He said data for the project will be collected by the company from interviews with pedestrians, surveys and observations of their street crossing patterns.

“I think it will probably be done in many, you know, many places across the country so that it’s representative of the whole country, because the project is for the whole of the United States,” Ponnu said. .

Ponnu said he was part of establishing fencing on the medical campus and along West Woodruff Avenue, as well as several recommendations for traffic signs, flashing stop signs and overhead flashing signals.

“All of these, you know, different measures have been put in place to both help pedestrians not cross and let vehicles know there’s a crosswalk,” Ponnu said.

University spokeswoman Nicole Holman said in an email that the construction of a crosswalk in the state of Ohio depends on many factors, such as traffic volumes, the location and existing infrastructure.

“General crosswalk design guidelines are available in traffic control manuals, but the guidelines are not uniform,” Holman said. “Additionally, crosswalks on campus have been installed in different locations over the past few decades, so design variations do occur.”

Ponnu said university construction projects use multiple companies that sometimes have their own guidelines on how and where crosswalks should be built.

“There’s no code that says, ‘OK, there’s a crosswalk in the middle of the block. Provide that control,'” Ponnu said. a federal standard.”

Ponnu said he hopes to take the research conducted by the NCHRP project and apply it to the state of Ohio through safety recommendations.

“We will be able to monitor or, you know, make sure the crossing locations are closer than they are right now,” Ponnu said. “Or, if there’s a place that requires closer crosswalk distances, we can implement them, or we can at least recommend them.”

University spokesman Dan Hedman said students should limit distractions and be mindful of their surroundings when traveling on or off campus.

“You see a lot of people walking down the street, and they’re looking at their cellphones or they’re on headphones,” Hedman said. “It’s really hard to hear a car coming, or see a scooter or even other pedestrians or cyclists coming towards you or towards you when you’re distracted.”

Holman said it’s important for people traveling on campus to know where the safest places are and what to wear, especially as winter approaches.

“With shorter days and darker evenings, we also encouraged Buckeyes to wear bright, reflective clothing, dress to be seen and protect their heads,” Holman said.

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