Around and Around for Pedestrian and Cyclist Safety

by Tracy Zafian, Research Fellow, and Courtney Murtagh, UMTC Intern

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Bicycle in Roundabout (Source: bikewalkencinitas.org)

Roundabouts were introduced to America’s traffic system as a way to increase traffic safety and support greater traffic volumes without extensive new construction. A roundabout’s circular formation works by making incoming vehicles yield to circulating and exiting traffic. This allows cars to maintain a steady traffic flow through the intersection and not have to come to a complete stop. Roundabouts have been proven to be able to handle up to 50 percent more traffic compared to traditional intersections that use traffic signals or stop signs. Further, due to vehicles’ reduced speeds at roundabouts, crash and injury rates can significantly decrease, especially for motorists. According to the Insurance Institute on Highway Safety (IIHS), studies of U.S. intersections that have switched from stop signs or traffic signals to roundabouts have found a decrease in all traffic crashes of 35-47% and a reduction of injury crashes of 72-80%. The IIHS importantly notes that the U.S. studies have focused primarily on single-lane roundabouts. When included in research studies, two-lane roundabouts have been shown to have smaller reductions in crashes compared with single-lane roundabouts or even with increases in crashes. Crashes at roundabouts have also involved bicycle and pedestrians. Non-motorized road users, such as bicyclists and pedestrians, can face several safety and technical challenges when traveling through roundabouts. These challenges can lead to greater crash risk at roundabouts.  Dr. Eleni Christofa, UMTC Affiliate Researcher Civil Engineering and Professor Aura Ganz of Electric and Computer Engineering from UMass Amherst are studying the safety of visually impaired pedestrians at roundabouts. Visually impaired pedestrians may be used to having auditory cues from traffic and signals at intersections to know when it’s safe to cross. Roundabouts, designed with continuous traffic flow in mind, may not have such cues. Additionally, it can be difficult for drivers to detect pedestrians at a crosswalk while the driver is focused on navigating a roundabout.  Dr. Christofa and Dr. Ganz have developed a new dynamic warning sign to alert drivers entering a roundabout as to where pedestrians are attempting to cross. This sign contains a symbolic traffic circle and symbolic crosswalks for each approach of the roundabout. If a pedestrian is about to cross one of the roundabout’s approaches, they can activate the sign which will then flash to alert drivers where pedestrians are crossing in the roundabout. This is designed to help both with driver awareness of pedestrians and pedestrian safety. The dynamic warning sign will be tested on the UMass Amherst advanced driving simulator this summer. If the sign works as expected, it could be used to help with the safety of pedestrians at roundabouts generally and particularly for the visually impaired and those with mobility impairments who take longer in crosswalks.

 

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Proposed dynamic warning sign for pedestrian crossings at roundabouts. Pedestrians activate the sign to flash and show where they are crossing to help alert drivers traversing the roundabout to their presence.

One of Dr. Christofa’ s graduate students, Derek Roach, conducted other research on roundabouts for his Master’s thesis. His study looked at the impact of roundabouts from a driver behavior, vehicle emissions, and safety perspective. As part of his research, Roach reviewed other studies that examined the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians at roundabouts. One of these studies found that drivers who are exiting a roundabout are less likely to yield to pedestrians than when the drivers enter the roundabout.  This same study found that as speed increases in roundabouts, drivers are less likely to yield for pedestrians, making it harder and less safe for pedestrians to cross.

In terms of bicyclist safety, Roach examined a number of studies by researcher Stijn Daniels and colleagues in Belgium. Daniels’ work has found increases in the number of bicyclist crashes and in crash severity when intersections are replaced with roundabouts. Other studies have reported potential explanations for these increases. One study, by researcher Bob Cumming in Australia, found that a contributing factor of bicyclist crashes in one lane roundabouts was bicyclists staying very close to the right curb while going through the roundabout, which would lead motorists to try and pass them in the roundabout. In these cases, it is safer for bicyclists to take the main travel lane instead of being so close to the curb.

At the MassDOT’s 2017 Innovation and Tech Transfer Exchange, presenters from Kittelson and Associates gave an overview on bicycles at roundabouts, including a review of bicycle facility design standards and practices in Massachusetts and elsewhere. Each of the MassDOT Highway Districts in the state has at least one roundabout. MassDOT’s guidance for roundabouts gives special attention to rotary retrofits, building roundabouts in constrained environments, and incorporating state-of-the-practice bicycle and pedestrian design into roundabouts. One important current practice is to treat low-traffic volume and high-traffic volume roundabouts differently, to support bicyclist safety. For lower traffic roundabouts, bicycles are encouraged to circulate with motor vehicles. For higher traffic roundabouts, it is encouraged for bicycles to have a protected intersection with a separate bicycle path, and for bicyclists to have the option of either going through the intersection as a vehicle or pedestrian.

Hot Mix Asphalt Mixtures – What Works

by Courtney Murtagh, UMTC Intern, and Tracy Zafian, Research Fellow

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Road paving project in Lee, MA, 2010. (Source: blog.mass.gov).

Dr. Walaa Mogawer, UMTC Research Affiliate, Professor at UMass-Dartmouth, and UMass-Dartmouth Research Engineer Alexander Austerman recently published the results of their research study on Experimental Hot Mix Asphalt Projects Placed in Massachusetts. Professor Mogawer discussed this research topic in an Innovative Outlook interview in September 2017.

The study’s primary goal was to monitor roadway projects in the Commonwealth that used different experimental mixtures of asphalt to see which mixtures worked best, with the longest service life, best distress resistance, and easiest placement or construction. As described in the study report, the data gathered through this study can aid “Massachusetts in determining if full-scale implementation of these design methodologies and technologies is cost-effective in the long term. Overall, it is anticipated that well-performing technologies could be separated from poor-performing ones, thus leading to better decisions for future infrastructure.”

This study, conducted over a 5-year period (2012-2017), evaluated the performance of experimental hot mix asphalt (HMA) mixtures used in 12 different road pavement projects around Massachusetts. The 12 projects selected by MassDOT staff for this evaluation each involved new pavement technologies or new specifications. These technologies and specifications were tried for a variety of reasons, ranging from trying to mitigate reflective cracks in HMA layers placed over plain concrete slabs to the construction of environmentally friendly “green roads” by the incorporation of warm mix asphalt and ground tire rubber.

As described in the report, at the start of the study the researchers worked to collect all available data from MassDOT on each of the selected projects, including “all bid contract documents, material specifications, plant reports, construction quality assurance data, ride quality and distress data.”

The study then involved developing monitoring plans for each selected project, some of which had been constructed prior to the study. For each site, condition data were collected periodically throughout the duration of the study to quantify the performance of each mix and the changes in performance over time. Data were collected in the same manner for each project, using standardized techniques from MassDOT’s Pavement Management Section, such as surveying distress and calculating the relevant Pavement Condition Index (PCI). This ensured fair and consistent measurements and evaluations for each site.

The study’s primary conclusions and recommendations were as follows:

  • The condition data provided by the MassDOT Pavement Management Section provided critical data required to be able to evaluate the performance of monitored projects over an extended period of time.
  • The tested alternative technologies and specifications generally provided acceptable performance in terms of rutting, cracking and ride quality. If the projects continue to display acceptable levels of performance over time, it was suggested that final specifications be developed so that that same mixtures and strategies can be used in the future.
  • For future road paving projects involving new technologies, it was recommended that a monitoring plan be developed and implemented before the start of these projects. This would allow for a more comprehensive collection of data regarding the technologies’ performance and cost-benefit results over time and assist MassDOT in making more informed decisions when developing project specifications.

The final study report by Dr. Mogawer and Mr. Austerman can be viewed at this link.  This research was funded through the MassDOT Research Program with Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) State Planning and Research (SPR) funds.

Teaching Drivers to Be Safer and More Eco-Friendly

by Tracy Zafian, Research Fellow

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From KIA motors- This system restricts engine and transmission performance in favor of fuel economy

Real-time feedback to drivers can help them improve their fuel efficiency and safety. The results of a recent UMass Amherst field study on the Effectiveness of Eco-Driving: Real-Time Feedback and Classroom Training, were presented at the 2018 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, by UMass-Amherst graduate student Tao Jiang.

The presentation summarized an UMass-Amherst study undertaken as part of MassDOT Office of Transportation Planning, Research Section and funded with Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) State Planning and Research (SPR) funds. UMass-Amherst Professors, and UMass Transportation Center Research Affiliates, Dr. Daiheng Ni and Dr. Song Gao, oversaw the study. The goal of the project was “to identify and test techniques for modifying driver behavior to improve fuel economy, reduce emissions, and improve safety, in furtherance of the mission and goals of the GreenDOT Implementation Plan.”

Motor vehicles are major contributors to air pollution, and according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are responsible for close to half the volatile organic compounds that create smog, more than half the nitrogen oxide emissions, and approximately half of the toxic air pollutant emissions in the U.S.

As discussed in the research report, three major characteristics of driving behaviors to improve fuel efficiency, reduce emissions, and improve safety are:

  • Driving smoothly without much acceleration, idling, or traveling at very low speeds (such as in congested stop-and-go traffic).
  • Anticipating traffic and being vigilant about other vehicles in traffic with you and other drivers’ behaviors.
  • Following speed limits on highways and adjusting speeds as needed for adverse conditions.

The study was conducted with 133 MassDOT-owned vehicles (heavy vehicles excluded) and the employees who drive them.  The study included two types of interventions to modify driver behaviors. The first was the installation of an in-vehicle device that provided real-time feedback, including weekly emails, on each driver’s performance over a two and a half month period. The second was a 1.5-hour classroom training on eco-driving. There were four participant groups:  one that received both interventions, one that received real-time feedback only, one that had the classroom training only, and one that had no intervention. Participants’ driving behaviors were evaluated before the intervention phase, during the intervention phase, and afterward.

Major conclusions from this research were as follows:

  • Real-time feedback had a significant impact in reducing speeding and aggressive acceleration.
  • Combined effects of real-time feedback and classroom training contributed to a 0.89 mile per gallon improvement in fuel economy.

The study recommended that both real-time feedback and training, as well as periodic follow-up and monitoring, will maximize the effectiveness of such eco-driving interventions.

MassDOT is Well Prepared for Major Storms

by: Courtney Murtagh, UMTC Intern

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Boston Common

For the third time this year, major snow, rain, and ice storms are expected to cause significant flooding and complications on Massachusetts’s roadways.

As Massachusetts is expecting another significant storm this week, bringing 6-20 inches of wet snow MassDOT is doing everything it can to prepare citizens and roadways for the impact and aftermath.

MassDOT is able to deploy up to 700 personal to cover over 15,000 lane miles for snow and ice removal throughout the Commonwealth. They are well prepared with approximately 4,200 pieces of snow and ice removal equipment, including 1,300 plow and spreaders, 2,100 plows, and 460 front-end loaders. The department has planned out deployment of snow equipment, and roads are being pretreated with brine and Magnesium Chloride to make snow and ice removal easier.

Closing roads and transit systems for extended periods of time this afternoon and evening is a big possibility in preparation for the upcoming storm and MassDOT urges commuters to be prepared.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority expects Wednesday and Thursday’s storm to impact most transportation, including the subway and commuter rails. MBTA crews are re-stocking on fuel, sand/salt mixes, as well as re-inspecting infrastructure like switches, signals and gates, and snow plows.

The agency released a statement saying it was canceling nightly shuttles between North Quincy and Braintree as well as canceling a public meeting in Somerville due to the forecast.

Again, MassDOT personnel and government employees are urging citizens to stay off the road as much as possible, especially on Wednesday night when the storm will be the heaviest. If drivers must go out, MassDOT advises them to lower their speed, allow themselves extra travel time, and “don’t crowd the plow,” an ongoing message for the motorist to stay behind snow removal equipment.

MassDOT advises drivers to always wear seatbelts, minimize distractions and dial 511 before heading out on the roadway to hear real-time traffic conditions.

Mutual Aid During the Winter – Lending a Hand

by: Matt Mann, Research Program Coordinator

plow

A blaze recently destroyed the Sandisfield highway garage, leaving the town without access to trucks for snow removal.  Abutting towns and others have stepped in to offer services to assist Sandisfield with their snow removal needs.  Towns like Huntington, Northampton, Leominster, Beckett and others have posted on the One Center Baystate Roads listserve the various services offered for aid (e.g. equipment and staff) to help keep the roads clear and safe.  In Massachusetts, there are two types of Intrastate Mutual Aid Agreements that Towns can participate in: Statewide Mutual Aid Agreement and Public Works Mutual Aid Agreement.  Many Massachusetts towns have signed one of these documents to provide assistance to another town that is in need of equipment, staff, traffic mitigation, due to a natural disaster, fires etc…

MassDOT has also provided aid to Sandisfield.  Speaking with Kathy Stevens, District 1; “ MassDOT has committed two weeks of salt and plowing services to the town.”  This is not unusual for MassDOT to offer these services.  Historically they have offered other services as well, including traffic and safety mitigation.

Mark Your Calendars! The National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) Data Workshop scheduled for August 8-9, 2018

“TRB is sponsoring a National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) Data for Transportation Applications Workshop August 8-9, 2018 in Washington, D.C. The NHTS allows analysis of daily travel by all modes, including characteristics of the persons traveling and their households, their vehicles, and their trips. This workshop, held every 5-6 years, explores how NHTS data has been used to support key transportation policy considerations, such as energy use, congestion, highway finance, safety, and mode share. The 2018 workshop will focus on the methods and techniques for using the survey data and the performance measures to which it can be applied, especially when integrating it with other data sources. For questions, contact Tom Palmerlee at TPalmerlee@nas.edu or visit TRB.org.

Vision Zero Sees a Safer Future

By Tracy Zafian, Research Fellow

Vision Zero started in Sweden in 1997, when it was adopted as national policy. Since then, Sweden’s rate of traffic fatalities has decreased by more than half, from seven fatalities per 100,000 people to less than three fatalities per 100,000, despite vehicle usage increasing. Worldwide there are currently 1.3 million deaths annually from road crashes. Road safety is the primary importance of Vision Zero, and transportation objectives such as mobility are addressed based on safety. There are now road safety organizations promoting Vision Zero in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands. A number of cities in these countries and over 25 cities in the U.S., including New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, and Boston, have implemented Vision Zero policies.

The City of Boston’s Vision Zero website describes the City’s “commitment to focus the city’s resources on proven strategies to eliminate fatal and serious traffic crashes in the city by 2030.”

In Zero work is connected to the City’s Smart Streets goals and using technology to understand traffic patterns and safety issues on Boston roadways. The City of Boston recently partnered with Verizon for an intersection study using Verizon’s smart-street technologies. At MassDOT’s Moving Together Conference, Kim English from Verizon spoke about this initiative. The study was conducted at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Beacon Street, where one bicyclist was killed and sixteen bicyclists and pedestrians were injured during 2015 to 2016. Verizon installed over 30 wireless traffic sensors and 15 video cameras at the intersection, to collect data on car, truck, bicycle, and pedestrian movements. The gathered data was anonymous, with no personally identifying video or other information included. Verizon then synched this data with bus and traffic signal information from other sources, and analyzed the data using complex algorithms to pinpoint key issues and to help develop recommendations for intersection improvements.

In her talk, Ms. English spoke about reducing left-turn crashes at the intersection.  Early results also showed that cars often failed to yield to pedestrians on the western side of the intersection, as was discussed in a recent MIT Technology Review article on the project. The final recommendations for this intersection and others with safety issues included intersection design changes, better signage, public outreach and education, greater traffic rule enforcement, and/or other interventions.

The initial study with Verizon has now ended, and the City of Boston is looking to extend this high tech data gathering and analysis to other intersections along Massachusetts Avenue, in order to better understand traffic and safety issues along the corridor.

Verison
Thermal imaging cameras can be used for vehicle monitoring and counting, even in darkness.  Source: http://www.flir.co.uk

Ms. English indicated that Verizon is now working with the City of San Francisco to study 15 intersections using the same data collection and analysis technologies, and looking at other cities with whom to partner. The MIT Technology Review article mentioned that Verizon is also presently testing other smart-street technologies such as light poles that can broadcast emergency alerts and Wi-Fi connected informational kiosks.

In a 2014 interview, Traffic Safety Strategist Matts-Åke Belin discussed Vision Zero with the Swedish Transport Administration, saying, “If we can create a system where people are safe, why shouldn’t we? Why should we put the whole responsibility on the individual road user, when we know they….will do lots of things that we might not be happy about? So let’s try to build a more human-friendly system instead. And we have the knowledge to do that.”i

Where Progress Happens! A Research Implementation Exchange

roadwithmoleculesMassDOT has been leading the charge with innovative infrastructure improvements for many years; focusing on preservation, safety, the environment and efficiency. We reached out to our One Center Research Affiliate, Dr. Walaa Mogawer, a Professor at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Director of the Highway Sustainability Research Center to discuss the current research in Massachusetts. Dr. Mogawer has collaborated directly with MassDOT’s pavement management section, on developing asphalt mixtures that could extend the service life of pavements and reduce costs.  We spoke with Dr. Mogawer and the Pavement Management Engineer for the Highway Division, and MassDOT Project Champion Ed Naras to discuss how this research is being implemented.  Here are some questions that were asked:

How are the results of your recent MassDOT research project being implemented in Massachusetts?

Dr. Mogawer’s most recent research entitled Field Monitoring of Experimental Hot Mix Asphalt Projects Placed in Massachusetts involved evaluating numerous field trials of experimental mixtures placed by MassDOT since 2000. Dr. Mogawer stated that, “the results of this study are a good first step in evaluating these experimental mixtures.  With this data, MassDOT can refine specifications and implement the mixtures on a broader scale.  Utilizing these mixtures will help improve the infrastructure health in Massachusetts.”

These experimental mixtures included several pilot projects using the superpave mixture design methodology, utilization of warm mix asphalt technologies, asphalt rubber mixtures, latex or polymer modified asphalt mixtures, and reflective crack relief layer mixtures. All these types of mixtures were placed to achieve a longer service life and specific outcomes in terms of performance of the pavement. A total of 12 field projects were identified for inclusion in the study. For each project, a plan was developed to monitor the experimental mixture performance using condition data (distresses, rutting, cracking, roughness, etc.) that would be measured periodically over the duration of this project.  The rehabilitation process of Massachusetts aging bridge infrastructure has been complimented by this research.

Generally, based on the monitoring plan and associated thresholds for condition indices, the experimental mixtures placed at the selected projects have provided acceptable performance in terms of cracking, rutting, and ride quality. Furthermore, the results suggest that the experimental mixtures are ready for further implementation by MassDOT.

Has this new method, practice, policy or material reduced the cost or improved safety or efficiency at MassDOT?

Speaking with Ed Naras, he indicated that the collaboration on pavement management between MassDOT and UMass Dartmouth Highway Sustainability Research Center, has been successful over the years.  Ed Naras, who works directly with Dr. Mogawer, indicated that the focus of each project is to improve the functional and structural capabilities of the roadways and bridge decks with consideration to make them more cost effective and environmentally friendly.

What are Massachusetts future priorities for implementing this research?

MassDOT will focus future research efforts on building on this work, improving paved roadway sustainability through increased recycling use, using environmentally friendly technologies, increasing pavement preservation activities, designing resilient roads that can withstand the effect of climate change, and designing asphalt mixtures that have balanced performance.

 

Interview conducted by Matt Mann, Research Program Coordinator with Dr. Walaa Mogawer and Ed Naras.

 

Keeping Cyclists Safe! UMTC Research Spotlight on YouTube

 

Want to learn more about bicycle safety? PhD student Nicholas Fournier of UMass Amherst talks about his two research studies currently being conducted at UMass. Mr. Fournier is studying for a PhD in transportation engineering and an MS in regional planning at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. View Mr. Fournier discussing his research at this link. One of the highlighted studies used the UMass advanced driving simulator to test how well drivers approaching intersections understand different on-road bicycle infrastructure, such as bike boxes and merged bike lanes, which are designed to reduce left-hook bicyclist-motor vehicle crashes and promote bicyclist safety. In the second study, Mr. Fournier developed a sine-wave model for estimating annual on-road bicycle travel demand in cities where bicycle demand can fluctuate considerably across seasons. The model reduces the number of sample counts needed to develop an estimate for bicycle demand, making it easier for researchers and practitioners in a city to measure bicycle ridership and the overall safety of their road infrastructure for bicyclists.

 

 

UMass Safe Safety Belt Study In the News!

A recent research report that was released by UMass Safe at the University of Massachusetts Amherst indicates that Massachusetts seat belt use is rising and is actually at an all time high at 78.2%, but there is still work to do because we are still lagging behind other states. In 2015 Massachusetts ranked 48th in the Country. The US average is 88.5%

You can catch our Deputy Director of UMass Safer, Robin Reissman on Channel 22WWLP tonight, October 11, 2016 at 5pm. http://wwlp.com/

 

By: Melissa Paciulli, Manager of Research and Development