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Safety Toolbox: Engineering

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Pedestrian refuge island


Basic Pedestrian Refuge Islands are raised islands with minimum dimensions of 1.2-1.8 m wide and 2.4-3.6 m long are placed in the center of the roadway separating opposing lanes of traffic and slotted along the pedestrian path. In the UK, these types of pedestrian refuges are frequently supplemented with internally illuminated bollards and a white flashing beacon to make the crossing more conspicuous to drivers. Hatch markings are used in advance of refuges to minimize the potential of drivers striking the refuge. At signalized crossings, pedestrian push buttons are often placed on the refuge island.   

Pork Chop Islands are triangular islands placed adjacent to free-right turn lanes.  They separate right-turning vehicles from through lanes and they provide a refuge for pedestrians to cross the free-right lane before crossing the through lanes. 

Split Pedestrian Cross-Overs are long pedestrian refuge islands that force pedestrians to cross one half of the street and proceed down the middle of the island in the direction of on-coming traffic before crossing the second half of the street. 

objective To provide a shelter where pedestrians may wait outside the traveled way until vehicular traffic clears, allowing them to cross the street in two stages. To provide pedestrians a better view of oncoming traffic and to allow drivers to clearly see pedestrians. Pork Chop Islands provide a shorter distance for pedestrians to cross when in the path of right-turning vehicles and to provide a refuge for pedestrians.
applications Pedestrian refuge islands are particularly suitable for wide two-way streets with four or more lanes of moving traffic traveling at higher speeds. They are particularly useful to persons with mobility disabilities, very old or very young pedestrians who walk at slower speeds, and persons who are in wheelchairs. Wheelchair users need adequate width and level areas for waiting on the refuge. Split Pedestrian Cross-Overs are laid out in a staggered configuration at uncontrolled or signalized intersections, requiring pedestrians to walk toward traffic to reach the second half of the crosswalk.  These are useful at skewed intersections.  Triangular pork chop islands are installed for right-turn movements at signalized intersections.
target population All Pedestrians, Motorists
crash type Pedestrian R/W Violation-Intersection, Pedestrian Violation-Intersection, Excessive Speed
  • Enables pedestrians to focus on crossing each direction of traffic separately and provide a safe place in the middle of the street to wait
  • Shorter crossings across heavy right-turn traffic flows improve pedestrian safety
  • Pedestrians are in a better position to see turning traffic from the middle of the corner
  • By requiring pedestrians to walk toward traffic, the refuge provides them a better view of oncoming traffic and allows drivers to clearly see pedestrians
  • Refuges have a significant cost associated with construction, especially if illuminated bollards and striping are provided to minimize the potential of drivers running into the refuges at night and during poor driving conditions.
  • \Visually impaired pedestrians may be unaware of medians or refuge islands, especially if the median or refuge cut-through is not in line with the crosswalk; installation of detectable warnings help alleviate this problem
  • Islands present obstacles that hamper snow removal
  • The curb ramps need to be perpendicular to the roadway and line up with the curb ramp on the other side of the crossing
  • Adequate space must be provided for persons in wheelchairs to make turns between the staggered crossings
pointers Design the curb ramp to accommodate bicyclists as well whenever possible.  Curb ramps that end before the crosswalk do not provide refuges that are as effective as those with a "nose" that extends slightly into the intersection.
cost Medium to High, $6,000-$40,000 for Pedestrian Refuge Islands, depending on the design and dimensions of the island.

High, $25,000-$75,000 for Split Pedestrian Cross-Overs, depending on the size and configuration of the island, the presence of other features such as pedestrian railings and whether it is an uncontrolled or signalized intersection.

High, $15,000-$200,000 for Pork Chop Islands, depending on the size of the island, the reconfiguration of roadway, and additional striping.

responsibility Public Works
further reading

Lalani, N. Road Safety at Pedestrian Refuges. Traffic Engineering and Control, September 1977

Bowman, B.L. and Vecellio, R.L., Investigation of the Impact of Medians on Road Users, Final Report No. FHWA-RD-93-130, 1993

Bacquie, P., D. Egan, and L. Ing. Pedestrian Refuge Island Safety Audit. Compendium of Papers, ITE Spring Conference, Monterey, California, USA, March 2001.

examples City of San Luis Obispo, CA
related tools Pedestrian Refuge Islands, Reduced Curb Radii, Curb Extensions, Turn Prohibitions at Signalized Intersections

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