In an excellent and succinct brochure, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) notes the following ten benefits of raised medians and pedestrian safety refuge areas in the center of roadways. According to the document; “on average, a pedestrian is killed in a motor vehicle crash every 120 minutes and one is injured every 8 minutes.” Those are unacceptable numbers.
Here are the benefits identified by FHWA of building a roadway with a raised median with a pedestrian refuge area both for motor vehicles and for pedestrians:
- “Allow pedestrians to cross one direction of traffic at a time.
- Reduces the complexity of crossing a roadway.
- Allows space for installing lighting at the crossing location.
- Reduces motor vehicle crashes by 15 percent.
- Decreases delays by more than 30 percent for motorists.
- Increases road capacity by more than 30 percent.
- Reduces vehicle speeds on the roadway.
- Provides space for landscaping in the right-of-way.
- Provides space for supplemental signage.
- Costs less to maintain than paved medians.”
Here are a few more that I would like to add:
- Increased safety for children who walk or ride their bike to school.
- Increased safety for less experience bicyclists who are not comfortable riding on the roadway itself.
- Increased safety for those with disabilities.
- Increased safety for those cross roadways to utilize transit and/or school buses.
- Is much more aesthetically pleasing than just concrete and pavement.
- Reduced pervious surface area and stormwater runoff rates.
In the brochure, the FHWA recommends the refuge islands should be at least four feet wide and preferably eight feet wide. As an avid bicyclist, four feet is rather tight, especially if others are crossing the roadway with you. Given that Michigan has a tendency to build its roadways either with a center turn lane or a huge grassy median, these raised medians are an excellent “middle ground” (pun intended) that would be very practical and less costly option to consider in suburban and urbanized locations.