The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the mobility habits of citizens who, in addition to travelling less, have begun to favour private vehicles which ensure greater safety and physical distancing. In the last two years, in fact, bicycles, scooters and electric vehicles of various types have become more and more popular in our cities.
To meet the new requirements of Green Mobility, it is necessary to reconsider the functionality and safety of road networks, which must necessarily translate into the planning of a new “urban normal”. In order to concretely implement the new urban models, such as “Soft City” or the “15-Minute City” model based on the idea that all services that citizens need can be reached within 15 minutes on foot or by bicycle or scooter, the safety level of road infrastructures must be increased, especially at intersections in road networks and critical points such as pedestrian and bicycle crossings.
This is the focus of a study carried out at the Department of Civil Engineering and Architecture of the University of Catania as part of “START-GREEN – Sicurezza delle inTersezioni strAdali uRbane per la mobiliTà GREEN” (START-GREEN – Safety of urban road intersections for Green Mobility), a project funded by the NOP Research and Innovation 2014-2020 within Action IV.6 “Education and research for recovery – REACT-EU” dedicated to research contracts on green topics.
The authors of the study propose a pedestrian accident risk analysis methodology which, supported by well-established traffic conflict techniques, may be useful to assess risk levels in pedestrian influence areas and, consequently, guide administrations in adopting the best strategies to improve safety.
For example, to assess the accident risk for a pedestrian while road crossing, consideration should be given to the following:
- the probability that a pedestrian crossing the road may result in an interaction with vehicles travelling on the roadway;
- the extent of the damage associated with possible vehicle-pedestrian interactions.
To assess vehicle/pedestrian interactions, a wide area extending approximately 10 metres outside the pedestrian crossing is considered.
To study pedestrian flows situations characterized by both large numbers of users and medium/low pedestrian traffic, an experimental analysis was carried out at six pedestrian crossings: three located in the historic centre of Catania and three in the town of Paternò, about 18 km away from Catania. Videos of crossings were acquired from video cameras installed on tall buildings nearby. At each crossing, the survey of traffic conditions was carried out for four hours, two during peak periods and two during off-peak periods, on different days of the week. The videos were subsequently analysed using the T-Analyst software, a public domain software application developed at Lund University, Sweden, which allows for the semi-automated calculation of all the parameters required for risk analysis.
The conclusion reached by the authors of the study emphasizes that the assessment of pedestrian accident risk is fundamental for local authorities that have to plan a rational use of the available budget and could do so taking into account the priority measures that emerge from the application of the proposed methodology which, also thanks to the use of surrogate safety indicators, makes it possible to estimate the level of risk at pedestrian crossing sites.