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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Bureau of Transportation

Phone: 503-823-5185

Fax: 503-823-7576

1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 800, Portland, OR 97204

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Toolbox Action | Crossing Spacing for Marked Pedestrian Crossings

Crossing Space for Marked Pedestrian Crossing Guidelines

View the Draft "Spacing Guidelines" Cut Sheet

PedPDX has worked with Portland’s City Traffic Engineer to develop new guidance for the desired frequency of marked pedestrian crossings. Without such guidance, it is difficult to identify gaps in Portland’s pedestrian network where crossing improvements are needed, and to understand the level of investment required to fill these network gaps.

  • Pedestrian Districts: For arterials and collectors within designated Pedestrian Districts the desired spacing between marked pedestrian crossings is 530 feet. For reference that would result in a crossing roughly every two typical downtown (200-foot long) city blocks. Marked pedestrian crossings may be provided at greater frequency, particularly in Pedestrian Districts located in the Central City, where traffic signals are provided at every block[1]. Where blocks are longer than 530 feet, mid-block crossings should be provided. 
  • City Walkways and Major City Walkways: On designated City Walkways outside of and between Pedestrian Districts and Main Streets, the desired spacing between marked pedestrian crossings is 800 feet. On a City Walkway with standard 200-foot blocks, this results in a marked and/or enhanced pedestrian crossing approximately every three blocks (compared with every two blocks in Pedestrian Districts and Main Streets). However, marked pedestrian crossings may be provided at greater frequency.
  • Transit stops: Within the City of Portland, marked and/or enhanced crossings should be provided at all transit stops, regardless of street classification. Generally, transit stops should be located no further than 100 feet from a marked pedestrian crossing. Marked crossing requirements at transit stops may be implemented by providing new marked pedestrian crossings at existing transit stops, and/or by strategically relocating or consolidating transit stops such that they are located at existing marked crossings.

These crossing spacing guidelines are intended to identify gaps where further analysis is required. While the stated desired distances between marked pedestrian crossings should generally not be exceeded, the exact location of marked crossings should be context-driven, and will be determined based on pedestrian crossing demand, the general land use context, visibility needs, proximity to traffic signals, existing pedestrian crossings, and engineering judgement.

While these spacing standards will determine the general locations where additional marked pedestrian crossings are required, the design of those crossings (e.g., whether a simple marked crosswalk is provided, or whether additional enhancements are provided) will be determined by existing City guidelines outlining the types of crossing design treatments appropriate for various roadway types.

Background

In Oregon, every intersection is a legal “crosswalk” (per ORS 801.220). As such, pedestrians are legally permitted to cross any street at any intersection whether the crossing is marked with a crosswalk or not[2], and motorists are required to yield.

The more difficult a roadway is for a pedestrian to cross, the greater the design treatment required to provide a comfortable crossing[3]. For wider, busier, higher-speed roadways, a simple marked crossing is rarely sufficient to ensure pedestrian comfort.

A major component of the City’s Vision Zero effort to eliminate traffic-related deaths and serious injuries on Portland streets by 2025 includes increasing the number of locations where people walking and biking can comfortably cross busy streets

While the City of Portland has guidelines in place for determining appropriate locations and treatments for enhanced crossings there are no guidelines in place specifying the desired distance between crossings. Without such guidance, it is difficult to identify gaps, highlight where crossing improvements are needed, and to understand the level of investment required to fill these network gaps.

While research on exactly how far a pedestrian will travel out of direction to access a protected pedestrian crossing is limited, it is a general rule of thumb that people walking will typically take the shortest route from point A to point B[4]. Increasing the number of marked and enhanced crossing opportunities increases the number of options for people walking to cross the street.

PBOT staff research found that there is no clear research or national design/engineering guidance on ideal spacing between marked pedestrian crossings[5]. However, existing regional and City street connectivity standards provide a local policy foundation upon which proposed marked crossing spacing standards may be built.

Portland City Code requires full street connections spaced no more than 530 feet apart. As measured centerline to centerline, this 530-foot spacing approximates a two-block module, given Portland’s standard 200-foot block pattern and 65-foot rights-of-way[6]. PedPDX crossing spacing guidelines are based on this 200-foot block street module, and vary according to pedestrian street classifications as identified in PedPDX.


 [1] PBOT practice is to mark crosswalks at all signalized intersections.

[2] Unless the crosswalk is signed as “closed.”

[3] See https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/index.cfm?&a=594882 for City of Portland crosswalk guidelines. While roadways with only two or three lanes of traffic and lower vehicle speeds and volumes may provide simple marked crosswalks, wider multi-lane arterials with higher vehicle speeds and volumes may require additional features such as curb extensions, pedestrian refuge islands, and pedestrian-actuated traffic control devices to stop vehicular traffic.

[4] The AASHTO Green Book notes that “Pedestrians tend to walk in a path representing the shortest distance between two points” (as quoted by King, Michael in To Cross or Not to Cross, Examining the Practice of Determining Crosswalks, ITE Journal, November 2014.)

[5] As summarized by King, Michael (ITE Journal, November 2014)

[6] While the regional standard is written to accommodate 65-foot rights-of-way, 50’-60’ rights-of-way are more common within the city of Portland.