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Considering Pedestrian Safety in Urban Environments when Specifying Subway Grating

August 14, 2012

As city systems expand to accommodate their growing population, cohesive pedestrian networks continue to develop.  It is important to take pedestrian safety into consideration when specifying subway grating, vault covers, walkways and other transportation and utility elements.

When you observe city roadway systems, notice the many channels bringing energy into the city, managing its flow.  The steam that rises from manhole covers identifies heat flushing through hidden channels.  Subway gratings speak of vast systems of circulating air drawn underground and back again.  Streetlights and vault covers hint of power lines snaking beneath the street and transformers buzzing underground.

Everywhere you look on the street you see the dance of energy flowing in its many different forms: motion, current, heat and light.  Bringing human inhabitants and their safety into this picture is essential to the natural ebb and flow of pedestrians in the urban environment.

The Portland Pedestrian Master Plan from 1998 states: “Walking is the oldest and most basic form of human transportation.  It requires no fare, no fuel, no license, and no registration.”  The benefits for pedestrians span from health, safety, and environment to transportation, social equity, and economic benefits; ultimately contributing to a better quality of life.  It is important to note that walking to work is not always an accurate indicator of overall pedestrian activity as commute trips represent only about 15% of trips taken across all modes of travel.  Neighborhood shopping, recreational walking, traveling to and from transit, schools, community centers, parks, and social service destinations all create higher volumes of foot traffic.

In recent years, interest in non-motorized transportation has reemerged. Traffic congestion chokes many cities, and travel by automobile can be frustrating, time-consuming, and stressful.  Nationally, interest in alternate modes of transportation was emphasized in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991, as well as with subsequent federal transportation spending.  States and local municipalities have shifted focus away from planning primarily for the automobile in favor of a multimodal approach to transportation.

The best pedestrian environments in new developments incorporate pedestrian considerations into transportation and land use projects.  All cities have a responsibility to operate each service, program, or activity so that when each is viewed in its entirety, it is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.  Having an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator is helpful to ensure all codes and recommendations are met and exceeded when possible.

Cities should consider broader revisions to their transportation programming guides so that the new pedestrian improvement projects work closer with other transportation improvements.  Developing cohesive pedestrian networks and always making improvements to pedestrian deficiencies, such as systematically retrofitting currently deficient sidewalk and pedestrian crossing transitions to improve safety with little to no down time.

It is important to consider the needs of pedestrians in all projects and to permeate a balanced, multi-modal approach to transportation in cities of all sizes.  System elements such as subway grating, access hatches, walkways, trench grating, manhole covers that cross through pedestrian environments, especially in high traffic areas in sidewalks and along curbs should be treated with slip resistance to provide maximum safety.  SlipNOT® Metal Safety Flooring provides an all-metal slip resistant coating that is applied to metal substrates, making this extra element of safety possible in many cities across North America.

 

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