Safe Streets Require Greater Access

In the transportation profession, mobility typically means the movement of people or goods. Accessibility refers to the ease of reaching goods, services, jobs, activities, and destinations. While these both seem like worthy goals, the challenge for planners and engineers is deciding which is the more appropriate design prescription for any given context, and that can make all the difference in how safe a road is. FHI is currently undertaking a corridor safety study in Hudson County New Jersey, where the inherent conflict between high mobility and high accessibility has contributed to over 4,000 crashes over a three-year period…many involving pedestrians.

John F. Kennedy (JFK) Boulevard is a highly-traveled arterial road that provides interurban connections between the six municipalities of Bayonne, Jersey City, Union City, West New York, Guttenberg, and North Bergen. JFK Boulevard stretches 13.5 miles and has a posted speed limit of 25 miles per hour, yet vehicular traffic routinely exceeds that. JFK Boulevard generally consists of two northbound travel lanes and two southbound travel lanes, with additional travel lanes and turning bays where right-of-way width allows. On-street parking is available over much of the corridor. In other words, this road is designed to serve mobility needs…and mainly vehicular mobility needs.

The urban context of the corridor suggests that many trips can be easily made on foot, by bicycle, or with transit. Ultimately, every transit rider is a pedestrian, and the same challenges that exist relating to crosswalks, sidewalks, and other infrastructure affect access to transit and the ease of trips in and around the corridor. With such a high density of services, employment, housing, retail, and restaurants, transportation design should be oriented towards serving access first, while providing mobility in a safe and low speed environment. As vehicular mobility continued to be prioritized over the decades by adding more capacity and on-street parking, the critical access function of the boulevard has been marginalized and the result is a road that poses dangers to all who use it.

To address some of the most safety-challenged locations along JFK Boulevard, FHI is conducting four walkability workshops this October. These workshops are an opportunity to bring a diverse cross section of experts together to conduct an in-field review of the issues and needs of the top four crash locations, as selected by the study’s Technical Advisory Committee. Following these workshops, the study team will prepare conceptual recommendation to improve safety and enhance pedestrian accessibility in each focus area. Potential recommendations may include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Sidewalk network, connectivity, and filling gaps
  • Sidewalk condition, including width, material, and maintenance
  • ADA-accessibility, including curb ramps
  • Pedestrian signalization, including timing and type, including walk/don’t walk, countdown signals, overhead signals, HAWK Beacon signals, RRFB (Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons)
  • Crosswalk locations, painting, signing, and effectiveness
  • Reductions in crosswalk lengths with painted or constructed sidewalk bump outs, neckdowns, raised medians, etc.
  • Other traffic calming improvements, such as speed humps, chicanes, and roundabouts
  • Streetscape enhancements, including landscaping, wayfinding, furniture (benches, trash receptacles, etc.), lighting, public art installations
Crash heat map of JFK Boulevard – showing the distribution of crash frequency along the corridor.
Ryan Walsh and Michael Ahillen lead a Walkability Workshop along JFK Boulevard.
Ryan Walsh and Michael Ahillen lead a Walkability Workshop along JFK Boulevard.

For more information contact Michael Morehouse,