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"Traffic safety of pedestrian and cyclist crossings via tram and light rail lines" - STUVA research report published

Accidents between trams and people walking or cycling fortunately occur relatively rarely in Germany compared to other road traffic accidents in absolute terms.

However, the accidents are usually characterised by a particular accident severity. Together with longer operational incidents, the topic is therefore becoming increasingly important, also encouraged by media coverage.

This was the reason for the Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt) to award a research contract on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI). The research project was carried out by STUVA in cooperation with the teaching and research area of road traffic planning and road traffic technology (SVPT) at the University of Wuppertal. The aim was to analyse different design forms of crossing facilities for pedestrian and bicycle traffic via special and independent tram tracks with regard to their traffic safety.

In addition to the investigation of the legal and normative bases, a comprehensive survey of German cities and transport companies with tram operations was carried out. This was intended to provide an overview of the construction forms and equipment of track crossings and criteria for their application. Furthermore, a nationwide accident analysis was carried out over a period of seven years (1,190 accidents). Traffic observations and surveys of passers-by at 19 selected track crossings in four German cities represented another important component. In addition, planning and status audits as well as accident analyses were carried out for the investigation sites.

The investigation confirmed that accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists at track crossings over special and independent tram tracks are rare events in relation to the total number of accidents. They occur predominantly as a single event at individual track crossings. Systematic deficits in the design of the infrastructure as the cause of the accident could not be identified.

However, potential for improvement was identified in that, despite existing legal requirements and comprehensive draft regulations, the design of track crossings is very heterogeneous from a national point of view, even if implementation in individual cities is largely uniform.

The variety of approved design elements (indications, markings) and their possible combinations leads to a wide range of variants. This makes it more difficult to recognise the "track crossing" situation. Largely uniform design guidelines (model solution) would ideally be desirable nationwide in the sense of a self-explanatory infrastructure.

The partial lack of agreement between subjectively and objectively determined conflict factors confirmed that objective accident analysis is an important part of road safety work and the development of measures in this area. However, the data basis needs to be improved in order to ultimately improve the analysis. This applies to both police accident data and accident data collected by transport companies. Further need for research was formulated here.

The study showed that the behaviour of people when crossing a road plays an important role in road safety. The respondents cited inattention as the main reason for a personally experienced dangerous situation when crossing the tracks and the most frequent answers given for crossing at red light signal were "clear track" (55 %) and "hurry, time pressure" (25 %). Publicity campaigns with information on safe behaviour at track crossings can have an educational effect here. As the studies confirmed that the behaviour and subjective feeling of safety of people crossing the tracks depends strongly on typical local features, it is recommended to strive for continuous traffic safety work in the future or to continue it consistently. Traffic shows and safety audits, for example, are proven instruments in this respect.

Further need for improvement is seen in some points regarding the barrier-free design of track crossings. Firstly, it should be noted that only signalled track crossings can be barrier-free for blind road users. For track crossings there are no clear specifications in the regulations as to how soil indicators are to be set up. This applies above all with regard to a distinction between the two types of safety measures, "safety by overview" and "technical safety". The accident analysis has shown that there is potential for improvement in data collection and systematics in a number of areas, both for the police and for transport companies, in order to be able to carry out future analyses in a more targeted manner.

The final report on the research project is available free of charge as a pdf-file in the electronic archive of the BASt (see adjacent link).

Whether by bike or on foot: at tram track crossing points you need to be alert.
Contact person
Dr.-Ing. Dirk Boenke
+49 221 59795-20
+49 221 59795-50