Approximately 25% of nationwide pedestrian and bicycle fatal and injury accidents occur on rural highways. In contrast to urban highways, rural highways have certain characteristics that can be more hazardous to pedestrians and bicyclists, such as higher average vehicle speeds and a lack of sidewalk provisions. The objectives of this study were first, to compare and contrast rural and urban pedestrian and bicyclist crashes in North Carolina; and second, to identify problem areas (specific crash types and crash locations) on rural highways that are of high priority for safety treatment and treatment development.
Rural pedestrian and bicyclist crashes were found to be characterized by higher percentages of fatalities, higher percentages of alcohol consumption, higher vehicles speeds, unpaved shoulders, and midblock-related crash types. Eleven pedestrian problem areas were identified, of which the most prevalent were walking along roadway on rural two-lane roads, pedestrian failed to yield, midblock on rural two-lane roads, and midblock dart/dash on rural two-lane roads. Five bicycle problem areas were identified, of which the most common were bicyclist turn/merge into path of motorist, midblock on rural two-lane roads and motorist overtaking, midblock on rural two-lane roads. Potential countermeasures for these problem areas were discussed in view of their potential safety effectiveness and feasibility for rural areas. Countermeasures that rated highly for both criteria included improvements in roadway lighting, addition of paved shoulders, education of pedestrians and motorists, and increase in marked space for bicyclists on the existing roadway.