Field studies of pedestrian walking speed and start-up time

Richard L. Knoblauch, Martin T. Pietrucha, Marsha Nitzburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

396 Scopus citations


Today's traffic environment is not well adapted to the needs of the older pedestrian. Unfortunately, except in the case of children, little is known about the characteristics and behavior of pedestrians. Although the simple fact that older pedestrians walk more slowly than younger ones is easily supported by field data, existing data on walking speeds and start-up time (i.e., the time from the onset of a Walk signal until the pedestrian steps off the curb) have many shortcomings. A series of field studies was conducted to quantify the walking speed and start-up time of pedestrians of various ages under different conditions. Sixteen crosswalks in four urban areas were studied. Data were collected on walking speeds and start-up times relative to site and environmental factors, including street width, posted speed, curb height, grade, number of vehicle travel lanes, signal cycle length, pedestrian-signal type, street functional classification, crosswalk type, and channelization. Data on a subject group of pedestrians who appeared to be 65 years of age or older and a control group of pedestrians under age 65 were collected. Results indicate a broad range of walking speeds among pedestrians. The 15th-percentile walking speed for younger pedestrians (ages 14 to 64) was 1.25 m/sec (4.09 ft/sec); for older pedestrians (ages 65 and over) it was 0.97 m/sec (3.19 ft/sec). For design purposes values of 1.22 m/sec (4 ft/sec) for younger pedestrians and 0.91 m/sec (3 ft/sec) for older pedestrians are appropriate. Results also indicated that walking rates are influenced by a variety of factors, including the functional classification and vehicle volumes on the street being crossed, the street width, weather conditions, the number of pedestrians crossing in a group, the signal cycle length, the timing of the various pedestrian-signal phases, whether right turn on red is allowed, pedestrian signals, medians, curb cuts, crosswalk markings, stop lines, and on-street parking. However, for each of these factors, the effect on crossing speeds, although statistically significant, is not meaningful for design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-38
Number of pages12
JournalTransportation Research Record
Issue number1538
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


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