Applying the Safe System Approach to Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety

July 19, 2022

This past June, UC Berkeley SafeTREC, in collaboration with California Walks, kicked off their 2022 Focus Cities program with the webinar “Applying the Safe System Approach to Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety”. Funded by the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), the webinar convened residents, agency staff, and other transportation safety advocates for a discussion about how the two organizations approach their work through a Safe System Approach lens. Participants heard from SafeTREC and California Walks staff who run the Community Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Training (CPBST) program, asked questions, and discussed their own experiences using the Approach in their communities and work.

The Safe System Approach Policies, Planning & Safety Data, Safe Speeds, Safe Streets Design, How People Use the Road, Post-Crash Response, and Capacity Strengthening

The CPBST team adapted the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Safe System elements and principles to make them impactful for the communities they partner with to improve safety for people walking, biking, and rolling. The Safe System approach acknowledges that humans make mistakes, human bodies are fragile, and crashes are likely to happen. The Approach focuses on the reduction of fatal and severe injuries when a crash occurs through the use of vehicle or roadway design and the management of our infrastructure. The CPBST team’s adaptation included community engagement as a key element, and made equity a central component, while emphasizing  the important role of collaboration between transportation professionals and the communities they work with in order to create safe streets for all.  

Within the Safe System Approach, the CPBST team: 

1. Reviews pedestrian and bike crash data and safety strategies; 

2. Facilitates walking and biking assessments; 

3. Strategizes with communities to define specific pedestrian and bike safety goals and actionable next steps; and 

4. Empowers communities to strengthen collaborations to implement specific walking and biking safety recommendations. 

Applying the Safe System Approach to Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety

During the webinar, the CPBST team shared their experiences utilizing the adapted Safe System Approach in their work, resources they have created for the communities they work in, and where they’d like to see the Safe System Approach grow in the future. Here are some highlights from the resources shared:

  • Conducting Community Engagement with a Safe System Lens: There are few resources available that speak directly to how to engage with communities as the Safe System Approach becomes more widely adopted. This research brief talks about the key role the community holds in planning processes and how to engage them in adopting the Safe System Approach. 

  • CPBST Safe System Strategies for Bicyclist and Pedestrian Safety Toolkit: This Toolkit acts as a starting point for anyone looking to plan a bikeable and walkable community. It provides a table of potential community improvements that a community can implement in order to reach their safety goals.

  • Diccionario de la Calle: The Street Dictionary is an Active Transportation Spanish Glossary that was developed over the course of a decade working with monolingual Spanish speakers from all across the state.

  • Loteria Key and Cards: This is a Loteria-style game based on the Safe System Approach and strategies and was made to bring it to Spanish-speaking communities in a way that is accessible but also culturally relevant. 

If you missed the webinar, you can watch the recording on the SafeTREC YouTube page. Webinar slides are also available for anyone interested and can be accessed here

About Focus Cities

The Focus Cities program is a joint project of UC Berkeley SafeTREC and California Walks that supports community efforts to build a culture of safe walking and biking through community programs and events.

The program, started in 2015, originally supported local advocacy, community, and agency partner efforts in each of the seven Focus Cities to engage and educate residents on pedestrian and bicycle safety. We provide customized technical assistance, regular support for data collection and analysis, and educational/outreach efforts such as:

  • Listserv for information exchange between advocacy, community and agency partners from each California Focus City;

  • Webinars on the latest topics in pedestrian and bicycle safety, such as designing bike and pedestrian streetscapes that work for seniors and people with disabilities;

  • Trainings on topics such as community education and engagement, data systems such as the Transportation Injury Mapping System (TIMS)(link is external), and tools to collect community experiences such as Street Story(link is external); and

  • Workshops on topics such as conducting community walk/bike assessments, and action planning for community pedestrian and bicycle safety.

Want to learn more?

The next webinar in the Focus Cities series, “Building Programs in Spanish: The Importance of Culturally Relevant Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety Programming” is on July 28. During the webinar, the discussion will center on Safe System community engagement via Spanish-language programs. Register today!