Science News
from research organizations

NYC pedestrian traffic makes for safer street crossings: Google Street View study

Google Street View provides accurate and quick assessments of pedestrian safety, shows billboards are dangerous

Date:
January 21, 2016
Source:
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Summary:
Researchers have developed a novel method to assess how the streetscape affects the chances pedestrians will be injured by drivers. Using Google Street View the researchers assessed the pedestrian environment at more than 500 New York City street intersections. Findings show that using Google's images instead of visiting collision sites in person resulted in substantial efficiency gains in conducting research on pedestrian safety.
Share:
FULL STORY

Researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health have developed a novel method to assess how the streetscape affects the chances pedestrians will be injured by drivers. Using Google Street View the researchers assessed the pedestrian environment at more than 500 New York City street intersections. Findings show that using Google's images instead of visiting collision sites in person resulted in substantial efficiency gains in conducting research on pedestrian safety. The study is published online in the American Journal of Public Health.

"Using Google Street View to assess intersection characteristics works as well as, if not better than visiting sites in person, at much lower cost and with fewer logistical headaches," said Stephen Mooney, a graduate student in Epidemiology and co-author. Comparing environment characteristics to the frequency of injury-causing collisions captured by Google Street View over five years showed that intersections with more pedestrians had lower risk of injury per pedestrian. The researchers also found that more injuries occurred in contexts with visual distractions such as billboards and bus stops.

"The Google Street View approach to conduct 'virtual' neighborhood inspections does away with the need for field teams to conduct in-person audits," said Andrew Rundle, DrPH, associate professor of Epidemiology, who led the research team. "To our knowledge, virtual audits have not previously been used to assess risk factors for pedestrian injury."

An earlier in-person assessment of 850 intersections in California and Washington State required site visits that would have taken one person three years to complete. Rundle and Mooney estimate their method would have taken one person about a month to complete data collection for the same 850 intersections.

Consistent with prior research incorporating site visits, the new study found that, compared to other intersections, injury incidence per pedestrian was lower at intersections with heavy pedestrian traffic. Marked crosswalks (80-percent increase), pedestrian signals (156-percent increase), bus stops (120-percent increase), and billboards (42 percent increase) were associated with increased risk. "Our finding that marked crosswalks are associated with elevated risk is concordant with previous findings, though the reasons for this somewhat counterintuitive association are not well established. " said Mooney.

The researchers point out that investments in pedestrian safety infrastructure, such as improving lighting, adding speed bumps, or maintaining pavement markings can substantially improve pedestrian safety and may be a particularly cost-effective way to improve population health. Recently, several major cities, including New York City, have developed high-profile plans to improve pedestrian safety city-wide. New York alone has installed 1,500 pedestrian signals and re-engineered dozens of roads and intersections.

"The large burden of injury coupled with the sparse empirical literature justifies more research into risk factors for pedestrian injury and into the effectiveness of interventions," noted Rundle. "We are looking to undertake additional research applying this virtual neighborhood inspection methodology to study pedestrian injury risk in other cities. "


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Stephen J. Mooney, Charles J. DiMaggio, Gina S. Lovasi, Kathryn M. Neckerman, Michael D. M. Bader, Julien O. Teitler, Daniel M. Sheehan, Darby W. Jack, Andrew G. Rundle. Use of Google Street View to Assess Environmental Contributions to Pedestrian Injury. American Journal of Public Health, 2016; e1 DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2015.302978

Cite This Page:

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "NYC pedestrian traffic makes for safer street crossings: Google Street View study: Google Street View provides accurate and quick assessments of pedestrian safety, shows billboards are dangerous." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 January 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160121185611.htm>.
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. (2016, January 21). NYC pedestrian traffic makes for safer street crossings: Google Street View study: Google Street View provides accurate and quick assessments of pedestrian safety, shows billboards are dangerous. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160121185611.htm
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "NYC pedestrian traffic makes for safer street crossings: Google Street View study: Google Street View provides accurate and quick assessments of pedestrian safety, shows billboards are dangerous." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160121185611.htm (accessed July 25, 2016).

Share This Page: