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  • Location: West Virginia

In response to the growing number of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities in recent years, the US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration requires that all states develop a Vulnerable Road User (VRU) Safety Assessment as part of their Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) per 23 U.S.C. 148(l).

Between 2012 and 2021, 663 pedestrians and cyclists were killed or seriously injured in West Virginia. This troubling number has been on the rise in recent years, even as the state has experienced a decline in overall fatal and serious injury crashes. Many individuals, particularly the elderly and those facing economic hardships, are often forced to become pedestrians due to their inability to drive or the lack of access to a vehicle. Given its rural landscape and historically less emphasis on VRU infrastructure projects, West Virginia faces substantial challenges. This plan marks the first step towards a comprehensive approach to safeguarding the state's most vulnerable roadway users.

B&N conducted an in-depth data analysis of crash characteristics to determine significant trends that would help target a reduction in fatal and serious injury (FSI) crashes. Crash data was used in a High Injury Network (HIN) analysis, which seeks to identify segments of roadway where the highest concentrations of VRU crashes, specifically FSI VRU crashes, occur. This analysis identified the top 75 roadway segments with the highest FSI VRU crash concentrations.

The HIN analysis was taken a step further with the systemic analysis, which adopts a proactive approach to safety by focusing not on roads that have already experienced crashes but rather identifying routes that, based on statistical analysis, exhibit characteristics leading to a higher risk for VRU-involved crashes. For this approach, two key elements were examined: network characteristics and VRU volumes along each route. By analyzing these aspects, routes with inherent risk factors were identified, thereby enabling targeted interventions to mitigate potential VRU crashes before they occur. This analysis identified the top 100 segments that are of greater risk to VRUs.

Public opinion was a vital part of this plan. Five in-person meetings were held throughout the state to attempt to reach communities without regular Internet access. These occurred in September 2023 in Morgantown, Martinsburg, Beckley, Charleston and Huntington, the cities in West Virginia within MPOs that were identified as focus areas for this plan. A public survey was conducted in August through September to gather more public opinion and reach people from all parts of the state.

Equity is an integral part of this analysis when considering VRU safety. In West Virginia, 2.6% of households do not have access to a vehicle, and the median household income is close to $20,000 below the national average. Equity factors were compared to crash rates in each county across the state to help determine areas with a greater need.

This VRU plan was a first-of-its-kind solution. Additionally, this project utilized StreetLight for pedestrian volume data, taking data samples from thousands of roadway segments and applying a methodology that estimated pedestrian volume across the entire state’s roadway network. This data collection and statistical analysis played a key role in creating the systemic analysis.

Pedestrians and cyclists in West Virginia are often forced into uncomfortable conditions. Their lives are put in danger because of the infrastructure or lack of infrastructure to keep them safe. This plan created an action plan to address these safety concerns by identifying a high-injury network, developing an analysis identifying where VRU crashes are likely to occur and outlining multi-disciplinary strategies to make the roadways safer for VRUs.