Urban road space allocation incorporating the safety and construction cost impacts of lane and footpath widths

Tiantian Chen, N. N. Sze, Sikai Chen, Samuel Labi

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Walkability continues to attract great attention from urban planners, designers, and engineers as they recognize not only the merits of pedestrian facilities in terms of the health benefits but also their demerits in terms of accident risk to pedestrians. Wide footpaths improve the pedestrian environment and experience, and thereby motivate travelers to walk as much as possible. However, if footpaths are too wide, they may leave a smaller space for the roadway. On the other hand, wide road lanes may lead to higher road vehicle safety but are costly to construct and maintain and also may leave little space for the footpath. Evidently, for a fixed urban space, what is needed is an optimal balance between the vehicle lane and pedestrian path. This problem is encountered routinely in dense cities including Hong Kong where land availability is severely limited. Method: To address the issue, this paper first establishes safety performance functions (SPFs) for the pedestrian space and the road space, using the random-parameter negative binomial regression. The results indicate the extent to which road lane and footpath width changes are associated with changes in in-vehicle occupant and pedestrian casualties. Then the paper uses the SPFs to develop a methodology for optimizing the width allocations to the road lanes and footpaths, duly considering the user (safety) costs and agency (construction) costs associated with each candidate allocation of the widths. Finally, the paper analyzes the sensitivity of the optimal solution to the relative weights of user cost and agency cost. Results: When user and agency costs are considered equally important, the optimal lane width is 5.4 m. Conclusion: It is observed that the road space allocation ratio used by the Hong Kong road agency suggests that the agency places a higher weight to user cost compared to agency cost. Practical Application: The findings can help incorporate design-safety relationships, and the stakeholders (agency and users) perspectives in urban road and footpath design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-232
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Safety Research
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Footpath
  • Life cycle cost
  • Road safety
  • Safety cost
  • Width allocation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality

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