Journal of Community Health

, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 103–111 | Cite as

Knowledge and Beliefs About Pedestrian Safety in an Urban Community: Implications for Promoting Safe Walking

  • Elizabeth D. NesoffEmail author
  • Keshia M. Pollack Porter
  • Maryanne Bailey
  • Andrea C. Gielen
Original Paper


As more people walk for transport and exercise, it is possible to avoid a concomitant increase in the number of pedestrian injuries. Understanding how the public views pedestrian safety can help inform the development of prevention strategies that support national efforts to promote walking and walkable communities. As part of the formative research for a community pedestrian safety health promotion campaign, we administered an online questionnaire to employees and students at a large urban medical campus, along with residents in the neighboring communities, to determine their knowledge, attitudes, and behavior regarding pedestrian safety; awareness of relevant traffic safety laws; and effective strategies that could improve pedestrian safety. Pearson Chi square Test of Independence was used to investigate differences between individuals who mainly traveled as drivers versus those who mainly traveled as pedestrians. Statistical significance was established at p < .05. A total of 3808 adults completed the online survey. More drivers than pedestrians reported that pedestrian safety was an important problem (73 and 64%, respectively; p < .001). A large proportion of respondents incorrectly reported the existing state laws addressing right of way, fines, and enforcement, with significant differences between drivers and pedestrians (p < .001). Significantly more pedestrians than drivers supported changing traffic signals to increase crossing time (p = .001), while more drivers than pedestrians supported creating structures to prevent midblock crossing (p = .003). Effective interventions to improve pedestrian safety need to tailor messages for both drivers and pedestrians, increase awareness of the laws, and implement comprehensive strategies.


Pedestrian safety Injury prevention Health promotion Formative research Health communication 



The authors would like to thank the Maryland Highway Safety Office (MHSO), Johns Hopkins University, and the Baltimore Metropolitan Council (BMC) for providing funding and resources. Additional thanks are extended to survey participants; Bala Akundi at BMC; Ernie Lehr at MHSO; Mark Beisser, graphics designer from the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs; Sue Baker, Eileen McDonald, Jim Williams, Nasir Mohd Ismail, Basant Motawi, and Xia Ma from the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy.


Funding for this work was made possible through multiple sources: Maryland Highway Safety Office; the Johns Hopkins University; and a Grant from the National Center for Injury Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Grant Number 1R49CE002466).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth D. Nesoff
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  • Keshia M. Pollack Porter
    • 2
  • Maryanne Bailey
    • 3
    • 5
  • Andrea C. Gielen
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of EpidemiologyColumbia University Mailman School of Public HealthNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthThe Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and PolicyBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.Department of NursingThe Johns Hopkins HospitalBaltimoreUSA
  4. 4.Department of Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Behavior, and SocietyThe Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and PolicyBaltimoreUSA
  5. 5.The Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and PolicyBaltimoreUSA

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