Crossing Islands:

Crossing islands—also known as center islands, refuge islands, pedestrian islands, or median slow points—are raised islands placed in the center of the street at intersections or midblock to help protect crossing pedestrians from motor vehicles. Center crossing islands allow pedestrians to deal with only one direction of traffic at a time, and they enable them to stop partway across the street and wait for an adequate gap in traffic before crossing the second half of the street. Where midblock or intersection crosswalks are installed at uncontrolled locations (i.e., where no traffic signals or stop signs exist), crossing islands should be considered as a supplement to the crosswalk. They are also appropriate at signalized crossings. If there is enough width, center crossing islands and curb extensions can be used together to create a highly improved pedestrian crossing. Detectable warnings are needed at cut-throughs to identify the pedestrian refuge area.

This kind of facility has been demonstrated to significantly decrease the percentage of pedestrian crashes.2 The factors contributing to pedestrian safety include reduced conflicts, reduced vehicle speeds approaching the island (the approach can be designed to force a greater slowing of cars, depending on how dramatic the curvature is), greater attention called to the existence of a pedestrian crossing, opportunities for additional signs in the middle of the road, and reduced exposure time for pedestrians.

Curb extensions may be built in conjunction with center crossing islands where there is on-street parking. Care should be taken to maintain bicycle access. Bicycle lanes (or shoulders, or whatever space is being used for bicycle travel) must not be eliminated or squeezed in order to create the curb extensions or islands.



  Purpose
• Enhance pedestrian crossings, particularly at unsignalized crossing points.
• Reduce vehicle speeds approaching pedestrian crossings.
• Highlight pedestrian crossings.
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  Considerations
• Do not squeeze bicycle access.
• Illuminate or highlight islands with street lights, signs, and/or reflectors to ensure that motorists see them.
• Design islands to accommodate pedestrians in wheelchairs. A cut-through design such as depicted in the photo must include detectable warnings.
• Crossing islands at intersections or near driveways may affect left-turn access.
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  Estimated Cost
Costs range from $4,000 to $30,000. The cost for an asphalt island or one without landscaping is less than the cost of installing a raised concrete pedestrian island with landscaping.
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  Case Studies
Boulder, CO 
Eureka, CA 
Tempe, AZ 
Fort Pierce, FL 
St. Petersburg, FL 
Clark County, WA 
Bellevue, WA 
Portland, OR 
Portland, OR 
Bethesda, Montgomery County, MD 
Montpelier, VT 
Portland, OR 
Sarasota, FL 
Clark County, WA 
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Photo by Dan Burden


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Photo by Dan Burden
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U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration