4 min reading time

Road Safety: Protecting Vulnerable Road Users in a Multimodal System


  • Definition: Vulnerable Road Users – and why are they Important?
  • A Picture of traffic fatalities among Vulnerable road users
  • Vulnerability seen from All Angles with the Safe System approach
  • Shifting from a Road System to a Proactively Safe Transportation System
  • Driving Data Analysis Provides Insights into Your Multimodal Transportation System

Stay in touch!

Through our newsletter.

To find out how Michelin manages and processes your personal data, refer to our privacy policy.

In a pedestrian-vehicle, or cyclist-tram or motorcyclist-bus collision, the advantage clearly falls to the large, heavy, metallic member of each pair. Road deaths continue to rise every year, with an increasing proportion among vulnerable road users. During the first half of 2021 there was a 17% increase in pedestrian deaths in the United States, to 3,441 – an additional 507 people – compared to a similar period the year before. There are clearly ways to lower these numbers: vulnerable road users, for instance, have a 90% chance of surviving a car crash when the vehicle is traveling at speeds of 16 miles per hour and lower. At a time when Departments of Transportation want to invest in and encourage public and active transportation methods, explicit levers exist that identify where and when intervention is required to prevent car crashes and protect vulnerable road users. Analyzing driving data is one of them.


Definition: Vulnerable Road Users – and why are they Important?

Vulnerable road users can be defined as

  • road users outside vehicles
  • those most at risk in traffic
  • those unprotected by an exterior shield.

Which Road Users are Most at Risk?

More specifically? These are walkers, cyclists, the elderly, children, people with disabilities, motorcyclists and road workers. Vulnerable road users (VRU) share the road system with vehicles and their drivers. They have specific needs that can’t be ignored. Taking into account those users who are more at risk requires looking at road safety in a more preventive way.


A Picture of traffic fatalities among Vulnerable road users

Since the covid-19 pandemic began, in early 2020, vehicles have taken over the road. For a while there were fewer of them, too, during lockdown. As life returns to somewhat normal, vehicles are (back to) sharing the road with more users. Pedestrian and cyclist deaths are on the rise.


Pedestrian and Cyclist Deaths on the Road

Pedestrians, cyclists and other non-motorists:

2010 15.5% of total traffic fatalities vs. 2019 20.3%



6,205 pedestrians killed 

17% of crash deaths

21% hit-and-run

73% at non-intersections

75% in dark conditions


543 cyclists killed

2% of crash deaths

62% at non-intersections

48% in dark conditions

Sources: iihs.org, pedbikeinfo.org


Vulnerability seen from All Angles with the Safe System approach

But is vulnerability inherent to these “vulnerable road users”? Is their appearance in crash statistics due to their lack of outer protection? Or to their exposure to a road system designed for… motor vehicles?

The Safe System approach addresses the question of vulnerability by understanding that it is not necessarily specific kinds of road users who are vulnerable. Vulnerability can be found everywhere: in road design, vehicle design and transport decisions and policies. The transportation system itself and all its stakeholders are vulnerable to creating unsafe road conditions. Safer roads and extra care for all users rely on a combination of factors that, when all are taken into account, reduce vulnerability everywhere.


Supporting Vision Zero with Driving Behavior Analysis and Insights

Vision Zero further sharpens this outlook by understanding that drivers react to a situation. Most crashes involving vulnerable road users are with motor vehicles. When drivers brake suddenly as they intersect with bicycle lanes, or as they stop for a pedestrian at night, their sudden and atypical change in driving behavior is a symptom of a potentially risky location between a vulnerable road user and that motor vehicle.

Driving data captures these changes in driving behavior. Analyzing driving data therefore shows what is typical or atypical driving behavior for a location. This can provide real insight into circumstances and the causes that are creating a risky road zone for vulnerable road users, and therefore what safety measures can be implemented. Driving data helps to resolve the situation, preventing deaths and reducing injury.


Shifting from a Road System to a Proactively Safe Transportation System

Ideas are starting to change. DOTs are beginning to study how to decrease the prevalence of the personal vehicle, in favor of developing multimodal transportation. This requires a shift in perspectives.

So instead of managing a road system, DOTs need to manage a transportation system. And proactive safety can be built into a transportation system conceived and designed for all demographics and their characteristics.


Commuter Patterns Pre- and Post-Covid, per quarter

Commuter Rail

21.3% growth between 2000 and 2019, to over 510,000 passengers

2020 and 2021: approx. 175,000



22% drop in bus use between 2006 and 2019, to 4.6 million riders

2020 and 2021: Just over 2.5 million


Light Rail

Constant growth since 1990, to over 505,000 passengers in 2019

2020 and 2021: approx.. 230,000

Source: apta.com


A Transportation System lends itself more clearly to a Vulnerable Road User Policy

An example is the US DOT’s Complete Streets policy, which “encourages a safe, comfortable, integrated transportation network for all users, regardless of age, ability, income, ethnicity or mode of transportation.” An equitable road system protects all road users – motorized or not.


Driving Data Analysis Provides Insights into Your Multimodal Transportation System

Embracing a proactively safe transportation system calls for new technology that can help in detecting risky road zones where road safety is potentially a problem. MICHELIN DDi’s driving data expertise can help.


MICHELIN DDi, Your Partner for Proactive Road Safety

Combining our expertise in data science and driving behavior, we create solutions that help you detect, locate and assess potentially risky road zones in your transportation system, for all road users.

MICHELIN DDi records, aggregates and contextualizes all atypical driving events. Using machine learning and proprietary algorithms, we then transform them into insights for road safety. The data can be directly integrated into your GIS, helping you identify risky road zones and understand their causes.

For locations where all types of road users intersect, analyzing the driving behavior will provide insights allowing you to decide on corrective actions to protect vulnerable road users.


Tailor the driving data you receive to the different needs of your transportation system:

  • Level 1: Locate where and count how often atypical driving events happen
  • Level 2: Assess and rank near miss hotspots
  • Level 3: Identify the probability of a crash occurring.

Using the driving data provided by MICHELIN DDi, your road safety becomes proactive. It helps you assess and prioritize road safety measures to address risky road zones – allowing you to act before car crashes happen. You have facts on which to base your decisions. After implementing changes, driving data again shows the impact of the changes made. You have key performance indicators by which to evaluate your progress.


Partner with MICHELIN DDi to accelerate your road safety strategy. Reach your Vision Zero goals with our mobility insights.

Contact MICHELIN DDi to provide driving data that will help protect vulnerable road users in a proactively safe transportation system.

  Leverage Mobility Data with Michelin experts ! Contact us