By Stephen Newman
Since the city of Salt Lake introduced its new pedestrian-safety program last year, there have been no accidents at intersections and crosswalks where orange flags are provided for pedestrians to carry while crossing the street.
According to the Salt Lake City Transportation Department, Mayor Rocky Anderson was motivated last year to improve Salt Lake”s ranking by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, which ranked Salt Lake City as the nations twelfth most deadly metropolitan area for pedestrians.
As a result, the City started providing bright orange flags at busy intersections and crosswalks around the city, so motorists could see pedestrians easier as they cross the street.
Over the past year the Mayor”s pet project has grown considerably, and pedestrians seem to appreciate the added safety the flags provide.
“I feel a bit more visible to drivers when I”m carrying a flag, and I feel safer crossing busy streets when the flag”s with me,” said Abe Broadbent, a frequent Salt Lake visitor.
Orange flags are provided at 32 different intersections and crosswalks around downtown, and resident-sponsorship groups also provide flags at 21 other locations around the city.
“So far, there have been no auto-pedestrian accidents at intersections with flags, and we”re encouraged that more people are using the flags when they cross busy streets,” said Dan Bergenthal, Salt Lake City transportation engineer. “We”re continuing to think of new things to improve pedestrian safety in the city.”
Flags were first placed at busy crossing points around the city in August of last year, and according to a City transportation study conducted last October, 11 percent of pedestrians were using the flags.
A second study conducted in January of this year found that 14 percent of pedestrians are using the flags.
The statistics are a little skewed because more people use the flags at busier intersections than they do at less busy intersections, Bergenthal said.
“It doesn”t surprise me it”s working because we”ve been enforcing the program heavily for a year,” said Salt Lake City Police Detective Dwayne Baird. “In my opinion, most people use the flags, but it”s not a law to use them.”
Provo currently does not have plans to adopt the pedestrian flag program.
Until two years ago, Provo used an orange barrel program on busy streets to warn motorists of upcoming pedestrian crosswalks. The Program was discontinued due to a conflict with UDOT over State Route regulations.
According to the Provo Community Development Department, the crossing guard program has been successful during peak traffic times.
Van Keeslar, a long-range planner for the Community Development Department, said instituting the pedestrian flag program is a possibility.
“I think it”s a good program that is worthy to pursue,” he said.
Spanish Fork uses the pedestrian flag program at one intersection. The intersection of 100 N. Main Street is a Utah Department of Transportation test site that will be evaluated.
“We are pleased with the flag program,” said Spanish Fork Police Lt. Carl Johnston. The flags leave no question regarding a pedestrian”s intent when they are at an intersection or crosswalk, he said.
The flag idea came from a city chamber of commerce employee who noticed the flag program while visiting Sun Valley, Idaho last year.
The success of the program will be measured in five years after the data is analyzed. It is too soon to tell if this program is making a significant impact, Bergenthal said.