Pittsburgh City Council
2:50 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

Councilman: Pedestrian Flags Could Make Busy Intersections Safer

If you’ve visited Austin, Salt Lake City, or Seattle lately, you may have noticed bins of brightly colored flags near busy intersections. They’re meant to help pedestrians cross the street more safely, especially at night or in bad weather, when visibility is low.

Now, City Councilman Corey O’Connor wants to bring the idea to Pittsburgh.

“A pedestrian could grab a flag, put it out in front of them as they’re walking, and it’s just another way to alert drivers that you’re attempting to cross the street,” he said.

During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, O’Connor introduced legislation that would create a pilot program to test the effectiveness of pedestrian flags. If passed, the project’s cost would not exceed $10,000, though O’Connor believes the actual cost will be much lower.

He stressed that this is just a pilot project to address some of the most dangerous intersections, particularly ones near schools and parks where children often have to cross the street.

“We’re not putting this on every crosswalk in the city of Pittsburgh,” he said. “It’s just to try to take some dangerous intersections and try to make them safer for pedestrians to cross.”

O’Connor pointed specifically to dangerous intersections in his district, including some near Schenley Park, on Braddock Avenue and on Wightman Street.

“Wightman Street … basically looks like a four-lane highway, and people have to go from one side to the other,” he said. “If you’re a parent walking three or four kids home and you have to cross one of those dangerous intersections, we want you to have a tool that could allow you to be safer as well.”

In November, a 72-year old woman was hit by a car and seriously injured while crossing Braddock Avenue. In 2004, a pedestrian and her dog were both killed after being struck by a vehicle while crossing South Braddock.

“When you’re trying to cross dangerous intersections mid-street and there’s no tool to help you do it, lives are in danger,” O’Connor said. “Even if we save one life by doing this process, that’s worth it.”

Some cities such as Berkeley, Calif., have tried similar projects but abandoned them after finding they did not actually increase pedestrian safety.