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Crosswalk flags improve driver yielding: advocates

Crosswalk Safety Society releases own report ahead of HRM staff report

3 min read
caption City staff recommended crosswalk flags be removed from locations with overhead amber lights.
Nicholas Frew
caption Municipal staff  have recommended crosswalk flags be removed from locations with overhead amber lights.
Nicholas Frew

Crosswalk safety advocates are trying to prove to the Halifax Regional Municipality that crosswalk flags are worth having.

The Crosswalk Safety Society of Nova Scotia released a report on Monday. It suggests crosswalk flags make drivers stop for pedestrians trying to cross the street, more often than if they weren’t used.

“We feel we needed to get the message out, that there is nothing that we have been able to find that in any way indicates crosswalk flags are unsafe,” said Norm Collins, the group’s president and treasurer.

In October, society members conducting the report went to the marked crosswalk on Lady Hammond Road at Memorial Drive. They crossed the street a total of 200 times, during both the day and at night, with and without flags. One person crossed an even number of times from both sides, in clear weather conditions, wearing the exact same clothes — although the document doesn’t specify what they were wearing.

The society found that without a flag, drivers at the intersection yielded 65 per cent of the time in daylight and 27 per cent of the time when it was dark. With a flag, 70 per cent of daytime drivers yielded and 56 per cent of nighttime drivers yielded.

There were 114 pedestrian-vehicle collisions at crosswalks between January and October this year, according to police.

Collins said municipal staff haven’t been the biggest supporters of crosswalk flags. He’s “baffled” as to why they don’t see the benefits.

Collins said the society expects municipal staff to recommend opposing action in their report on the crosswalk flags to council later this month. So the society’s report was done to take initiative and help the case for crosswalk flags.

In May, on the direction of council, staff developed a plan recommending the removal of the bright orange flags from crosswalks with overhead lights. Additionally, there was a recommendation that those locations not be considered for flag installation in the future.

According to the staff’s 2016 traffic data, crosswalk flags were used only five per cent of the time and it was noted there are other ways to increase visibility.

At the May meeting, regional council held off on making a decision and asked for an updated report from staff by December.

“Currently, there is a hold on further installation at the direction of council,” Erin DiCarlo, an HRM spokesperson, said in a statement to The Signal.

“No additional crosswalk flags will be installed until further research has been conducted and alternative methods to increase crosswalk safety have been explored.”

DiCarlo confirmed the updated HRM staff report will be given to regional council by the end of the month.


Dec. 2, 2017: An earlier version of this story misstated the number of pedestrian-vehicle collisions at crosswalks since the start of the year.

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