Town tries crosswalk safety flags

MIDDLEBURY — Pedestrians using Middlebury’s Main Street crosswalk in front of the U.S. Post Office will literally be able to take their safety into their own hands.
That crosswalk — identified as one of the most dangerous in downtown Middlebury — is being used to pilot a new amenity for pedestrians through the town’s Safe Routes to School initiative: crosswalk safety flags.
With the installation of the flags late last week, Middlebury joins communities like Salt Lake City; Seattle; and Berkeley, Calif., in implementing crosswalk safety flags as a means of drawing more attention to those crossing busy streets.
Here’s how it works.
Several bright-yellow flags with pedestrian symbols are located in small bins affixed to posts at either end of the crosswalk. The pedestrian grabs one of the flags, raises it as a signal to oncoming motorists to stop, and then carries and waves it while crossing to the other side of the street. Once there, the pedestrian places the flag in the second bin and walks off.
Middlebury’s Safe Routes to School Team had considered rapid-flashing beacon lights, powered by solar, similar to those along Pine Street in Burlington, as an option. Rapid-flashing beacon lights can only be placed at uncontrolled crosswalks (where there is no traffic light) and cost between $2,000 to $5,000 each, explained Middlebury Selectwoman and Safe Routes to School Coordinator Laura Asermily. The team opted to try crosswalk flags as a lower cost measure until funding could be secured for beacon lights and while crosswalks are monitored further to determine beacon light location priorities.
“Pedestrians wanted additional visibility at vulnerable, high-traffic crosswalk locations, like the Post Office, to reduce accidents,” said Asermily.
“Flags have an excellent education component,” she added. “We hope the flags will inspire conversation about how to share our roads safely.”
Dan Werner, Middlebury’s director of operations, said the flags will be at the intersection around the clock. Pedestrians will be trusted to keep them in circulation, he said.
Middlebury’s Safe Routes to School Team meets monthly at Mary Hogan School to discuss measures to encourage more students to walk and bike to school and to improve safety in their transit to and from school. Its recommendations can be viewed at its 2013 Middlebury School Travel Plan posted at the Mary Hogan School website and Safe Routes to School Vermont website.
Anyone in Middlebury and the wider community wishing to be updated on or participate in bike and pedestrian safety efforts can contact Asermily at 388-9478 or [email protected] or request to be added to the [email protected] list by contacting Adam Franco at [email protected].
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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