| 3 min read | by Doug Marrin |
The weather is warming, the sun is shining, the sap is running, and many of us are looking for a reason to get outside and stretch our legs.
The City of Dexter has finished its pedestrian crossing safety project which began in earnest a year ago in response to public concern especially over students walking to and from school.
Concern focused on four crossing locations frequented by kids in the morning and afternoon:
- Baker Rd. between the Bates Building and Creekside School
- Dan Hoey near Dongarra Dr.
- Dan Hoey near Lexington Dr.
- Ann Arbor St. near Kensington St.
“We have finished the pedestrian safety project that went into motion last January when concerns were raised,” said Dexter City Manager Courtney Nicholls. “Four rectangular rapid flashing beacons have been installed at the locations of concern plus the City put a sidewalk down Forest St. which gives kids a place to walk other than the shoulder of the road.”
While the recent project to increase the safety of students walking to and from school is complete, the work to improve pedestrian safety continues. It has been an ongoing project for years (note the curb bump-outs and designed crosswalks along Ann Arbor St., downtown, and Central St.). The next initiative is education. The City has plans for an educational video to be put out this spring as to how RRFBs work and how to use them.
In addition to the RRFB on Baker Rd, the City added crossing guards as an added safety measure for students crossing in the morning and afternoon.
“The reports from the crossing guards have been really positive,” says Courtney. “Cars have been really cooperative in letting the kids cross. There have been no reports of incidents where cars ignore the crossing signals.”
The City’s plan is to reevaluate the continued need for crossing guards after a year. There was also a plan to put a crossing guard at Kensington. But in spite of ongoing efforts, the City has not been able to fill the position yet. A crossing guard for the traffic light at Ann Arbor St. and Meadowview has been removed since the traffic already comes to a complete stop at the stoplight. When the pedestrian signal is activated, traffic is stopped in all four directions with ‘No Turn on Red’ in place at the intersection.
Courtney makes the point that it is important to understand that RRFBs are informational by nature as opposed to being regulatory. The flashing yellow lights on the RRFBs alert drivers to the presence of someone wanting to cross the street. This is different than the flashing red lights of a HAWK signal which require traffic to stop, often long after the pedestrians have cleared the crossing.
Some useless crosswalk trivia
‘HAWK’ is a ham-handed acronym for ‘High intensity Activated crossWalK beacon.’ This is not the only time animal imagery has been used to describe pedestrian crossings.
When the first crosswalk was installed in 1951, in Slough, England, it was – and still is – known as a ‘zebra crossing.’ Apparently liking the zoological theme, England went on to create pedestrian crossings called ‘puffin’, ‘pelican’, and ‘toucan.’ There is also a ‘Pegasus crossing’ which isn’t strictly pedestrian. It’s for equestrians. Not to be left behind, Australia came up with a ‘wombat crossing’ for pedestrians. London responded with a ‘tiger crossing’. Now we’re talking.
Back to Dexter.
“Most of the feedback we received from the community was that people wanted more warning when people were looking to cross,” she explains. “People want to stop, but with all the other things going on in traffic, pedestrians standing still on the side of the road didn’t always catch their eye. In addition to the RRFBs, the City added and improved the street lighting at the crossings.”
A Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB) alerts motorists to the presence of a pedestrian waiting to cross. It does not stop traffic.
The pedestrian presses the button activating the flashing yellow signal then WAITS until traffic has stopped before crossing. It’s important to make sure kids know to always check traffic before stepping out.
In downtown Dexter, there are two crossings with pedestrian cones to help alert motorists to the presence of a crosswalk. Both are on Main St. in front of Dairy Queen and at Riverview Café.
Both cones alert motorists that State Law requires traffic to stop for pedestrians within the crosswalk.
Emphasis on the phrase ‘within the crosswalk.’ State Law does not require traffic to stop for pedestrians on the curb waiting to cross (But most motorists do, and we thank you!)
The cones are literally telling us that it is illegal for a motorist to strike a pedestrian within the crosswalk.
Who has the right-of-way, pedestrian or motorist, at a crosswalk?
NCSL.org (National Conference of State Legislatures) tells us that in Michigan,“Vehicles must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians within a crosswalk that are in the same half of the roadway as the vehicle or when a pedestrian is approaching closely enough from the opposite side of the roadway to be in danger. Pedestrians may not suddenly leave the curb and enter a crosswalk into the path of a moving vehicle that is so close the vehicle is unable to yield. Pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to vehicles when crossing outside of a marked crosswalk at an intersection.”