Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I used to be skeptical about these crosswalk flags, but I'm starting to change my mind
You find these wild and wacky red crosswalk flags in several places around Madison. These were placed at some crosswalks on Monroe Street by the Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood Association to help pedestrians navigate the 35-mph-plus traffic stream and get across in one piece. I used to be a skeptic, but am less so since street work forced me to park on the other side of Monroe Street and make frequent crossings.
I used to think the flags might confuse some motorists (slow down and proceed with caution? slam on the brakes?) and might make some pedestrians recklessly overconfident, enocuraging them to dart out in front of cars with a sense of false security. And what if one car stops and other cars speed around it in another lane? It seemed like a real recipe for accidents.
But there don't seem to have been many mishaps. Meanwhile, I've had a chance to test Monroe Street traffic myself, with and without the flags. Flagless, with only my exposed flesh between myself and the onrushing cars, it's definitely a challenge. Few people ever slow down, and I'm on my own. The law may say cars have to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, but many drivers seem to disagree with the law and some express their disagreement by simply speeding up. But walk out with one of those goofy flags and traffic almost magically comes to a halt (you can actually hear the traffic sounds quieting down on the video clip).
People apparently are conditioned to respond to red. Many drivers, on the other hand, just seem to "see red" when they see pedestrians. Or they just don't see them at all.