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« KVBID, county promote pedestrian safety program (as reported on www.hawaii247.com, March 14, 2012) | Main
Friday
Mar162012

Increased visibility (as reported in West Hawaii Today, March 15, 2012 Article by Chelsea Jensen)

Look carefully — and carry a bright orange flag when crossing Alii Drive in the downtown Kailua-Kona area.

Brightly colored flags for pedestrians to hoist when using a crosswalk are now stationed at the Alii Drive and Hualalai Road intersection, said Kailua Village Business Improvement District Executive Director Debbie Baker. The improvement district’s pilot PedFlag program, aimed at improving pedestrian safety in the downtown Kailua-Kona area, began Wednesday.

“With the flag, the visibility (of a pedestrian) increases exponentially,” she said. “Drivers will come to really appreciate the flags because sometimes it is really difficult to see pedestrians.”

No specific incident or accident prompted the program’s initiation, but rather a realization by the district that it needed to enhance pedestrian safety in the area. The PedFlag program was chosen over placing a crossing guard at the intersection not only because of cost, but also to encourage pedestrians to take some responsibility into their own hands, she said.

“Communities, like ours, are starting to recognize the need for more pedestrian safety,” she said. “We made the realization that with a lot of seniors and children pedestrians we need to try to make our community more walkable and pedestrian friendly.”

The PedFlag system is simple: A pedestrian looking to cross the road carries the bright orange-colored flag, either waving it or holding it out in front of them, to grab approaching motorists’ attention, Baker said. The flag is then left at the other side of the intersection for the next user.

Yancey Derringer, whose business Hawaiian Titanium Rings is located on the intersection’s makai side, was happy to see the flag system get under way Wednesday. He said the intersection has been dangerous for some time and hopes the flags will help.

“The flags have really stirred up people’s interest. They’ve been using them all day while going across the street,” he said. “The kids are amazed — it’s like an adventure for them.”

The Kailua Village Business Improvement District, which is tasked with improving and maintaining public areas and getting people into the village area, paid nothing to get the project under way, Baker said. The Hawaii County Department of Public Works, which the district partnered with for the pilot project, provided and installed flags and flag holders at the intersection, she said.

According to a Public Works prepared statement, the PedFlag program has been used since late 2011 at the Mamalahoa Highway and Lindsey Road intersection in Waimea. The county plans to install crosswalk flags at the Paniolo Avenue and Waikoloa Road intersection in Waikoloa Village, as well as in Hilo, where Kamehameha Avenue intersects with Haili and Pauahi streets.

PedFlags have become a popular means for enhancing pedestrian safety on the U.S. mainland, Baker said. Areas around the U.S., including Kirkland, Wash., Chicago, and upscale beach communities in California, are using the system, she said.

In Kirkland, Wash., the PedFlag program has proven successful in increasing pedestrian visibility at intersections throughout the city of nearly 50,000 residents, said Dave Godfrey, Kirkland’s transportation engineer manager. Since the mid-1990s, more than 70 intersections have been outfitted with the flags.

Though some people may walk off with the flags, posing a minor cost, overall the PedFlag program provides the most cost-effective means of protecting a large number of intersections, he said.

“People enjoy the pedestrian flags and we find them very effective,” Godfrey said. “They’re not for everyone, but I see many people using them and they are a very popular item since they help increase visibility.”

If the program catches on in the downtown Kailua-Kona area, Baker said the district would like to install PedFlags at other crosswalks along Alii Drive.

“If pedestrians warm up to the idea, we would install more, absolutely,” she said. “It’s a wonderful and inexpensive way to keep pedestrians safe.”