New Pilot Program Begins On Prince Avenue

By Joy Bratcher

On Jan. 7, citizens of downtown Athens saw a new pilot program take affect on the street of Prince Avenue. The six-month program focuses on the crosswalk located at Newton Street and Pope Street and places orange flags at each side of the crossing. The flags are to make pedestrians more visible as they cross the street.

“In a few months we are going to do an after study of the success of the flags,” Traffic Engineer Steve Decker said. We will be looking for increased compliance with motorist.”

Kelsey Butler is a student at the University of Georgia and lives near downtown Athens. She describes herself as someone who enjoys walking around downtown as much as she drives through it to go to her hometown. As she crosses Prince Street, she admits she feels silly waving the flags so drivers will supposedly “see her better.”

Butler said that she has seen more close calls in pedestrian accidents than she has cared for especially on the infamous avenue. Yet, she is not sure if the flags will be successful.

“As a pedestrian, I can see the benefit of the flags,” Butler said. “Yet, as a motorists, it is very distracting. I could see how more accidents could be caused by motorists staring at the flags without paying attention to the person carrying the flag.”

Every five years, the Traffic Safety Research and Evaluation Group examines Athens roads to tally up the number of pedestrian and cyclist accidents due to being struck by motorists. In the most recent study released in 2012, one street stood out to researchers- Prince Avenue.

According to the report, while bike crashes are down 46% from the previous five year span complied between years 2003 and 2007, pedestrian crashes are up 160%.

Cities as far as Washington have seen success stories from the new program, but the idea of whether or not this statement is accurate is still being debated in larger cities across the country that carry a high number of pedestrians.

Salt Lake City has been using the flags since 2000. It’s city website states that due to the success of the program, in 2001 the city had to create an Adopt-a-Crosswalk program opening the doors for businesses and individuals to maintain crosswalk flag cites for little or no cost. As of 2013, more than 200 crosswalks were adopted.

Even with the program trying to help pedestrians, some see them as a joke to pull on one another. Looking in the flag pit, one may see a United States Flag, rebel flag, German flag, or Georgia Bulldog flag instead of the orange flags

According to an online article on the Athens Banner Herald website, the cost of replacing each flag costs the city $2. <http://onlineathens.com/local-news/2015-01-12/prince-avenue-pedestrian-flags-get-mixed-reviews&gt;

Decker is quoted in the article saying, “the occasional loss of a flag would be a small price to pay if the program is effective in improving pedestrian safety.”

When using the flags, pedestrians are not to solely rely on carrying their flag. “It’s just an enhancement” for the crosswalks, and “not a cure-all” for pedestrian safety, Decker said in the article. <http://onlineathens.com/local-news/2015-01-06/pedestrian-crosswalk-flags-be-tried-prince-avenue&gt;

In June, the city will examine Prince Avenue to see if statics have improved since the start of the project.

“I’m not sure what the results will be from this,” Butler said. “If it works to help make us safer, then it won’t matter any cost or problem it could cause. Even if it saves one life, it will be worth it.”

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