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A vibrant Seattle through transportation excellence Interim Director, Goran Sparrman

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Pedestrian Crossing Flags

In 2008, SDOT received funding from the Seattle City Council to launch a pilot program measuring the effectiveness of pedestrian crossing flags.  Pedestrian crossing flags are hand-held flags used by pedestrians to be more visible to approaching traffic; they are not formal traffic control devices. 

SDOT installed pedestrian crossing flags at 17 locations under the pilot program.  The pilot program ran for three years.  After evaluating the results at the 17 pilot locations, which included measuring motorist compliance at these crosswalks, SDOT ended the pilot program.  Overall, having a flag available does seem to make pedestrians more visible to motorists, however there was not a consistent pattern of improved compliance observed, and some locations were not able to be evaluated due to frequent theft of the flags.  

Because of the limited effectiveness of the flags and the ongoing maintenance associated with them, SDOT will no longer provide replacement pedestrian crossing flags at the pilot locations, and will not install any new locations.  SDOT will allow community sponsors to maintain existing locations, which means the community sponsor will provide replacement flags and flag holders as needed.  SDOT will also allow new locations to be installed under the guidelines below.  

SDOT’s current policy allows residents and neighborhood organizations to provide crossing flags where the following guidelines are met:

  • Flags may only be placed at legal crosswalks—the crosswalk does not need to be a marked crosswalk, as legal crosswalks exist at every intersection unless otherwise signed
  • Flag holders must be attached to poles / posts using zip-ties or other temporary mounting materials.  Holders that obstruct existing signs or cause damage to objects in the SDOT right-of-way are not allowed and will be removed
  • Flag holders should be located within five feet of the crosswalk
  • Flags should be a minimum of 10 inches by 10 inches in size, and made with orange or fluorescent yellow-green material

Please be aware that SDOT may remove flag holders at any time. 

Flags can be purchased from a variety of suppliers.  Try an internet search for “high visibility flags” to find some potential vendors.  

Financial assistance may be available through the Department of Neighborhoods’ Neighborhood Matching Fund or through SDOT’s Safe Routes to School mini-grants.

Remember that using a crossing flag does not guarantee that you will be seen.  Make sure to keep these other tips in mind:

  • Always attempt to make eye contact with approaching drivers
  • Wear bright clothing when walking at night
  • Don’t be distracted—turn off headphones and pay attention when crossing the street

For more information, contact walkandbike@seattle.gov  or call (206) 684-7583.

 

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