Let your pedestrian flag fly. That's the message coming from the City of Bridgeport, which is piloting a new program in front of the City Hall Annex aimed at increasing pedestrian safety through crosswalk flags.
The idea is simple: Carry a neon-colored flag while crossing the street, and it's more likely a car will see you. "These pedestrian flags are out of the box thinking," said Joseph Gaudett, Bridgeport's police chief. "We've provided small one-foot-by-one foot flags that people can hold in their hand to make traffic aware that they're out there, that they're coming, they'd like to cross."
Gaudett said Bridgeport took inspiration from Salt Lake City, which piloted a crosswalk flag program in 2000. When the walker's done crossing the street, they leave the flag in a box for the next person. It's all part of what Gaudett said is a broader program aimed at reducing accidents involving pedestrians.
In 2013, the city investigated eleven accidents involving 13 walkers. Police spokesman Bill Kaempffer said there were three fatalities, one of which was a domestic homicide. This year, they've investigated three accidents.
Gaudett said the city is trying other, more traditional methods, like radar enforcement and speed bumps. One thing he said they haven't pushed? Writing jaywalking tickets. "Certainly, when it comes to enforcement, we have to look at that," he said. "Some of the pedestrian-involved accidents last year involved the improper use of the roadway by the pedestrian. It really is a two-way street. The drivers have to be mindful that there are pedestrians crossing the street, but the pedestrians have to be able to cross safely and in compliance with the law too."
Is Gaudett worried about people stealing the flags? "When we talked to Salt Lake City, they said that was probably the biggest issue with the flags," he said. "They tend to walk away with the pedestrians. But it's a small amount to pay. If we can save one life by using these flags then it's absolutely worth it."
Councilman James Holloway, who initially pitched the idea, said one flag has already been stolen, but that he "kind of expected that."
According to the mayor's office, the project will cost about $500, paid for with city funds.