Photo Credit: Jessica Pritchard Mangum
At the dangerous Grit and Daily crosswalks on Prince Avenue, Athens-Clarke County installed holders with orange flags this morning for pedestrians to wave as they cross the street, which either will get drivers to stop or enrage them like a red cape waved at a bull.
While I (and a lot of readers) had a bit of fun with the flags yesterday, at least one ACC commissioner, Kelly Girtz, is hopeful they'll help. Girtz said he's seen them work in Montgomery County, MD (a dense suburb of Washington, DC).
And they won't take the place of more substantive measures—like moving the Grit crosswalk out of the way of a light pole or experimenting with a road diet—Girtz said.
"I think this is just one more piece of the puzzle," he said.
Commissioner Jerry NeSmith was more skeptical. "The question is how much it will help and how long," he said. "I do not believe the flag is a substitute for the changes and improvements needed for pedestrian safety on Prince Avenue."
The idea for the flags didn't come from the commission, but Girtz said the idea grew out of a conversation with ACC Manager Alan Reddish in November, after state Rep. Regina Quick (R-Athens) refused to support a law requiring drivers to stop when a pedestrian is standing on the curb at a crosswalk, on the grounds that drivers can't read minds. (Currently, the law only requires drivers to stop when pedestrians are already in the crosswalks—which, yes, is a Catch-22.)
"If someone's holding a flag in his hand, there's no mind-reading needed," Girtz said.
The flags will be there for a minimum of six months as traffic engineers evaluate their effectiveness.
Here's a news release from ACC with more information.