Effective, On-Demand Crosswalks On Kagy Are Confusing To Bozeman Drivers
Trust me when I say that Kagy Boulevard will continue it's annoying growth pattern and increased traffic, so the sooner Bozeman makes friends with the on-demand pedestrian crosswalks, the better. But Bozeman drivers need to understand when and how long they need to stop at these handy crosswalks.
When pedestrians and drivers alike do "their part" correctly at these pedestrian-initiated, red lights, they work great. Or at least as good as we can hope for to get people across busy streets. But the key to efficiency with these crossings lies with drivers knowing what is expected of them, when it's expected, and how long it's expected.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation: "A Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) study published in 20101 found that pedestrian hybrid beacons can reduce pedestrian crashes by 69 percent and total crashes by 29 percent." (These are also known as Hawk Lights.)
Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, Kagy Boulvard on the Montana State Campus would flow a heck of a lot better if all the drivers knew they could resume moving once the pedestrians have crossed the street - even if the light is blinking red. If it's clear, you can go. When there are no people crossing, drive your car, man.
A pedestrian pushes the button, the lights flash yellow and cars should slow down and prepare to stop. The light will then turn solid red and vehicles must always come to a complete stop and wait for the pedestrian to finish crossing the street. The light will then flash red for some additional time - if you've already come to a complete stop already and nobody is crossing, you can be on your merry way.
As with anything new, we all get a grace period to use and understand these handy additions to Bozeman's busy streets. (One day...ONE DAY, we'll get comfortable with roundabouts and use them safely and efficiently, I hope. Those will continue to be installed across the entire Gallatin Valley, friends, so let's make friends with them.) However, I think we've long passed the grace period for the on-demand crosswalks.
These pedestrian-initiated red-light crosswalks really are great when used correctly. It's a win-win for drivers and pedestrians alike. Cars and traffic are controlled, in between actual intersections and people get to cross the street safely. Genius. It's NOT GENIUS when cars continue to be stopped far longer than they need to be, backing up traffic and negating any beneficial compromise between car and pedestrian.
SEE MONTANA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION "Guidance for Determining Pedestrian Crossing Treatment at Uncontrolled Locations" HERE
PHBs are becoming increasingly popular with State and local transportation agencies to fill the gap between unprotected crosswalks and full traffic signals to serve pedestrians. PHBs are useful in locations where traditional crosswalk signings and markings do not result in adequate motorist yielding rates, and where the deployment or cost of a full traffic signal would not be warranted.