WINDSOR – Walking across a busy street can sometimes feel like putting your life on the line.
Norm Collins is giving walkers one more tool to enhance their safety in some marked crosswalks in Windsor – bright, orange flags.
Collins installed several of these flags at the intersections of Stannus Street, Albert Street, King Street and O’Brien Street near the Cocoa Pesto Bistro and Woodshire Inn on Oct. 27.
“I have no idea whether this is the best spot in Windsor to have crosswalk flags, but it comes down to who’s funding it,” he said. “My hope is that other businesses or individuals will ask about getting them at their location.”
Collins said the Tim Hortons on the Windsor waterfront expressed an interest in the flags as well.
The cost of installing the flags is usually $200, depending on how many flags are needed.
“Pedestrians get hit everywhere, and the more we can do to enhance pedestrian safety, the better off we’ll be,” he said.
Collins said the flags do get taken at times, but he said most people use them or leave them be.
He added that only 15 to 20 per cent of walkers actually use the flags, but they increase crosswalk visibility by just being there.
“My wife and I live on a very busy road in Dartmouth, and a number of years ago we wanted to do something to improve safety,” Collins said, noting that he heard about the crosswalks flags from a friend in Salt Lake City. “We took it forward and had a trial project, which was very successful from a resident’s point of view.”
However, Collins said they kept bumping into issues with the Halifax Regional Municipality until recently.
The flags have spread across Nova Scotia, including Port Williams, Chester, Hantsport, the HRM, and now Windsor.
Collins said the Windsor’s traffic authority approved the installation.
Forty-three flags are located in HRM alone. Collins says the flags in Windsor put the number of flags over 60.
But why here?
On a trip to the valley region with his wife, Collins decided to check out the Cocoa Pesto Restaurant in Windsor and pitched the idea to its owner, Scott Geddes.
Geddes, who is also a town councillor, funded the flag installation.
“It’s highly visible for us, and I’ve watched too many close calls over the last 10 years,” said Geddes of the crosswalks near his restaurant.
“We’ve tried, through council, to maybe change some signage and so forth here, but this seemed like the easiest thing to do right now,” he said.
“As a business we want everybody to be safe. I don’t know if this is the be-all and end-all, but clearly doing nothing clearly wasn’t an option,” he said. “It’s right in front of us.”
Geddes said the crosswalk on King Street is a really tough spot because people drive down the one-way portion of the street going the wrong way or drive over the speed limit.
“It just seemed like an easy fix and is a very low cost,” he said. “If it prevents one injury then it’s totally worthwhile.”
Geddes said he did reach out to CAO Louis Coutinho to let him know he was planning on purchasing the flags for the crosswalks.
“I think this is a great corner to give it a try,” he said. “It has some unique characteristics with it. Our other main crosswalk has signal lights, so I don’t really know if it would be necessary there.”
Windsor also recently approved the use of digital speed signs to monitor problem areas where drivers are speeding.
Dave Chubbs, with the Windsor District RCMP, said pedestrian accidents are not a major concern in Windsor.
“There’s been no issues with crosswalk safety brought to our attention,” Chubbs said. “Nothing to suggest that pedestrian safety is a major concern here.”
The RCMP was unable to provide data for number of incidents that have taken place in crosswalks in Windsor.
How to use the flags
When approaching an intersection grab one of the flags out from the bucket and extend it outward as you walk. Remain aware of your surroundings while crossing. Once you reach the other side, put the flag in the receptacle.