Banners designed to help street crossers will soon be placed downtown
Pedestrian safety has been a persistent complaint in downtown Port Washington, and officials are tackling the topic in a new way this year.
Pedestrian flags — bright orange banners — will be placed in receptacles at the corners of Franklin Street at Grand Avenue and at Main Street.
People will be able to pick up a flag at the corners and carry it as they travel across the road, drawing attention to themselves in the process. They are to then drop the flag off in the receptacles at the opposite corner when they arrive safely.
The pedestrian flags were suggested by Kathy LeMahieu, a member of the city’s Active Community Environments team, and endorsed by both that team and the Environmental Planning Committee.
LeMahieu told him that she had seen the program in action in a number of communities she had visited, Port Washington Mayor Tom Mlada said.
“She said, ‘We’ve got such a walkable downtown but sometimes drivers don’t give pedestrians respect,’” he said.
The city has tried a number of measures to enhance pedestrian safety in the past, and Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said the current pedestrian signs on Franklin Street will remain in place.
“I think it’s a matter of perception,” he said of the difficulty in crossing Franklin Street. “I still hear from people all the time who want it to be safer.”
The pedestrian flags, he said, are primarily aimed at families and younger children who are less easily seen by motorists.
Hanne Guthrie, an intern working with the Public Works Department, said about 50 flags should be installed in the next two weeks.
Officials acknowledged that a number of the flags are likely to be stolen.
“It seems like during the first two weeks it’s something that happens,” Guthrie said. “It’s just something you’ve got to live with.”
If the problem is too great, neighboring businesses could be asked to bring the flags inside at night and returned in the morning, she said.
The ACES team and Environmental Committee agreed to install the flags as a pilot program, Mlada said, noting it’s a low-cost program with the potential to make a difference.
“It’s just an opportunity to call attention to the fact pedestrian safety is paramount, and to remind people that when pedestrians are in the crosswalk, they have the right of way,” he said. “We’re not sure how it’s going to be received.”
If the program proves effective, Mlada said, the city could perhaps expand it to areas around schools to give youngsters increased visibility to motorists.
Port Washington isn’t the first community to use pedestrian flags, although Guthrie noted it is a fairly new concept.
Madison and DePere have similar programs, officials said. Similar program around the country have met with mixed success.
Image information: PEDESTRIAN FLAGS like these found in various communities throughout Wisconsin and the country will soon be found in downtown Port Washington. A sign in a North Carolina community gives pedestrians directions on how to use the flags.