There has been a substantial drop in complaints regarding the crosswalk at Whyte Avenue and 102 Street after the city installed a solar-powered crossing light with flashing LED lights.
The pilot project, which also includes lights at Saskatchewan Drive and two locations at Donald Massey School, started in January 2016 and recently wrapped up.
Speaking in regards to the installation at Whyte Avenue, Gerry Shimko, the executive director of the city’s Office of Traffic Safety, said there were 17 requests for a review of the crosswalk from 2012 to 2015. That number dropped to only one in 2016.
“We are certainly looking at that as an additional protection in our pedestrian crosswalk safety continuum. These have some really good uses in various areas so we’re looking at it in particular in this location,” Shimko said.
The crossing lights, which sit on a pole on the sidewalk rather than overhead, have been installed in 13 school locations and are slated to be installed in 24 more this year.
“They are really well received by the school communities as well as parents using it. We’re probably going to see a growing inventory of these in our system over the course of the next few years,” Shimko said.
There is no word yet on whether the flashing LED lights will be a permanent fixture on Whyte Avenue; Shimko said it is currently under review.
“We’re looking at the different types of protections in different locations. Then we’ll make a decision on the level of full protection or something like a rectangular rapid flashing beacon,” he said.
Those who frequent Whyte Avenue said the year-old flashing LED lights have changed how they cross the street.
“It’s definitely much easier and safe for sure,” said Ian MacMillan.
“I like the fact the LED, the flashing lights on them, are a bit more noticeable than regular crosswalks.”
However, some residents said they would prefer more obvious crossing lights, such as the lights that hang overhead.
“I’ve seen a lot of people, even when I’m driving on [Whyte Avenue], where they seem to pop out of nowhere if you’re not really focusing on the tiny little LEDs here. Maybe if they were bigger, it would be a little bit better too,” said Brendan Bachewich, who adds that he prefers to cross at a traffic light as opposed to the flashing LED lights.
Camille Chalifoux, who lives around Whyte Avenue, said crossing at Whyte Avenue and 102 Street was previously “pretty scary.”
The flashing lights have changed that, but she would still prefer something more visible.
“Overhead [lights] would be very helpful. I think on a road this busy, more lights and more notice would be good for drivers to see the pedestrian crossing,” she said.
However, Tatiana Usova, who also lives in the area, said she feels safe with the flashing LED lights.
“Especially at night time, you can see the lights more at nighttime. During the day, probably not that much.”
“Here it’s instant. You press and it starts blinking and you can cross. I prefer this one,” she said when asked which type of crossing light she prefers at the intersection.
Shimko said the assessment for which type of crossing light gets installed at which intersection is based on a number of factors.
“How many lanes there are that are being crossed, what’s the pedestrian volume, what’s the vehicle volume, what are the turning movements, what are the sightline availability or obstructions and apply it there,” he said.
“If you have a shorter distance between crossing points, it’s safer for a pedestrian and the rectangular rapid flashing beacon seem to be a good interim protection for four lanes going two in each direction versus having to have a full signal.”
A review of pedestrian safety features is underway and a report will be presented to the Community and Public Services Committee on Monday.