These are not your normal crosswalks. With the push of a button, they come alive.
The solar-powered lights flash brightly, mimicking the pace of police cruiser lights that grab the attention of drivers. They work to keep pedestrians safe even on moonless nights. They cost a pittance in terms of public infrastructure — about $6,000. And they generate thank-you notes to City Hall.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 12,843 pedestrian deaths nationwide during a study of the 2009-11 period. Some were jaywalkers, but many others happened inside crosswalks, where pedestrians are supposed to be safe.
Bring on the rectangular rapid flash beacons.
Touted by the Federal Highway Administration, four of these crosswalks have been installed in Davis — paid for in two instances by grant money — and pedestrians are sending their thanks to City Hall while drivers are noticeably more attentive to pedestrians who use these beacon crosswalks compared to normal ones.
The four beacon crosswalks are:
* At California Avenue and Russell Boulevard. That was the first such crosswalk; it was installed two years ago;
* At Da Vinci High School on East Eighth Street, installed six months ago;
* At Anderson Road and Amherst Drive near César Chávez Elementary School, installed early this month. The city paid for a $6,000 mid-street median to provide extra safety for children walking to school; and
* On F Street between the Little League fields and the Davis Art Center, installed early this month.
Roxanne Namazi, senior civil engineer with the city of Davis, said the beacon crosswalks are a new thing in the transportation infrastructure world.
“When (federal agencies) studied them, they found a high rate of compliance by drivers,” she said. “The strobe is similar to what a police strobe would do.”
The city is working on an audit of challenges to pedestrian and bicyclist safety near local schools to produce a report that could grab more grant funds for even more flashing beacon crosswalks.
“All we’ve heard so far is how much people like them and they feel safer,” Namazi said.
— Reach Dave Ryan at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews