Las Vegas Sun

November 19, 2017

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Seven ways crosswalks are designed for safety

They started out as basic white lines across a road. But as cars got faster and roads got bigger, a number of improvements have been proposed to make crosswalks safer for pedestrians.

Some of the ideas are high-tech, such a solar-powered LED lights. Others are low-tech, such as flags for pedestrians to hold while they cross the street.

Here are seven crosswalk ideas that are in use or have been tried in Southern Nevada:

    • Pedestrian Safety Multiplier
      Photo by Steve Marcus

      Stutter flashes

      The rectangular, rapid-flashing beacons or “stutter flashers,” don’t look like much — just two yellow lights mounted under a typical pedestrian sign. But when a walker activates the lights, they flash in changing patterns, which studies have shown capture the attention of motorists better than typical blinking lights. They are also less expensive and can run on solar power. Stutter flashers are being used on Maryland Parkway near UNLV and on Anthem Parkway in Henderson.

    • Pedestrian Safety Multiplier
      Photo by Steve Marcus

      Rumble strips

      Residents in the Quail Ridge Park community in Las Vegas were worried about pedestrian safety in their gated community, so they got a grant from the city to install a new kind of rumble strips in front of crosswalks, said Erin Breen, director of UNLV’s Safe Community Partnership. The rumble strips are pavers embedded into the road that provide a warning to motorists. Breen hopes to work with traffic engineers on a study of the same material on a city street.

    • Pedestrian Safety Multiplier
      Photo by Steve Marcus


      Bulbouts are where the curb is extended into the street to narrow the path for motorists, thus slowing them down. They also provide protection for pedestrians by reducing the width of the street to cross and they allow signs to be placed closer to travel lanes. Las Vegas has installed bulbouts and similar traffic chokers on Fourth Street and other streets downtown, and Henderson has used similar designs on Water Street.

    • Pedestrian Safety Multiplier
      Photo by Steve Marcus

      Danish offset

      The Danish offset is a crosswalk design that includes an S-shaped median. The median protects pedestrians from traffic, but it also makes them briefly walk toward oncoming vehicles, so they get a better view and know when it is safe to cross. There are two Danish offset crosswalks on Maryland Parkway near UNLV, one on Lake Mead Boulevard near Belmont Street and one on Racetrack Road in Henderson.

    • Pedestrian Safety Multiplier
      Photo by Steve Marcus

      Overhead flashers

      This is the most basic pedestrian warning system that includes lights. The yellow flashers are located above the road. They can be effective but are expensive to install. They are also more likely to be ignored by motorists, especially if they flash all of the time instead of only when pedestrians are present.

    • Pedestrian flags image
      /David Gourlie, City of Kirkland, WA

      Pedestrian flags

      Some municipalities have experimented with a flag system. The basic concept is a bucket with bright-colored flags on each side of the road. A pedestrian can pick up a flag and use it to draw the attention of motorists. After crossing, they drop the flag off on the other side of the road. Boulder City briefly tried the flag system at one crosswalk, but it was removed because the flags kept disappearing.

    • Embedded lights

      Some cities have experimented with putting lights directly into the pavement to mark the edges of crosswalks. When a pedestrian activates the lights, they flash directly in the motorists’ line of sight. Henderson had one crosswalk equipped with the lights, but they were decommissioned, a city spokeswoman said, because city engineers struggled to get them working properly.

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