Recently we decided to take the long way around and travel from Vancouver to Seattle via the Olympic Peninsula and through a place called Port Angeles, Washington [portangeles.org]. A tiny town on the very northwest corner of the US mainland, Port Angeles has a population of around 20,000 people and is the birthplace of famous NFL quarterback John Elway.
One of our favorite quirky Port Angeles features is a crosswalk on the main street through town that uses pedestrian flags. Prior to visiting Port Angeles we’d never heard of a pedestrian flag but apparently they are also used in Salt Lake City and Chicago. The flags were installed in 2006 despite the fact that “Deputy Chief Terry Gallagher said he couldn’t recall the last time there was a car versus pedestrian crash in the downtown corridor” [peninsuladailynews.com]
The basic idea is that the flags will be more visible to drivers and will reduce the number of pedestrian accidents. A flag holder and brightly coloured flags are placed on both sides of crosswalk. Pedestrians are supposed to pick up a flag, carry it across the street, and deposit it in the holder on the other side. Waving it around is purely optional but really that was by far our favorite part of the process!
Looking at the directions more closely it appears that the flags may give you the ability to shoot laser beams out of your eyes at oncoming drivers but we weren’t able to make that work. More seriously, having read the instructions thoroughly we were sure to be mindful of the warning that:
flags are helpful tools, but remember, use normal caution and good judgement when crossing the street with or without a flag.
So flags do not give you any force field protection. Got it. One day they should upgrade to Vancouver style crosswalks with powerful force fields that allow pedestrians to blindly walk into traffic without a care in the world.
We picked up one of the flags and looked both ways (using our “good judgement” even though it’s a one way street). Being a small town the traffic was sparse, but a single car was about a block away so we waited while holding the flag right out in front of us. I’m not sure how often people use the flags because the driver didn’t seem to notice us until the last second. They came to a rather surprising and abrupt stop just before the crosswalk.
Sometimes I wonder if they were distracted by trying to figure out what these people who are cleary not construction workers were doing on the side of the road with a flag (“Hey! Did that touristy looking family just break a flag off of our crosswalk sign?”). Either way the flag worked as advertised! We safely made our way across and placed the flag in the other holder just as instructed.
This post was submitted to:
- Travel Tips Tuesday hosted by Walkingon Travels and Suitcases and Sippycups.
- Travel Photo Thursday hosted by Budget Traveler’s Sandbox