In August of 2000, as part of the Salt Lake City Pedestrian Safety Committee’s initial efforts to reduce pedestrian involved accidents, flags were placed at six crosswalks in the downtown area. The idea for flags was brought to the attention of the pedestrian safety committee by a City Council staff member who saw them being used at a crosswalk in Ketchum, Idaho.
The idea is simple. Place a container of flags at each end of the crosswalk and instruct pedestrians to carry one with them while crossing. The brightly colored flags benefit pedestrians by making them more visible to drivers and the simple act of holding one alerts drivers that the pedestrian has a desire and intent to cross the street (admit it, we’ve all done it – you see a pedestrian standing by the side of the street and you say to yourself, “that person is just standing there and doesn’t really want to cross”, and you drive on by without yielding. With a flag in hand that excuse no longer works; you know the person wants to cross because he/she took the time to pick up a crossing flag!). In addition, many drivers have commented that simply having the brightly colored flags at both ends of a crosswalk makes the crosswalk stand out more, making it easier to notice while on the approach.
As the number of city maintained flag locations downtown increased, so did public interest in having them installed outside of the downtown. Due to the difficulties in maintaining numerous outlying flag crossings, the Adopt-a-Crosswalk program was created in January 2001. The Adopt-a-Crosswalk program allows individuals or businesses residing within approximately 700 feet of a marked crosswalk to install crosswalk flags by “adopting” or “sponsoring” the crosswalk. To adopt a crosswalk, the sponsor agrees to occasionally monitor the flags to insure they are available at both ends of the crosswalk and to provide replacement flags as needed. In return, the City installs the flag holders, and an initial supply of flags at no cost to the sponsor. The Adopt-a-Crosswalk program has also been expanded to include elementary schools where the city agrees to provide all replacement flags at no cost as long as the school agrees to pick them up from the city when needed. For all other sponsors, the city provides replacement flags to sponsors at $.50 each – subsidizing part of the cost. As of June 2013, 62 crossings have been adopted by schools and 141 by residents/businesses. The city currently maintains 47 crossing flag locations downtown. Salt Lake City map showing all crosswalk flag locations.
The flags also have an excellent public education component. When first installed the flags received significant media attention and public comment resulting in a sizeable amount of public pedestrian safety awareness and education. Once the Adopt-a-Crosswalk program began functioning we began to see groups of residents coming together to adopt neighborhood locations. Neighbors talking with neighbors about crosswalk flags and the ability to personally participate in something with the potential to make their neighborhood safer have undoubtedly raised community pedestrian safety awareness.