Rhinelander crosswalk flags expected to bring pedestrian safety
By Lori Adler, reporter
Something once only seen in bigger cities is soon to be part of many busy Rhinelander intersections. Crosswalk flags are being installed around the city to provide increased pedestrian safety.
Crosswalk flag use was originally witnessed last year by Rhinelander common council alderperson Dawn Rog while out of town. She emailed Rhinelander Police Chief Lloyd Gauthier, suggesting that Rhinelander begin a similar program. He agreed, and a formal request was made to the Public Works director at the time. The idea, however, was dropped at that time.
According Gauthier, a change in leadership, along with Mayor Chris Frederickson’s new initiatives regarding a bicycle and pedestrian plan for Rhinelander, prompted renewed interest in the flags, and they are now being installed around the city.
“It’s truly for pedestrian safety, It’s another way for people when they come to an intersection, there’s this hesitation about should they walk out, or they’re waiting for cars, when really they have the right-of-way,” Gauthier said. “This gives them something that they can at least hold out and indicate that they are coming into the roadway, and traffic is supposed to stop for them.”
The first crosswalk flags are being installed on either side of Central school, but more flags and holders are on order and will soon be installed at Timber Drive and Coolidge Avenue and at Acacia Lane and Coolidge Avenue, due to the large amount of pedestrian traffic there. In addition, crosswalk flags are planned for Nativity and Zion schools and eventually near Pioneer Park.
Crosswalk flags are easy to use. A pedestrian takes a bright red flag from the holder on one side of the intersection, holds it out while crossing the street and then puts the flag in the holder on the other side of the intersection. Though there is little data on whether the use of crosswalk flags significantly increases public safety, it is a relatively inexpensive and low-tech way for communities to increase pedestrian visibility.
Rhinelander Police Department’s Facebook page recently included a post about the new flags, which was met with overwhelming response along with comments for other possible locations, showing the popularity of the idea with the community.
“Hopefully we’ll make this a safer environment,” Gauthier said, “so people will want to get out and walk.”