News / Calgary

City of Calgary piloting crosswalks that illuminate for pedestrian safety

Pedestrians in Calgary will be able to press a button and light up the crossing, which could help improve night time safety

The city wants to make crossing streets in Calgary safer with a new pilot project.

ELIZABETH CAMERON/for metro / Calgary Freelance

The city wants to make crossing streets in Calgary safer with a new pilot project.

There are changes coming to your crosswalks by the end of this year as the City of Calgary tries out new methods of lighting up pedestrian crossings to improve safety.

The pilot project, which is set to be in place for a year, will examine several different methods to illuminate crossings when pedestrians need to use them in hopes of catching a motorist's attention as walkers navigate the city's roadways at night.

"We want to see if a sudden increase in lighting intensity would alert motorists that pedestrians are in the crosswalk," Ravi Seera, manager of traffic said.

When the city moved to LED street lights it created a good contrast, and higher visibility on the street, Seera said, but research shows that the high-intensity lighting that turns on in crosswalk areas has better visibility results at night time.

He said there are a few options to bring the light up for pedestrians to cross at night. Firstly, there can be internally lit signage that illuminates when a button is pressed, light shining into the crosswalk focusing on the crossing area.

This is different than the city's current traffic control devices, like the overhead flashing beacons, or the traditional signage.

In 2015, the city did install in-pavement lighting in Kensington. But Seera said although those types of lights are popular in the U.S. they don't work as well in cities with winter road conditions, like Calgary.

"We have a lot of snow in the winter, with the snowplows this wouldn't be a good solution," Seera said.

Greg Hart with Vision Zero Calgary said on the surface it's encouraging the City of Calgary is testing out new pedestrian crossing innovations. He said this project in particular could help produce a "novelty response" from drivers, changing something that will direct their attention.

"If you look at the standards in B.C., their crosswalks, largely, especially in urban areas when you drive through them with a car, are flashing green lights," Hart said. "When a pedestrian approaches and presses the button it turns the light red for the driver."

He said both drivers and pedestrians are familiar with the realm of red light stop and green light go, but he said it's more expensive.

But he said the best overall solution is to fix road design because investing in attention-shifting infrastructure can only go so far. There's still a risk pedestrians will feel so safe with the crossing device that they may step out onto the road too early because the lighting could give a false sense of security.

The city's concentrating more on overhead options, and they're hoping through the bidding process companies will present them with innovative options.

Seera was not clear why these options don't exist already in Calgary or Alberta for that matter because he said there are examples of what the city's interested in across Canada, in places like Halifax.

The total budget to test out these street lighting options will come to $100,000 and throughout the year's pilot, the city will be crunching numbers to find viable tools they can roll out in the future across the city.

"We'll identify locations where we're seeing higher rates of collisions during the night time or darker times," Seera said. "We'll pilot to see if there's any reduction."

After studying the results the city will bring recommendations to the Transportation Association of Canada to make the device approved nationally.

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