News / Halifax

Halifax council votes to keep existing crosswalk flags, but stop installing new ones pending report

Halifax staff recommended removing the flags from crosswalks with pedestrian-activated lights after a study found only eight per cent of pedestrians used them.

Crosswalk Safety Society of Nova Scotia vice president Matt Spurway tries out the provinces 100th set of crosswalk flags on Rocky Lake Drive in Bedford last year.

Zane Woodford / Metro Order this photo

Crosswalk Safety Society of Nova Scotia vice president Matt Spurway tries out the provinces 100th set of crosswalk flags on Rocky Lake Drive in Bedford last year.

Halifax won’t be getting rid of any crosswalk flags yet, but there won’t be any new ones installed for a while either.

Staff recommended removing the flags from crosswalks with pedestrian-activated lights – 56 of the 154 in the municipality – after a study of 50 crosswalks that found only eight per cent of pedestrians used the flags.

Council voted down that recommendation, and after two hours of debate, voted 10-7 in favour of a motion from Coun. Shawn Cleary to halt the approval and installation of any new crosswalk flags pending a staff report piloting “various treatments to enhance the visibility and safety” of crosswalks using “high-quality data.” That report is due back by the end of December 2017.

The consensus among most councillors was that the sidewalk flags aren’t perfect, but they’re effective, at least anecdotally.

“There’s gaps in it, I agree,” Coun. Tony Mancini said. “However, why would we remove flags or even consider removing flags, until we have a replacement for that technique or that tool?”

Coun. Richard Zurawski suggested the flags could actually be harmful, by making pedestrians feel safer than they are, or by making people take longer to cross the street. He pushed his fellow councillors to let staff collect more information about their efficacy before acting.

“We should never do something because the gut feeling is that it’s going to be better. Often data contradicts us,” he said.

Coun. Lisa Blackburn argued that while she’s in favour of evidence-based decision-making, she doesn’t think data can capture all the ways the flags are effective.

“As a driver, when I approach these crosswalks that have the flags, when I see that bright orange out of the corner of my eye, I take extra caution, and I don’t know how that could be measured,” she said.

More on Metronews.ca