Town takes steps to make pedestrian crosswalks safer

An example of the new bar-shaped crosswalk system that will be installed in a handful of locations around town.

KASSIE PARISI/GAZETTE REPORTERAn example of the new bar-shaped crosswalk system that will be installed in a handful of locations around town. KASSIE PARISI/GAZETTE REPORTER

By Kassie Parisi

Gazette Reporter

CLIFTON PARK — The town has plans to install new, more modernized crosswalk systems at various roads and trailheads.

Three new light systems have been ordered that are meant to increase awareness of pedestrians by utilizing lights that flash at high frequencies when walkers or bikers want to cross the road.

The new systems will provide pedestrians with a button that they can press when they want to cross the street. Horizontal, strobing lights on the bar-shaped sign will then flash to warn oncoming motorists that there is either a pedestrian in the crosswalk, or who wants to cross. The systems will be programmed to allow pedestrians around 30 seconds to cross.

“This will be a more effective way to alert motorists that a pedestrian is about to cross, wants to cross, or is crossing in the crosswalk,” Clifton Park Town Supervisor Phil Barrett said at a recent town board meeting.

The town has purchased three of the new systems to start with, each costing $5,500. As of last week, the highway department was waiting for the systems to ship in from North Carolina.

The new lights weigh less than 20 pounds, and will be installed across from Clifton Common, at Vischer Ferry, and at a third location that has yet to be determined. The town selected the locations based on its growing network of trails, and the fact that, ideally, the new systems are built to be implemented at trail heads, not large intersections.

The new systems do not stand separately from other crosswalk systems. Rather, they are attached to signs that already exist that drivers and pedestrians are already aware of around town. The new systems and the quick, strobing lights have been proven to be more effective in slowing drivers down, especially if they’ve grown used to overlooking the original signs, said town spokesman Matthew Andrus.

Since the new systems don’t stand alone, the highway department will not have to do any digging on any roads to install them. The new systems are also solar powered, wireless, and adjust automatically based on light conditions. They come equipped with backup batteries and with just one hour of sunlight, they can emit at least 300 warning bursts of light.

Some similar systems have already been installed nearby, such as Exit 11 in Malta, and near the Rexford Bridge.

“The new pedestrian crossing safety systems will be installed at strategic locations as a pilot program to gauge effectiveness,” Barrett said.  “The Town Board has taken this step to complement current signage at pedestrian crosswalks, to improve safety for residents along our expansive trail system.”

Barrett confirmed that town personnel will monitor the new systems in operation and the Town Board plans to expand the program as more is learned through user experience.