The World Health Organization has listed traffic safety as an international public health priority and the Centers for Disease Control and prevention identifies collisions as a leading cause of death for young people. In Washington this is over 400 deaths per year and nearly 20 occur on Seattle Streets. Every fatality represents a personal, family and community tragedy. Even one is too many. To increase driver awareness of possible conflicts with people who walk, move in wheelchairs, or ride bikes, SDOT has started installing Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons (RRFB) at some crosswalks. The name is a little wonky, and so is this article, but we thought you’d like to know how these devices work.
RRFBs are activated by pedestrians and people riding bicycles by manually pushing a button. Once the button is pushed, a highly visible flashing pattern, similar to emergency flashers on police vehicles alerts drivers that a person is entering the crosswalk. RRFBs cost less than traffic signals and have been shown to increase driver awareness and stopping for people at marked crosswalks. These beacons supplement pedestrian and bicycle crossing warning signs and crosswalk markings. “An Analysis of the Effects of Stutter Flash LED Beacons to Increase Yielding to Pedestrians Using Multilane Crosswalks” found that going from a no-beacon arrangement to a two-beacon system mounted on the supplementary warning sign on the right side of the crossing, increased yielding from 18 to 81 percent! The report, sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration, also evaluated sites over a one-year period and found that there was little to no decrease on yielding behavior over time. Watch this short video to see RRFBs in action!
SDOT has installed RRFBs on Alaskan Way near Pier 62, the Ballard Neighborhood Greenway at NW 58th Street and 24th Avenue NW and at Dexter Avenue N and Howe Street. So if you are a motorist and you see these new lights, please stop. RRFBs are one tool to create calm streets and encourage healthy travel options. These steps are moving Seattle toward our goal of zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030.