Red means stop, Yellow means slow down, and green is go. Soon, Metuchen drivers will see another color: orange.
The Metuchen Traffic and Transportation Committee recently announced a new program to help pedestrians cross busy intersections in town. Waving bright orange flags while walking along crosswalks is just the newest measure officials have explored to curb collisions between drivers and pedestrians.
Starting at intersections along Route 27 and South Main street, bright yellow buckets attached to utility poles will hold several flags. Grabbing a flag, pedestrians will wave it, alerting coming traffic as they
cross the street. After safely reaching the other side, they will return the flag to the nearby bucket on that corner.
From Jackson Hole, WY to Arlington, MA, similar programs are popping up all over America, but this is a first for Middlesex County, Bill Neary, the executive director of Keep Middlesex Moving told NJ.com. The nonprofit will initially provide the flags, with a private donor supplying the buckets. “I think traffic flags are a good start,” Neary said, with “a lot of work, I think the culture can change.”
The borough is no stranger to pedestrian collisions. Every year, according to NJ.com, around a dozen people are struck by cars while walking across the street, often while walking along the crosswalk. In a three year stretch between 2008-2010, 34 pedestrians were killed in Middlesex County while crossing the street.
Speaking with Mycentraljersey.com, Mayor Thomas Valhalla expressed excitement about the new flags, but stressed they are part of a larger effort to make pedestrians safer.
In addition to putting up the buckets with flags, the new program will focus on educating pedestrians to walk within the crosswalk and make eye contact with the oncoming driver. In the past, the borough had installed devices at several crosswalks that lit up when someone wanted to cross the street. These devices were costly and required significant upkeep.
Metuchen Police Sgt. David Liantonio reminded Mycentraljersey.com that carrying the flags is not enough. “Even with the flags, you still have to look both ways.”