Safe Communities

Safe Communities Madison-Dane County


Pedestrian Safety

Pedestrian Flags in Dane County 

According to observational studies conducted in Dane County communities, only about 6% of motorists yield to pedestrians, even though Wisconsin state law requires it. To increase safety we launched a pedestrian flag program in 2003, and saw yield to pedestrian rates go up to nearly 90% at targeted intersections. There are 50 pedestrian flag crossings throughout Dane County thanks to adopting organizations. To keep costs to a minimum, the sites were installed with PVC pipes used as makeshift flag holders, which are unsightly and can be easily damaged.  

Pedestrian Flags

Artful Crossings Initiative 

Fast forward 13 years since the program began, and a "beautiful" opportunity now exists thanks to a new partnership with area artists, Sector67Hackerspace and Madison Traffic Engineering Department. Through Artful Crossings, our current 'ugly duckling' holders will be retired and replaced with street art featuring local artists on newly tooled boxes. 

Like so many communities, we have wonderful, creative artists whose work is unknown to many right here at home. We're so excited to be able to showcase our artists in public places throughout the city! Thanks to in-kind contributions of time by Madison Traffic Engineering to install the holders in the public right of way and volunteer time provided by the fabricator of our boxes, Mike Fisher from Sector67.  

Neighborhoods, business districts, police departments, and others can "adopt" these sites with support from Safe Communities. Click the 'Pedestrian Flag Site Application' button or the 'Artist Submission' button to the right for more information. 

Helpful Information About Pedestrian Safety

Tips for Assertive but Safe Pedestrians

  • Point to the other side of the street with the flag high, while standing with at least one foot in the street (the legal trigger for drivers to yield). Look assertive!! If there's an empty parked car that can protect you, cross the parking lane in front of it so you are more visible to drivers.
  • Gauge the traffic in the lane nearest you, and make and maintain eye contact with the first driver who has time make a gradual stop (Cars take a long time to stop; at 25 mph allow 75 feet or about five car lengths, up to double that if you're doing this for the first time, if you're a slow walker, for speeders, or for bad weather conditions). Let cars who are too close to stop go on by.
  • Maintain eye contact with your selected driver; step out into his lane only when you are sure the driver is going to stop.
  • Safely cross the lane in front of the stopped car while looking for the first car in the next lane whose driver can easily stop. Then maintain eye contact with that driver. Move carefully in front of the new car across the lane as it stops. Repeat lane by lane until you have crossed all traffic lanes.
  • IMPORTANT: Whenever you can (without being distracted) give drivers a smile, a wave, or "Thanks!" to demonstrate to drivers that pedestrians appreciate their courtesy! Remember that the flag is a helpful tool, but you still have to use normal caution. Don't ever step into the path of a car when you are not sure the driver will stop.

Tips for Responsible Drivers

  • Obey the speed limit and keep well behind cars in front of you, so you can easily stop for pedestrians, and be well-positioned when the car ahead of you does stop.
  • Watch street edges and sidewalks AHEAD carefully for pedestrians and when you see someone obviously ready to cross, apply your brakes early and gently so the car behind you can stop, too.
  • Always assume a pedestrian is crossing the street whenever a driver in front of you, or in the lane next to you, slows down or stops. Never pass a slowed or stopped car until you are sure no one is crossing the street. Fine: $222.50! It's extremely dangerous! Stop for the pedestrian at least a car length or two short of the crosswalk so cars behind you and the pedestrian can more easily see each other around your car. Remember that the next time you may be the pedestrian, and this pedestrian may be the driver waiting for you. And thanks for stopping!

Flag Monitor Job Description

We really appreciate your taking on this task! We know that pedestrians, especially the elderly and those with children, come to depend on the flags. It's important that the flags be there consistently, and that's where you come in – thank you!

We strongly suggest that there be at least two flag monitors designated for each site. Having two or more responsible parties ensures that your site is covered in the event your "co-flag monitor" is on vacation, etc. Or, if you're a business or police department, asking a number of employees to help monitor a flagged crossing during different shifts helps keep flags at your site when pedestrians need them. Here is a basic "job description" for you, as official flag monitor.

  • If theft is a problem, please consider bringing the flags in at night, and putting them back out first thing in the morning. Most theft and vandalism happen during the first 2 – 4 weeks, so this job is particularly important early on. Flags also tend to disappear faster on weekend nights, so please arrange to bring them in on Friday and Saturday night!
  • Check the flags daily (including weekends) to make sure there's an adequate supply. Early in the morning is best, as late night is when they are most likely to disappear. Replace missing or battered flags using those extras supplied by the Safe Communities.
  • Collect flags needing repair. If you have a staple gun with 1/4" staples and you're up to the task, please feel free to repair them yourself.   If, between flag minders and the adopting organization, repairs could be made, we appreciate it!  
  • Please let your neighborhood representative know if instructions need replacing or container is coming loose, etc. Help may be available through Safe Communities or the adopting organization can make repairs directly.
  • If all the flags are on one side, please redistribute them, and if it happens a lot, keep adding flags until the problem becomes minor. Thank you!

For more information about Pedestrian Flags Over Dane County, contact Safe Communities.