Halifax to test new crosswalk lights to reduce collisions

Halifax will test out a new piece of crosswalk equipment in an effort to cut down on collisions between cars and pedestrians.

Rectangular rapid-flash beacons have been tested in Calgary, with some success

Rapid-flash beacons will be tested this spring in Halifax as part of a pilot project. The small strobe-like lights have also been tried in other Canadian cities, with some success. (YouTube)

Halifax will test out a new piece of crosswalk equipment in an effort to cut down on collisions between cars and pedestrians. 

Rectangular rapid-flash beacons will be tested this spring as part of a pilot project, and will be installed at four marked crosswalks in Halifax, Dartmouth and Bedford that don't currently have traffic lights. 

The small strobe-like lights have been tried in other Canadian cities, with some success.

"Calgary has done an extensive study," said Taso Koutroulakis, a Halifax traffic manager. "They found increased yielding behaviour by motorists."

Traffic officials will measure driver compliance before and after the lights are installed.

There have been a slew of car-pedestrian accidents reported in recent months. In December, a 72-year-old man who was hit at a Halifax crosswalk in August died from his injuries. 

The province has also increased jaywalking fines to $697.50 if pedestrians don't press the button for crosswalk lights. 

$25,000 apiece

In other cities, the beacons have been installed just below the pedestrian crossing signs. But Halifax wants to prevent vandalism and avoid blinding drivers, so the flashing lights will be installed just above signs.  

Each beacon costs about $25,000.

Norm Collins believes the new lights are a step in the right direction, but says the are better ways for Halifax to spend its money. (CBC)

Norm Collins, a crosswalk safety advocate, has heard good things about the flashing beacons. But he thinks the city could get better bang for its buck if it focused on painting zebra markings at all signalized intersections. 

Right now, zebra markings are only painted at marked crosswalks without traffic lights.

"It's at signalized intersections where the majority of collisions take place," said Collins. "If we did zebra markings at all 268 signalized intersections, I estimate it would be about $300,000."

Bruce Zvaniga, Halifax's new manager of transportation and public works, told regional council he will need more information on the use of zebra markings before he makes a decision.

Collins has another suggestion for reducing car-pedestrian collisions at intersections with traffic lights: eliminate right turns on red lights. 

About the Author

Pam Berman


Pam Berman is CBC Nova Scotia's municipal affairs reporter. She's been a journalist for almost 35 years and has covered Halifax regional council since 1997. That includes four municipal elections, 19 budgets and countless meetings. Story ideas can be sent to pam.berman@cbc.ca


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