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Friday, October 26, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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On the Road

Kirkland puts new face on pedestrian program

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

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Got an Eastside traffic question? Send it to us by e-mail, east@seattletimes.com; by fax, 425-453-0449; by mail, The Seattle Times Eastside News Bureau, 1200 112th Ave. N.E., Suite C-145, Bellevue, WA 98004.

It was a bright solution to a grim problem: In 1995, in the wake of two fatal accidents involving pedestrians, Kirkland installed fluorescent-orange flags for people to carry across the street.

The pioneering program earned the city accolades and imitators, but it wasn't all flying colors.

City officials have long suspected that few actually use the flags.

They were right: According to a recent survey, only 8.6 percent of pedestrians participate in the program.

"Our thing isn't nobody's using them," said Dave Godfrey, a transportation-engineering manager for the city, "We know that these are effective, and visibility is an important part of pedestrian safety, so what could we do to get people to use them more?"

With the help of marketing consultant Nancy R. Lee and a $60,000 grant from the state Department of Transportation, Kirkland has set out to sell residents on the importance of picking up a flag before stepping out to cross the street.

To do that, Lee said, "We have to do more than communicate. We also have to change the product."

Pedestrians saw no need for the product — the flags — because they didn't detect danger, said Lee, whose firm conducted the initial survey.

Since 1996, 62 pedestrians have been injured or killed in Kirkland crosswalks, a fact that is posted near the new flag holders.

Lee and city planners came up with the slogan "Take It to Make It," to drive home the potential dangers. It was inspired in part by Lee's work on the successful "Click It or Ticket" seat-belt campaign, she said.

Respondents to the survey said the original orange flags looked too much like construction flags, and they felt silly using them.

The new flags are yellow and bear the image of a stick-figure pedestrian carrying a flag.

That's right: The flag has a picture of a person carrying a flag.

Lee thinks the image will help normalize flag-carrying for pedestrians, much the way a Harborview Medical Center campaign helped make bike helmets de rigueur gear for cyclists.

The goal is to get 40 percent of pedestrians using flags by 2010, Lee said.

That would put Kirkland ahead of Salt Lake City, Utah, which, at more than 35 percent participation, has the most widely used pedestrian-flag program in the nation, she said.

Early Warning

Bellevue: The southbound lanes of 108th Avenue Northeast, between Northeast Second and Northeast Fourth streets, will be closed from 6 a.m. today to 9 p.m. Sunday for construction-related work.

A northbound lane of 108th will remain open, but motorists should expect heavy truck traffic in the area.

From 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, Main Street will be closed in both directions from 100th Avenue to 101st Avenue so workers can finish erecting a tower crane at a residential construction site. Local access will be provided.

Kenmore: Through November, night work that may involve lane closures on Highway 522 is scheduled to continue from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays as crews make waterline connections. The connections are being made from the center lane to the north side of the road west from 77th Court Northeast to 73rd Avenue Northeast.

Amy Roe: 206-464-3347 or aroe@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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