Pedestrian safety

Rome officials are testing RRFBs — rectangular rapid flashing beacons — at the pedestrian crossings in the 400-block of Broad Street with an eye to permanently installing the safety system.

Flashing lights at the mid-block pedestrian crossings downtown have, so far, netted positive reviews.

The RRFBs — rectangular rapid flashing beacons — are on loan from the vendor on a trial basis. They’ve been moved to the 400 block of Broad Street after tests in two other blocks.

Amanda Carter, director of the Downtown Development Authority, said the trial period is ending soon and the few comments they’ve received have been supportive.

“Public Works wants to know what you think,” Carter told DDA members Thursday. “Once the trial period is over, if there’s no negative feedback they will be installed.”

At that point, the freestanding yellow caution signs in the middle of the crosswalks would be removed.

Public Works Director Chris Jenkins has said he wants input from motorists, pedestrians, diners and downtown residents. The flashers emit a slow strobe light designed to catch drivers’ attention, but he’s concerned the lights could be too intrusive.

“They’re wonderful,” said DDA Chair Bob Blumberg, a downtown business owner and resident.

Several other committee members murmured agreement, saying they see drivers stop immediately when the lights turn on.

“Better pedestrian safety has been a goal of the parking committee for eight years,” Parking Services Manager Becky Smyth added.

A minor issue is that some walkers assume the lights are motion-sensitive and don’t push the pole-mounted button to activate them.

However, Blumberg said he expects the habit to develop over time.

The cost of the installation has not yet been determined. The RRFB system in use now is solar-powered and those lights would run about $18,000.

But Aaron Carroll, director of engineering services, has said the tree cover downtown makes solar an undependable option. The crossings will likely have to be wired for electricity.

Comments about the crossing lights can be submitted to the DDA by calling 706-236-4520 or using the website at DowntownRomeGa.us.

Georgia law requires drivers to stop for pedestrians in a marked crosswalk but, the busier downtown becomes, the more visibility is an issue. There are often delivery vans stopped in the inside lane to unload and cars backing out from on-street parking spaces.