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Council to Discuss RRFBs to Improve Pedestrian Safety on Rhode Island Avenue

At tonight’s Council worksession, the City Council to Discuss Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFB) to improve pedestrian safety on Rhode Island Avenue in north College Park.

North College Park residents have long stated their desire to improve pedestrian safety and walkability along Rhode Island Ave., especially in areas near Duvall Field and Hollywood Elementary School, where neighborhood kids often have to cross this busy street.

Although cars are legally required to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalks up and down Rhode Island Ave., they rarely do, and we’ve often heard of cars that even pull into the opposing traffic lane or into the bike lanes to go around other cars that are waiting for pedestrians or cyclists to cross.

We have long been seeking possible solutions to this issue, and after bringing the issue up to the County (since Rhode Island Ave. is a County road) and the Prince George’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation refusing to make any improvements, we asked the County if the City could make improvements on its own. The County agreed to this as long as the City agree to take over any liability related to the projects.

Specifically, we worked with City Engineer Steve Halpern to investigate different options for pedestrian safety, and the one that appears to work best for mid-block crossings and crossing at uncontrolled intersections involves something called Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFB’s). When a pedestrian wishes to cross the street, the pedestrian pushes a button, which triggers a rectangular, rapidly flashing light. This light is meant to grab the attention of drivers and draw attention to the fact that there is a pedestrian wishing to cross. A demonstration of this technology is available here www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBltx0Argag.

Studies have shown that these devices have an effectiveness rate of at least 80% – meaning that at least 80% of drivers stop when they see them. Currently, an RRFB is in use at Crescent Road in Greenbelt, and staff has also investigated RRFB’s in use in Gaithersburg and Rockville, and found that their vendor – Spot Devices, which produced the video above – seems more effective, and that Rockville and Gaithersburg have been consistently satisfied with their results.

A representative from Spot Devices presented the RRFB’s to the NCPCA at the January 2013 meeting, and the NCPCA unanimously endorsed using Spot’s RRFB’s on Rhode Island Ave. Council will consider granting a contract to Spot Devices to purchase and install RRFB’s at the crosswalks by Cherokee Street and Muskogee Street, for a total cost of $33,460.

These intersections were considered priorities due to the nearby locations of Duvall Field and Hollywood Elementary School. The purchase will be made with funds received through the City speed camera program. If the devices work successfully, the City can later consider installing them at other intersections as well.

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2 Comments to “Council to Discuss RRFBs to Improve Pedestrian Safety on Rhode Island Avenue”

  1. By anon, March 19, 2013 @ 11:51 am

    This effort is much appreciated. Thank you and all the council members for pursuing this issue.

    I have to ask, though, is anything being considered to slow down traffic east-west on the side streets off of Rhode Island? Narragansett, Edgewood, Hollywood, Lackawanna, Muskogee, etc, are arguably more dangerous than Rhode Island because children, families and pets actually cross these streets frequently. The traffic down Hollywood, Narragansett, Indian, Iroquois, Kennesaw is way too fast. Though I’ve noticed occasional speed traps by police, more stop signs and speed bumps might be more effective. What is the best way to ask the city to consider adding stop signs and speed bumps?

  2. By Fazlul Kabir, March 19, 2013 @ 12:32 pm

    Anon, Thanks for asking. You can download a petition form from our City website requesting a speed calming device (speed bump). Here is the link: http://goo.gl/qUqoT. All petitions must be signed by at least 60% of the households that are located within 500 feet of the requested installation site. If requested for an intersection, the petition must be circulated to the residents living on all intersecting streets within 500 feet of the requested installation site. For further information, see Article VI, Traffic Calming Devices, Section 184-36 of the City Code. Names and addresses must be printed legibly or typewritten. A separate petition shall be submitted for each specific location where a traffic calming device is requested. Send completed form(s) to the City Clerk’s Office, 4500 Knox Road, College Park, MD 20740, 240-487-3501.