City of Glendale's pedestrian safety program

Yvonne Guerra
Administrative Analyst, Public Works Division
City of Glendale, California
Presented at the 2004 APWA Congress

Most pedestrian fatalities, an alarming 55%, occur on neighborhood streets and local roads, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. It is speculated that this may be due to the fact that pedestrians, at becoming familiar with their "walking environment," are likely to decrease their attentiveness in observing sound pedestrian safety practices.

Walking doesn't have to be dangerous. The City of Glendale's model program is multi-faceted and suggests that walking can be safe in the city; however, awareness is key on both the part of the pedestrian and the driver.

Multiple Programs Address Pedestrian Safety in the City of Glendale
There are several efforts in the City of Glendale, both high and low tech, in order to keep pedestrians safe. These, in part, were implemented in response to the State of California's Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) report issued a few years ago comparing pedestrian fatalities and injuries. The City of Glendale was ranked fifth among 45 cities with a similar-sized population (between 100,000 and 250,000). In addition, the city ranked 49th in a statewide comparison among both cities and counties (there are over 400 cities in California).

Create Awareness of Pedestrian Safety Issue
Education is an important directive in the City of Glendale Public Works Division's Traffic & Transportation Section and the Police Department. Both departments are concerned about this salient community issue and have taken measurable steps in implementing programs geared at reducing, if not eliminating, pedestrian accidents in the city.

The Traffic & Transportation Section, with the intention of emphasizing the presence of uncontrolled crosswalks and in an effort to promote pedestrian safety, has implemented several programs, including the installation of additional pedestrian crossing symbol signs, "hatched" crosswalk lines, and reflective markers. Along with public information campaigns in conjunction with the Police Department and the Glendale Unified School District (GUSD), there now exists the "disco lights" program, which is briefly described below.

Crosswalk-Signal Symbols
In an effort to engender the awareness of pedestrians to follow traffic laws, signs explaining crosswalk-signal symbols have been installed at several local intersections.

Computerized Traffic Collision Database Program
According to Traffic & Transportation staff, an estimated 2,500 collisions occur annually citywide. In the past, staff had to manually compile and analyze traffic accident information by screening and evaluating numerous printed documents, including Glendale Police Department and Statewide Integrated Traffic Record System (SWITRS) reports. The compiled data and its analysis were used to determine high-accident locations in the city and serve as a tool to identify potential traffic safety improvements.

Yet another component of the OTS arrangement is the development of a computerized traffic control devices inventory program that maintains an accurate record of all existing control devices such as stop signs, other regulatory signs, curb markings, and traffic signals. This program has been critical in the maintenance of these devices and has created an improved record-keeping system.

L.E.D Traffic Signal Indication Conversion Program
The city replaced the existing incandescent traffic signal indicators with more energy-efficient L.E.D modules at all existing signalized intersections in Glendale. Replacing the incandescent red, yellow, green and "Don't Walk" indicators with this new technology has resulted in a reduction of energy consumption (by 70 to 85%) as well as cost savings of more than $250,000 per year. More importantly, the intangible benefit has been that these lights are brighter and more reliable than the previous indicators, thus making Glendale streets safer for pedestrians.

Portable Pole-Mounted Speed Display Sign
Glendale has been testing a new device functionally similar to the radar trailer; one that is more compact in size. The speed display sign affixed to a telephone pole is designed to be mounted on existing streetlight poles. Unlike the heavy radar trailer, the sign weighs about 41 pounds. The cost is also much lower ($5,000 to $7,000 a unit) compared to the speed trailer (approximately $25,000). This particular device also offers a very important feature. The user can set a maximum display speed. The speed of any vehicle approaching the sign with a traveling speed higher than the maximum limit will not be displayed. The main purpose of this feature is to discourage drivers from attempting to vary their respective speed to "lower" a higher number that appears on the sign.

Traffic Calming—Measures to Slow Traffic Speed
In general, traffic calming is the combination of mainly physical measures, which can include speed humps and roundabouts, that reduce the negative effects of motor vehicle use, alter driver behavior and improve conditions for non-motorized street users. These measures help to slow vehicles in the interest of traffic and pedestrian safety. The city has implemented traffic calming measures in various parts of Glendale. This was in response to residents expressing concerns to the Police Department, Fire Department and Public Works Division staff regarding this issue.

Other "physical" and non-physical improvements involve the following:

Pedestrian Crosswalk Enhancement Program—on Uncontrolled Crosswalks
In an attempt to improve pedestrian safety, crosswalk pavement markings and warning signs for 48 uncontrolled crosswalks in the city were upgraded. Uncontrolled crosswalks are those that are not controlled by stop signs or traffic signals. The enhancements included the installation of thermoplastic crosswalk markings with cross-hatching, the installation of reflective markers at the outer edges of the crosswalk lines, and the installation of new pedestrian warning signs. In addition, more visible fluorescent green crossing signs for the above project were installed at various locations.

The purpose of the Uncontrolled Crosswalk Enhancement Program is to help motorists become more aware of pedestrians and to encourage yielding the right-of-way to pedestrians in uncontrolled crosswalks.

Pedestrian Crossing Signs—Fluorescent Green Signs at Glendale Schools
The city has made a concerted effort to increase driver awareness with the placement of more visible pedestrian crossing signs. More than one-half of all pedestrian deaths and injuries occur when entering or crossing streets. Many of these accidents happen in non-motorized zones such as near schools, hospitals, recreation areas, bus stops or senior citizen residences/centers.

At Glendale schools, yellow "School Crossing" signs that warned of upcoming crosswalks in the city were recently replaced with more visible fluorescent-green signs. The signs are made with fluorescent yellow-green reflective sheeting. These are more highly visible warning signs in roadways and at intersections where pedestrians, schoolchildren and bicycles coexist with motorized vehicles. Drivers simply can better see the signs.

A woman makes use of an in-roadway warning light system on Glendale Avenue

"Disco Lights"—Sequential Crosswalk Warning Lighting System
Several years ago, the Traffic & Transportation Section recommended the installation of a sequential crosswalk pavement system, commonly referred to as "disco lights." The pilot program has been a success in improving the visibility of the crosswalks and the safety of pedestrians at various crosswalks in the city. In addition, the installation of in-roadway warning lights at 11 uncontrolled crosswalks in the vicinity of school areas was completed.

Since 1997 various public agencies in California and Washington have been experimenting with a sequential crosswalk pavement lighting system. The system features a series of amber lights embedded in the pavement of both sides of the crosswalk. The lights flash for a fixed duration—long enough for pedestrians to cross the street. They are activated by pressing a button at the curb. The flashing lights alert motorists that pedestrians are traversing the crosswalk—motorists are required, by law, to stop and yield the right-of-way.

Dropping off Students Safely—Traffic Management at Hoover-Keppel-Toll Schools
In coordination with the GUSD, city staff from the Traffic & Transportation Section and Police Department developed and implemented the Student Safe Drop-Off Program. A few years ago, the Traffic & Transportation Section entered into a cost-sharing agreement with the GUSD for the development and implementation of the Hoover-Keppel-Toll Schools Traffic Management Plan. Some of the measures used in the plan included the implementation of one-way street operations and modifications to sidewalks (reconstructing, widening and creating "bump outs" or curb extensions). These improvements promote safe practices in and around the school areas, which during certain times of the day have a significant increase in the volume of vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Crossing Guard Program
Not all pedestrian safety measures are "mechanical"; some involve a friendly human face. Currently, the Traffic & Transportation Section administers the city's Crossing Guard Program. Twenty-five crossing guards are assigned throughout Glendale. Again, these individuals serve as the "eyes and ears" for youngsters in the local district by assisting them to safely cross from one side of the street to another. They encourage safe pedestrian practices among students and parents alike.

Safe Route to School Program
The Traffic & Transportation Section received a Safe Route to School (SR2S) grant from the State of California's Office of Traffic Safety. This grant is administered by the OTS, a division of Caltrans, and calls for funding support for various traffic safety-related activities, including the previously mentioned in-roadway warning light system. The Traffic & Transportation Section received monies to make the following upgrades.

Walkin' Willie pedestrian safety outreach sign affixed to a Glendale refuse truck

Walkin' Willie Campaign. Earlier this year, the Public Information Office rolled out a new public service announcement in English, Spanish, and Armenian promoting pedestrian safety. The character of Walkin' Willie and his logo, "Wait, watch and walk," can be seen on the Public Works Division's trash trucks and transportation Beeline buses. Coloring books depicting the character were distributed to 1,000 students who attended the annual National Public Works Week celebration at Glendale City Hall.

The Role of the Pedestrian. Drivers are not the only ones responsible for pedestrian traffic accidents. Pedestrians have to be more conscientious of situational awareness—to pay attention to their surroundings, especially at and around city crosswalks. According to Traffic & Transportation Section staff, there is a greater likelihood for pedestrian-vehicular accidents if pedestrians fail to cross the intersection properly. In the city, signs explaining crosswalk-signal symbols have been installed at several local intersections.

Making the streets safer for residents and visitors alike is a priority in the city. At this time there are a number of programs in place coordinated by both city staff in the Police Department and in the Traffic & Transportation Section of the Public Works Division. All of these activities, in one way or another, help to reduce the amount of pedestrian-related accidents in Glendale.

To reiterate, the most important component in all of this is education since the responsibility for the unfortunate statistics involving pedestrian fatalities and injuries is shared by drivers and pedestrians. The City of Glendale's comprehensive pedestrian safety programs help to inculcate a sense of mutual responsibility in the driver, in the pedestrian, and in all of us, so that the number of pedestrian injuries may be significantly reduced in our community.

An educational session at APWA's upcoming Congress in Atlanta entitled "Pedestrian Safety: Getting the Message Across" will be given by Stephen M. Zurn, Director of Public Works, City of Glendale, California. Zurn will discuss Glendale's comprehensive plan for addressing pedestrian safety, which includes video monitoring, electronic message displays, and crosswalk safety lighting. The session takes place Monday, September 13, at 10:00 a.m. Yvonne Guerra can be reached at (818) 548-3900 or at