Safer Crosswalks for Busy Roads ($104,000)

Specific locations citywide (see full proposal)

Install flashing light signs on six crosswalks that pedestrians can activate before crossing the street. These flashing signs make drivers more aware of crossing pedestrians to help prevent crashes, especially at night. 

Between 2010 and June 2016, 516 pedestrians were struck by vehicles while crossing Cambridge streets. Many of these crashes occurred near intersections without traffic signals. Seven different participatory budgeting submissions from the community highlighted this danger in different areas of the city. These proposals recommended adding speed bumps to slow down cars on major roads like Cambridge Street and Mass Ave. However, these roads are also emergency vehicle routes. Fire trucks and ambulances need clear access on these roads to respond rapidly to incidents throughout the city. Because of this trade off, adding speed bumps would require a lengthy approval process without a guarantee of success, meaning Participatory Budgeting funds might not be allocated to the project.

Fortunately, there are other street crossing enhancements that mitigate pedestrian crossing risk without hampering emergency response effectiveness. One such enhancement is the rectangular rapid flashing beacon. These beacons resemble regular street crossing signs, but they incorporate a bright, flashing light to alert drivers that a pedestrian is crossing the street. The flashing light is triggered either by a button that the pedestrian can push, or by a motion sensor. Flashing beacons are typically powered by integrated solar panels; as such they have no impact on the city’s electricity consumption.

Rapid flashing beacons alert drivers to pedestrians attempting to cross the street. As a result, more drivers yield to pedestrians and avoid dangerous collisions. A study of rapid flashing beacons in Florida showed that rapid flashing beacons prompt more drivers to yield to pedestrians crossing the street.

This project would fund the installation of six rectangular rapid flashing beacons at high-risk crosswalks throughout the city. Four of these beacons would be placed on typical streets ($15,000 each); the other two would be placed on crosswalks with a median ($22,000 each). The potential locations below reflect high-priority crosswalks according to participatory budgeting proposals and multi-year crash data available on the Cambridge open data portal.

Please click on this link to see a video of rapid flashing beacons in Bellevue, Washington.

NOTE: The final location of the flashing beacons would be subject to feasibility constraints and would be decided by the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department. 

Potential rapid flashing beacon locations:

By proposal suggestions:

  • Mass Ave at Edmunds St
  • River St at Blackstone St
  • Cambridge St at Prescott St
  • Cambridge St at Irving
  • Kirkland St at Irving St
  • Kirkland St at Roberts St
  • Hampshire St at Elm St
  • Broadway St at Norfolk St 
  • Broadway St at Tremont St
  • Broadway St at Prescott St
  • Broadway St at crosswalk near CRLS
  • Broadway St at Ellery St
  • Sherman St by Cadbury Common

By pedestrian incident severity:

  • Mass Ave at Dana St
  • Mass Ave at Temple St
  • Mass Ave at Pearl St
  • Mass Ave at Norfolk St



 Map of proposed beacon locations


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  • Justin Casanova-Davis
    published this page in Proposals (PB3) 2016-11-21 12:52:15 -0500
  • Justin Casanova-Davis
    published this page in Proposals (PB3) 2016-11-21 12:13:05 -0500