Downtown Fredericksburg is a lovely place to walk, which increases its quality of life, the health of its small businesses, and its property values. But it is less safe to walk Fredericksburg’s streets during the winter months, because the City has a policy of removing the reflective “Stop for Pedestrian” signs marking crosswalks at many of our city streets during the winter months.
These signs, which are a critical piece of the city’s pedestrian safety infrastructure, are bolted into the asphalt along the center line and provide visual cues for drivers to slow down at intersections. These reflective signs were introduced in response to community concerns about speeding and pedestrian safety, and have become widespread across the City in the last decade. There are currently 23 signs in regular use, including three where the Heritage Trail and Canal Path intersect streets.
The flexible plastic signs are naturally exposed to damage by vehicles. The City’s Public Works department estimates that they replace 16-18 safety signs between April and November each year. New signs are purchased for roughly $250 apiece, resulting in an overall expenditure of $4,500 per year, labor not included. (The Public Works department’s annual budget is roughly $10 million during the current budget cycle).
The City of Fredericksburg has an ongoing policy of removing the signs between December and March, fully a third of every year, to create easier passage for snow plows, whose 10- and 12-foot wide blades frequently clip the signs as they navigate the streets. Public Works estimated that snow plows were deployed 5 to 8 times during the winter of 2020-21, which at 12” of accumulation was an average snowfall winter for Fredericksburg.
|Fred15’s Take: The City of Fredericksburg should keep our “Stop for Pedestrian” signs in place this winter. Other cities, like Kalamazoo, Michigan, have taken this critical step. Public Works can track the costs and resources necessary to maintain the signs over winter, and report the results back to City Council next year. This data keeping will help the City better evaluate the costs and benefits of this program moving forward.
Here are some reasons why we should keep our Stop for Pedestrian signs in place this winter:
- “Stop for Pedestrians” signs improve visibility at intersections, which makes our streets safer for both drivers and pedestrians
- The winter months have reduced daylight hours, which decreases pedestrian visibility and makes visibility extra important
- Many of the signs protect crosswalks used by children, near parks and schools
- Increased visibility and driver awareness protects private property including parked cars
- The costs of ongoing sign replacement and maintenance appear to be modest
Here are some potential strategies for achieving cost-savings while retaining the benefits of the signs:
- Utilize narrower snow plow blades on streets with high concentrations of signs
- Train snow plow drivers to avoid the signs as they plow
- Remove the signs prior to snowfall events
- Evaluate whether the City’s sign shop can fabricate the signs in house at lower cost