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Crosswalk in San Luis Obispo causing confusion among drivers

touchless crosswalk.PNG
Posted at 5:39 PM, Sep 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-12 20:44:03-04

San Luis Obispo residents say crossing the street at Broad and Woodbridge is a risky activity.

"Everybody loses their mind here," said Steven Robinow, San Luis Obispo resident.

"I thought I'd be better protected but I'm not," said Kevin Sargent, San Luis Obispo resident.

"This is a very dangerous intersection in a way because cars don't obey. They don't stop where they're supposed to. They don't stop and when it goes flashing red no one knows what to do," said Robinow.

"We're still not safe. We need something to be done ASAP about this or one of us is gonna get squished," said Sargent.

Though the traffic rules are standard the crosswalk is foreign looking to many drivers.

"The difficulties with the intersection are the complexity of the lights. Flashing yellow, flashing red. If you're coming across Woodbridge there's this crazy sign that no one's seen before," said Robinow.

When someone wants to cross the street the pedestrian traffic beacon sequence starts off with a flashing yellow light.

"A flashing yellow is cautionary, so you're allowed to go through the intersection when it's safe to do so," said Jeff Booth, San Luis Obispo Police Department Traffic Sergeant.

It then switches to a solid red light, which means a driver must come to a complete stop.

The solid red only lasts for a short period of time and then switches to a flashing red light.

"A flashing red light at an intersection is considered a stop sign, so you stop at the intersection, and then you can proceed when it's safe to do so," said Booth.

If someone is still crossing the street cars need to continue to wait at a complete stop.

However, many people are confused by the flashing lights and do not follow the rules of the road.

"A simple light that works like every other light on the planet would be fine," said Robinow.

...But installing a traffic light is no easy task.

There is a set of state-level engineering standards called warrants that the city of San Luis Obispo must meet in order to legally install traffic lights.

And traffic lights require a specific volume of traffic to be installed.

"...and at this location, we just weren't at the level where we could legally install a traffic signal. This type of device has a lower threshold in terms of how many people need to be crossing," said Luke Schwartz, City of San Luis Obispo Transportation Manager.

City Transportation Manager, Luke Schwartz, says the pedestrian hybrid beacon was the only available option.

"The long-term plan is for this location's volume to get higher with time and to convert it to a full traffic signal when we hit the thresholds that we need to," said Schwartz.

Schwartz says that plan largely depends on the city's budget.

"At the point in time when we can fund the median on Broad Street it would limit the number of places where people can make left turns so it would shift some of the left turn movements to this location," said Schwartz.

The shift in traffic would likely increase traffic volume enough to satisfy the warrant and convert the crosswalk to a traffic light.

The design of the pedestrian hybrid beacon mimics a traffic light so that it can be easily converted when the volume of traffic has reached a satisfactory level.

Schwartz says they do not have an eta on the construction of the traffic light but it will likely be shortly after the median receives enough funding for construction. It will likely be several years from now. The next budget update is in June of 2023.

The San Luis Obispo Police Department has increased patrol near all of the hybrid beacons in the city of San Luis Obispo, especially hybrid beacons near schools.