Pedestrian Flags

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The Pedestrian Flag (Pedflag) Program places orange or yellow flags at crosswalks to help pedestrians gain the attention of drivers. Below are answers to common questions about the program.

What is the purpose of the Pedflag program?

Pedestrian flags are intended to assist pedestrians in gaining the attention of motorists. Pedflags are not intended as a substitute for the vigilance and safe crossing techniques that pedestrians must use for crossing any street, whether it has crossing treatments or not. Read the Department of Public Works Pre-Approved Plans Policy R-22: Pedestrian Flag Program(PDF, 126KB).

How are Pedflags installed and maintained?

Pedflags are low-cost and can be installed in a timely manner. Department of Public Works staff attach the flag holders to an existing sign or utility pole near the ends of the crosswalk. If no pole is available, one is installed. Once installation is complete, the only ongoing cost is the replacement of the flags. Volunteers monitor, replace, and redistribute flags.

How are new Pedflags locations established?

Sometimes new Pedflags locations are initiated by Public Works staff. Typically, though, new Pedflag installations are initiated by a request from a citizen who is willing to volunteer to maintain the flags at a particular location. Public Works staff check the location to ensure that it meets the flag installation criteria.

What are the criteria for deciding if a crosswalk should have Pedflags?

  1. It is an existing marked crosswalk in Kirkland.
  2. The crosswalk is NOT controlled by any traffic control device, meaning a traffic signal, regulatory sign (Stop/Yield), or Rapid Flashing Beacon.
  3. A willing volunteer has been identified and approved to replace missing flags and redistribute flags as necessary.

How do I volunteer to keep Pedflag holders stocked with flags, and what are my duties?

To volunteer, contact David Gourlie at 425-387-3867 or Read the Pedflag guidelines(PDF, 193KB) for specific instructions on carrying out Pedflag duties.

How many Pedflag locations does Kirkland have?

As of 2019, Kirkland has over 90 crosswalks with Pedflags. Pedflag crossings can be found on streets which have two to four lanes of traffic and speed limits of 25 mph to 35 mph.

How did Pedestrian Flags get started in Kirkland?

Pedflags started in 1995 with four locations in the Central Business District as an attempt to improve pedestrian safety. It came in the wake of two pedestrian accidents in the fall of 1994. Both accidents were fatal accidents involving adults. A Kirkland resident saw a similar system in Japan and suggested it be used here.

Are pedestrian flags effective?

Most of the evidence gathered suggests that Pedflags are helpful in encouraging pedestrian safety. A report from the Transportation Research Board describes the performance of various pedestrian safety treatments, including pedestrian flags (see page 19 in this report from the Transportation Research Board).

Pedflags have become very popular in Kirkland. The consensus among the volunteers and frequent users of the flags is that they attract the attention of drivers sooner than when pedestrians are unaided. This has led many of them to be installed on crossings along school walk routes and popular pedestrian walking routes. The pedestrian flags are not intended as a substitute for the vigilance and safe crossing techniques that pedestrians must use for crossing any street, whether or not it has crossing treatments.

Why are some flags orange and some flags yellow?

At the start of the Pedflag program in 1995 we began with orange flags. In 2006, we hired a consultant to study how we could get more people to use flags. We used social marketing techniques to improve the system. The study involved interviewing people who did and did not use flags to understand why people were not using flags. The system was then redesigned using marketing principles to address these barriers.

According to the consultant’s report(PDF, 3MB), one barrier was that pedestrians didn't know what the flag was for. The countermeasure for this was a new flag style which echoes the pedestrian warning sign in color and symbol. Another barrier to usage was that sometimes there were not enough flags available. This resulted in the redesigned holder which can hold more flags.

What are some details about the flag holders?

Kirkland uses a variety of equipment styles for Pedflag holders. Our original holders are made from angle iron and steel tube and were fabricated by welding students at Lake Washington Institute of Technology. They are still in use in some locations outside of the Central Business District.

Our newest holders can be found in the CBD and elsewhere. They are PVC containers that have open tops which allow for easier access to the flags. They also allow a higher quantity of flags to be placed at crossings which have a higher volume of pedestrian traffic. These holders cannot be purchased online. They are fabricated in-house. See pictures of Kirkland’s Pedflag equipment(PDF, 2MB) for details on the flags and instructions for creating the holders.