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In conformance with Federal Highway Administration guidelines for pedestrian crosswalks in high-volume traffic areas, the City of Batavia installed devices called Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFB) at select crosswalks within city limits. These included crosswalks on Batavia Avenue at McKee Street, Union Avenue and Morton Street. RRFBs were also installed on IL. Route 25 at Laurel and Lathem Streets.
Feedback on the effectiveness of these types of crosswalks and public safety has been mixed at the local, regional and national level. That led the Federal Highway Administration to issue a memo in December, 2017 stating…”FHWA hereby rescinds IA-11 for all new installations of RRFB devices. Installed RRFBs may remain in service until the end of useful life of those devices and need not be removed.”
This recommendation impacts the City of Batavia in relation to an event that occurred on February 4, 2018 in which an RRFB installed at Batavia Avenue & Mckee street was destroyed by a motorist that lost control of their vehicle. The results were described by a Batavia police officer reporting on the incident:
“Tonight at 2008 hours, a yellow and black small Dodge pickup truck traveling northbound on Route 31 left the roadway, striking the metal pedestrian crossing sign as well as the pedestrian crossing light pole. The collision shattered the base of the pedestrian crossing light pole and ejected it from its mount.”
Given that the FHWA will no longer permit new RRFBs be installed and that no such structures should be replaced after the expiration of their useful life, the City of Batavia considers both of these criteria to have been met in relation to the RRFBs destroyed as a result of the February 4 incident.
Over the last two years, reports of near misses between vehicles and pedestrians at RRFB intersections in Batavia have made these locations a point of concern for staff, elected officials and residents in the City of Batavia. In January 2018, a Batavia resident filed a FOIA request asking for a report on the total number of pedestrian/vehicle incidents. Thirty-seven such incidents have occurred since 2012.
The FOIA report provided by the Batavia Police Department shows that 2015 was Batavia’s worst year for pedestrian/vehicle accidents, with 10 taking place that year. 2017 was the next most dangerous year with seven incidents. 2016 third with six, while both 2014 and 2013 saw five such incidents, and 2012 had four.
Since the RRFBs were installed, there have been three pedestrian/bicycle vehicle accidents at the McKee Street intersection. The first occurred on November 18, 2015 and took place between a vehicle and a person with a bicycle. On April 4, 2017, a report was made that a vehicle was forced to brake quickly due to pedestrians attempting to cross roadway, but no accident took place. The third incident occurred on June 6, 2016, in which pedestrians were not struck but attempted to rapidly enter the intersection. This caused a motorcyclist to brake suddenly and put down his cycle to avoid collision.
So the upward trend in traffic/pedestrian accidents and the increased frequency in traffic/pedestrian encounters at RRFB intersections, while not dramatic, does represent a cause for concern among city officials. In light of these issues, recommendations on the remaining RRFBs in Batavia are being assembled for consideration by the City Council.