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Enhancing Pedestrian Safety- Lessons Learned from Calgary’s RRFB Pilot


Pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users in transportation system. In 2013, Calgary
witnessed 348 casualty (fatal and injury) collisions involving pedestrians. Accommodation of
pedestrians at crosswalks in a safe and interactive manner has always been a great challenge.
Amid the growing use of Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs) in the United States
after FHWA approval (FHWA, 2008), there has been a significant amount of research conducted
on the effectiveness of this device and technical specifications. However, there is very limited
information in the Canadian context simply because of the lack of use of this device in Canada.
The City of Calgary provided a research platform by piloting these devices at eight locations in
2012 to evaluate motorists’ yielding behavior to pedestrians and the reliability of RRFB’s solar
powered battery system in Canadian weather. Following the encouraging study results presented
to the City Council, Calgary decided to expand the RRFB installation to 25 locations by 2015.
In tune with the ‘Vulnerable Road User Safety Strategy’; one of the 11 strategies identified in
Calgary Safer Mobility Plan 2013-2017, this device is expected to help in reducing pedestrian
related collisions at crosswalks. Before-after studies conducted within the City for RRFB devices
indicated that the level of motorists’ yield compliance to pedestrians increased significantly at
pedestrian crossings from lower to mid 80% to over 95% in most cases.
It was concluded that given the significantly lower installation cost (approximately 1/3rd)
compared to overhead flashers and yet similar results on yield compliance by motorists, this
device could provide a cost-effective solution to improve pedestrian safety at crosswalks (both
intersections and mid-block locations). The rapid flashing pattern of RRFBs appears to be very
effective in catching driver’s attention thereby increasing motorists’ yield compliance to
pedestrians at crosswalks. Increased yield compliance at significantly low cost provides an
opportunity to overcome budget constraints. Versatile nature of this device with options to power
by solar batteries or by connecting to permanent power grid provides a perfect opportunity to use
this device in various climatic conditions, especially in Canadian context.
This paper presents the results of the before-after studies, lessons learned on the performance,
powering the device and next steps for the use of this device. With the recent TAC approval of
RRFB as a traffic control device, this device is expected to be used widely across Canada once
the warrant process has been established.

Conference Paper Details

Session title:
Innovative Applications of Traffic Control Devices for Safer Pedestrian and Cyclist Mobility
Mishra, S.
Iwaskow, G.
Domarad, J.