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Tuesday, November 04, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Pedestrians flag safety with bright new device
By Susan Gilmore
With cars whizzing by, Lester Goldstein pulled out an orange plastic sign folded in his coat pocket and unfurled it.
Gingerly he stepped into the Capitol Hill intersection, waving the sign that reads "Stop For Me, It's The Law." The cars slowed and stopped.
"With the flag, 90 percent of the cars will stop," said Goldstein, a retired biology professor who lives in Wallingford.
Most motorists don't, even though state law requires them to halt to allow pedestrians to cross at intersections. That's why Goldstein, 79, designed the orange sign. Unfolded, it's 12 inches by 12 inches. Folded up, it's small enough to fit in a pocket.
Feet First, an advocacy group for pedestrians to which Goldstein belongs, has produced 500 of the flags for distribution.
Some cities, including Kirkland, have installed larger signs that pedestrians can use to stop traffic. But they are located at only a few intersections and are frequently stolen.
"Everyone has experienced standing at the edge of the street waiting for an endless line of cars to pass," said David Levinger, Feet First's president.
As an experiment the group conducted a "step-off" test to judge the likelihood of cars yielding to pedestrians. It found as few as 7 percent did.
Often, pedestrians have to step into the street to get cars to stop; with Goldstein's flag they can extend it into the street before stepping off the curb, Levinger said.
Feet First is aware of no other cities that have offered similar portable signs.
"There are more than 80 pedestrian fatalities a year in the state," Levinger said, adding that there are an additional 400 injury accidents involving pedestrians.
Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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