The bright yellow in-street signs warning drivers to yield to pedestrians are back in crosswalks around town.
And this year, there are more.
The city Public Works Department installed five of the in-street pedestrian safety markers last week, the expansion of a pilot program begun last year in partnership with the Rapid City Police Department.
Areas receiving signs this year were Canyon Lake Drive at Dakota Drive, Canyon Lake Drive at the Canyon Lake Senior Center, Park Drive, Sheridan Lake Road at Fitzgerald Stadium and St. Joseph Street at Third Street.
City Engineer Dale Tech said the goal of the in-street signs is to lower speeds and increase driver awareness around busy pedestrian crossings. State law requires drivers to yield to pedestrians within crosswalks.
“It’s a perception by the driver,” Tech said. “Anytime you’ve got something in the road, it’s traffic calming. People will instinctively slow down because they see something there.”
A recent city report showed that Rapid City’s rate of pedestrian accidents was more than double the rate of the entire state of South Dakota.
According to the report from the Rapid City Metropolitan Planning Organization, there were 200 injury accidents involving pedestrians in Rapid City between 2002 and 2011, nine of which resulted in fatalities.
On average, 47.4 percent of the accidents were the fault of the driver and 43.1 percent the fault of the pedestrian.
The new signs are a continuation of efforts begun last year, Tech said. Police officials and city staff worked together to identify priority areas.
The first sign to be installed last year was near the Pennington County Courthouse at St. Joseph Street and Third Street and more were added as the summer progressed, he said.
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The signs were taken out last fall, though, so they would not be damaged by snow plows during the winter. Each sign costs about $250, Tech said.
“Typically, when they get hit by a car, they are no good, and they have to be replaced,” Tech said. “They do get hit.”
So far, the feedback from pedestrians has been good, he said.
This year, the city also hopes to install a sign on East St. Joseph Street at Birch Avenue near the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. For now, it is waiting for the road work related to the construction of student apartments to wrap up, Tech said.
Laurie Wager, for one, is glad to see the signs back up.
Wager works at the Pennington County Courthouse and crosses St. Joseph Street at Third Street every day to get to her parking spot.
“The signs make a huge difference. It’s almost embarrassing,” Wager said. “When they’re not there, maybe one-third to one-half of the cars will respect the people crossing in the crosswalk. Once they are there, it’s 75 percent to 100 percent.”
As she crossed Tuesday afternoon, she paused for a few moments at the intersection before stepping into the road. A car in the lane closest to her flew by without stopping.
But once she was in the crosswalk, all three lanes of traffic hit the brakes well before reaching her.
“You still have to be careful,” Wager said. “Even if the first two stop, there could always be the third one that doesn’t.”
Contact Emilie Rusch at 394-8453 or email@example.com.