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A Heads Up from the Crossing Guards of Downtown Rochester

Pedestrian Safety Week is not “sexy.” It’s not like Thursdays on First & 3rd or SocialICE or any of the other entertaining events that Downtown Rochester is best known for. But the absence of bands, production, and vendors doesn't make the subject any less important.

Heads Up! Pedestrian Safety Week was a completely new undertaking for the Rochester Downtown Alliance (RDA), and, as with any new program, we received an incredible amount of feedback and learned a lot. Due to a limited budget, the inability to hang banners across the streets, or drastically change infrastructure, we had to get creative about how to communicate targeted safety messages to both pedestrians and drivers Downtown. Efforts include:

  • Hanging 80 corrugated signs at 12 major intersections and three traffic corridors Downtown;
  • Distributing 5,000 coffee sleeves at Bravo Espresso and Café Steam locations for the week;
  • Partnering with Lanier Parking to hang banners at the parking ramp exits Downtown;
  • Distributing 1,000 postcards with safety statistics for both pedestrians and motorists;
  • Hanging 150 posters at Rochester area businesses;
  • Partnering with Townsquare Media to reach drivers via four of their local radio stations; and
  • Spray painting safety messaging on Downtown sidewalks and corridors.

One of our most successful methods of promotion and information gathering was the volunteer crossing guards at the intersection of 1st Avenue and 2nd Street SW in Downtown Rochester. Over the course of the week, we recruited 40 community leaders and volunteers to accompany pedestrians across the street from 7:30am – 8:30am and 4:30 – 5:30pm daily. Aside from a handful of frustrated comments or honks, pedestrians were grateful to the volunteers for this service, shared personal stories, and asked for efforts to continue.

Read on for insights from volunteers about their crossing guard shifts:

“There were a lot of impatient people who honked their horn at me but also a lot of gracious people who genuinely said, ‘thank you, thank you.’ One lady I walked with said she was hit in this very crosswalk last year.”

“It was really eye opening. A lot of people mentioned how much they appreciated being able to walk across the street safely.”

“As a person who walks to work every day, this program made a difference as there have been times that I have felt unsafe.”

“A lot of people seemed really grateful and said thank you, because they know this is a dangerous area. For drivers this adds an extra layer of visibility - an increased awareness that this is Pedestrian Safety Week and to be aware and keep your head up. This was a great experience.”

“A lot of people thanked me. Which I think shows pedestrian safety, while some people don’t think about it, is a priority.”

“It can be hard for everyone to look up from their phones, but it’s on both pedestrians and motorists to follow rules and be aware of their surroundings. Downtown is a busy place. There is a lot of energy and a lot of fun, but in order to keep that all going we have to be safe.”

“We would all be a lot safer if people allowed themselves the necessary time to slow down and pay attention to their surroundings. It was a great experience, and people were very appreciative of the effort.”

Thank you to all of our volunteers and partners for their time and effort into Heads Up! campaign. The conversation about pedestrian safety will continue and the RDA plans to meet with our partners to share the stories, feedback, and observations gathered from the week. We also thank the community for sticking with us and hope that the Heads Up! campaign starts a conversation of changes on a city level, and for both pedestrian and motorist behaviors in the Downtown community.