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Walkers given head start in downtown: San Mateo installs traffic signals with lead pedestrian interval
June 15, 2016, 05:00 AM By Samantha Weigel Daily Journal

Whether you’re there for work, eating out or going to see a movie, those walking around downtown San Mateo will be given a leg up on traffic after the city installed new traffic signals that provide extra time for people crossing the streets on foot.

Between its green streets, sustainable streets, pedestrian and bicycle master plans; the city has conducted significant outreach over the last few years as it seeks to enhance safety — particularly in its bustling downtown where the highest concentration of pedestrians are located.

The new upgrade provides pedestrians with an extra between three- and seven-second head start while the lights remain red for vehicular traffic in all directions. It’s known as a “lead pedestrian interval” and intended to make pedestrians more visible to motorists by allowing them time to get closer to the center of the crosswalk instead of stepping off the curb as the light also turns green for vehicles, according to the city.

The upgraded infrastructure is a key component to San Mateo’s 2012-council approved Pedestrian Master Plan, according to the city.

“Having this safeguard in downtown is critical to enhancing pedestrian safety,” Senior Engineer Tracy Scramaglia said in a press release. “Not only does downtown San Mateo have the highest amount of pedestrian activity, it also has greatest concentration of pedestrian to motor vehicle collisions. Providing pedestrians with extra time will help to reduce future accidents.”

The 25 new controllers as well as the necessary operational software was purchased with the help of a $200,000 grant San Mateo received from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. It used the remainder of the grant awarded for pedestrian and bicycle improvements including the purchase and installation of bike racks at city facilities that coincided with the launch of the city’s bike share program, according to the release.

Drivers, as well as bicyclists who are required to follow vehicular traffic laws, can expect a few extra seconds between the lights changing to allow pedestrians to make it further into the crosswalk where they’re more visible, according to the release.

The city hopes to ease traffic congestion by supporting alternate means of transportation instead of driving to downtown where parking can be difficult during peak hours and evenings. But officials noted this particular improvement is geared toward pedestrians.

“Cycling is a viable way to get around San Mateo, and we encourage people to use their bikes as an alternative to driving,” Traffic Sgt. Shannon Hagan said in the release. “Cyclists must yield to pedestrians and obey the traffic lights.”

Setting up lead pedestrian intervals around downtown is expected to help the city move closer to Vision Zero — a city-adopted goal and national safety program striving to create street and highway systems that have no vehicle-related fatalities or serious injuries.

“The installation of [lead pedestrian interval] is a significant accomplishment for San Mateo and will have an immediate impact on improving pedestrian safety and mobility,” Engineering Manager Gary Heap said in the release. “Pedestrians should feel comfortable walking in downtown San Mateo and this project greatly enhances their ability to safely cross the street.”

Visit for more information about the city’s pedestrian and bicycle master plans.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106



Tags: pedestrian, pedestrians, downtown, traffic, mateo, release,

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