Change in traffic light pattern aimed at avoiding accidents
Belfast — Motorists and pedestrians passing through the High and Main Street intersection may have noticed an occasional delay in the time it takes for the traffic lights to change from red to green.
That delay, said Belfast Police Chief Mike McFadden, is due to a deliberate change in the light pattern that the department initiated in the hopes of reducing the risk of car-pedestrian accidents at that busy intersection.
"Because of the increased traffic downtown and the increase in pedestrians, we've had a number of close calls," said the chief.
McFadden said the change has been in effect for a couple of weeks.
Prior to the change, pedestrians who wanted to cross the street would press the button that operates the walk signal, a signal that would activate when the lights were red to the traffic on the street the pedestrian wanted to cross.
"If there was a green light on Main Street, people would be able to cross High Street," said McFadden.
But because the light was green on the opposite street, McFadden said traffic turning either right or left still ran the risk of colliding with pedestrians who were crossing on the walk signal. There have been several instances where vehicles have had near-misses with people who were crossing at that intersection, and McFadden said the department decided to take action sooner rather than later.
"It was happening frequently enough so that we wanted to address it," said McFadden.
Now if a pedestrian hits one of the buttons to activate the walk signal, McFadden said, the lights will cycle through a whole rotation. Then when one street green to red, all of the lights on all four sides of the intersection will remain red for about 20 seconds.
"That will allow people to cross on all four sides of the intersection," McFadden said.
Since the change, McFadden said he's seen traffic backing up as far as Beaver Street on Main Street hill and as far down the hill as Pendleton Lane, but there has yet to be any adverse impacts on any of the other nearby intersections.
McFadden said the short delay in the lights will only occur when a pedestrian hits the button to activate the walk signal.
"We're testing it out to see how it works, but the additional 20-second wait hasn't created a situation that I think warrants changing it back to the way we were doing it," said McFadden. "We felt we had to do something there before somebody gets hit."