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Orange flags arrived in Chevy Chase to great media fanfare in 2005. Inspired by a similar program in Salt Lake City, area residents had lobbied the city for buckets of the flags at two intersections on Connecticut Avenue NW to help pedestrians safely cross from Safeway to Child’s Play or the American City Diner.
For two years, people pranced and danced and twirled their flags in the face of oncoming cars, and the traffic mostly slowed down for them (except for one poor soul who was hit during a blizzard while carrying the flag). But when the flags disappeared this year from the intersection of Connecticut and Morrison Streets NW, no one called a press conference. Indeed, even some longtime Chevy Chase residents apparently didn’t notice that in March, the city replaced the flags with a bona fide streetlight equipped with a pedestrian call button.
George Branyan, the pedestrian program coordinator for the District Department of Transportation, says he’s seen several people just walk out into traffic, oblivious to the new signal.
On the other hand, a vocal minority of Chevy Chase folks has complained to his office that the light is causing backups and forcing cars onto side streets. But Branyan won’t be bringing back the flags. Instead, the city will work out the hiccups with the light in the coming months.
“I personally am not a big fan of the flags,” Branyan says. “I just don’t think you should have to wave a flag to cross a street.” Those who preferred the flags with their street crossings can still find them two blocks north, at Connecticut and Northampton Streets, at least for now.