Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons Near a NJ Rail Station: Elmwood Park and Fairlawn Boroughs

Elmwood Park, New Jersey
Source: Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC)


Pedestrians found it difficult to cross a four-lane highway at an uncontrolled crossing between a commuter parking lot and a train station.


Route 4 before installation of the RRFB.

New Jersey Route 4 (Broadway Avenue) is a 4-lane highway through the Boroughs of Elmwood Park and Fairlawn. A NJ Transit rail station, Broadway Station, is located on the north side of Route 4 near East 55th Street in Fairlawn Borough. East 55th Street, a local roadway and the site of an 80-space commuter parking lot, forms a t-intersection with Route 4 from the south in Elmwood Park Borough. The parking lot generates many of the pedestrian trips crossing Route 4 to access the rail station, with other commuters traveling from the large residential neighborhood on the south side of Route 4. Commuters are also dropped off along the shoulder of Route 4 in an informal "kiss 'n' ride" arrangement, or by local bus routes. Pedestrian counts in 2008 indicated crossing volumes of 85 pedestrians from 6 to 9 AM and 58 pedestrians from 4 to 7 p.m.

The speed limit of Route 4 is 35 mi/h and the roadway is heavily trafficked, with an average daily traffic volume of 39,490. There are two 11-ft lanes and a 10-ft shoulder in each direction. The roadway is divided, with a 10-ft wide grass median to the west of East 55th Street and a 10-ft wide raised concrete barrier to the east. Route 4 is unsignalized at East 55th Street. Standard crosswalks were marked across Route 4 on the west leg of this intersection, and signage was inconsistent, with both pedestrian warning signs and school crossing signs present. Pedestrians traveling from the parking lot to the train station had to travel well out of their way to cross Route 4 at a signalized intersection, located 620 ft away in either direction.

The study area in June 2010, with the platform of Broadway Station just north of Route 4 and commuter parking along East 55th Street to the south of Route 4.

Elmwood Park officials met with the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) and requested that a traffic signal be installed due to the difficulty of crossing the roadway. A field investigation confirmed the problem, but the signal warrants to install a traffic signal were not met.


The New Jersey Department of Tranpsortation (NJDOT) installed a Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon (RRFB) on each side of Route 4 in June 2011, about 20 ft in advance of the crosswalk on the westbound side of Route 4, and about 50 ft in advance of the crosswalk on the eastbound side. Each installation consisted of a fluorescent yellow-green pedestrian warning sign (W11-2), a two-section beacon, and a downward-pointing arrow sign (W16-7P). The mounted signs and beacons faced both directions, and high-visibility crosswalk markings were installed. Following activation of the RRFB by a pedestrian, the yellow lights flashed in an alternating pattern.


Activated RRFB on Route 4.

A pedestrian count was conducted before installation of the RRFB on August 11, 2009 during the morning peak period (6 to 9 am) and the evening peak period (4 to 7 pm). A count after installation was conducted on June 14, 2012 during the same time periods. Table 1 summarizes pedestrian behavior before and after installation, and Table 2 summarizes motorist behavior. A group of pedestrians moving together was classified as one "crossing event," as was the movement of individual pedestrians. Because Route 4 is divided, the movement of pedestrians across each direction of Route 4 was treated as a distinct interaction, and every pedestrian trip across Route 4 was thus counted as two pedestrian crossing events.

An "unconflicted crossing" occurred when a pedestrian or group of pedestrians crossed the roadway when no motorists were present; every other crossing was referred to as a "conflicted crossing." As indicated in Table 1, the percentage of crossings that were unconflicted decreased after installation of the RRFB in both the morning and evening periods. This change coincided with an increase in the number of pedestrian crossing events, from 136 to 142 in the morning period and 86 to 106 in the evening period. The increase in pedestrian crossing events between the two counts may reflect the different dates; the first count was conducted in early August, a time more popular for vacation than mid-June. However, the increase may also indicate that a greater number of pedestrians felt comfortable crossing Route 4 at this location.

Most important, as indicated in Table 1, was the large increase in the number of pedestrians that were able to cross Route 4 following a stop by motorists. This percentage increased from 2.2 to 52.8 percent in the morning period and 2.3 to 35.8 percent in the evening period. Correspondingly, the percentage of pedestrians choosing to wait for a gap in traffic fell from 35.3 to 10.6 percent in the morning and 47.7 to 40.6 percent in the evening. The percentage of pedestrians who hurried to avoid vehicles fell from 13.5 to 8.5 percent in the morning and 10.5 to 1.9 percent in the evening.

Table 1. Pedestrian Behavior Before and After Installation of RRFB
Pedestrian Crossing Events: Conflicted CrossingsA.M. BeforeA.M. AfterP.M. BeforeP.M. After
Crossed after vehicle stopped375238
Waited or aborted48154143
Hurried or went around vehicle171292


Table 2. Motorist Behavior Before and After Installation of RRFB
Motorist Behavior: Conflicted CrossingsA.M. BeforeA.M. AfterP.M. BeforeP.M. After
Full stop375238
Slowed or changed lanes2060
No stop63274445

Viewing these crossings from the perspective of motorist behavior, Table 2 indicates that the percentage of crossing events involving a full stop by motorists grew from 4.4 to 73.5 percent in the morning period and from 3.8 to 45.8 percent in the evening period. Motorists were less likely to stop for pedestrians in the evening, perhaps due to the higher traffic volumes during that period. In the morning period, there were 3,501 eastbound vehicles and 2,193 westbound vehicles. In the evening, there were 4,017 eastbound vehicles and 4,447 westbound vehicles.

It should be noted that the term "full stop" does not necessarily indicate that the first motorist in an approaching platoon stopped at the crosswalk. Rather, this indicates only that motorists eventually stopped during the desired crossing event by the pedestrian(s). Given the speed limit of 35 mi/h, the first set of motorists in an approaching platoon would not necessarily be expected to immediately stop upon activation of the flashing lights, and this was borne out through an analysis of yielding behavior of all motorists. During the morning period, following activation of the RRFB, a statistical median of two motorists drove through the crosswalk before the first motorist stopped for the waiting pedestrian. During the evening period, a median of three motorists drove through the crosswalk before the first motorist stopped.

Although the RRFB was successful in increasing the number of stopping motorists, pedestrians must still apply caution in crossing at these locations because a certain percentage of motorists do not stop. This point was reinforced during the field views conducted for this study. A group of schoolchildren was observed walking their bikes from south to north across Route 4. Waiting in the median, they began to cross the westbound roadway when the approaching motorist in the inner lane stopped. However, the motorist in the outer lane failed to see the crossing group and drove through the crosswalk, hitting the bicycle of the lead pedestrian and knocking it out of her hands. Although the pedestrian was unhurt and the bicycle undamaged, this incident indicates that the possibility of a multiple threat crash is present on multilane roadways.

Additional improvements, including curb extensions and stop bars, are being investigated to further enhance safety.


Sheree J. Davis
State Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator
New Jersey Department of Transportation
Office of Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs
1035 Parkway Avenue
Trenton, NJ 08625-0600
Phone: (609) 530-6551

Back to Search Results