CDOT’s “Fred Estrian” Cartoons Won’t Save People From Its Deadly Streets

From Colorado DOT — the same state roads agency that brought you Hank, the lovable idiot who blamed pedestrians for getting hit by drivers, and then promptly axed the tone-deaf campaign — comes a brand new way to not die while crossing the street: “Fred Estrian.” Get it?

Fred Estrian is the face of CDOT’s newest ad campaign. He’s an animated version of the walk signal guy. Here’s how the agency sees Fred:

Fred Estrian has lived trapped inside a small box. His dream is to break free from his confines and do something more to protect the lives of Colorado’s pedestrians. Eventually he does bust out of his caged existence and interacts with the humans he loves so much.

When Fred Estrian sees something he doesn’t like — pedestrians crossing against a signal, speeding drivers, or drivers failing to yield to pedestrians — he cops an attitude and jumps out of the signal box to confront the guilty party. “Clichés and metaphors aren’t gonna cut it,” the cartoon character says in one of three videos released today. “If I really want to protect pedestrians, I need to get out there.”

Our hero.

The videos that currently comprise the campaign are just teasers for the main event: A real, live, human dressed as Fred Estrian who will stand at intersections and do stuff to “educate pedestrians and drivers.”

What Fred Estrian won’t do is build safe crosswalks or calm traffic on CDOT’s urban highways that dangerously rush cars through neighborhoods. That’s really unfortunate, because designing streets to slow down drivers and accommodate walking would save more lives than a guy in a costume telling people how to properly cross the street and yield to pedestrians.

Hey, Fred! If the notion of pedestrians in danger really boils your blood, you should talk to your employer. Did you know that even on the rare block where signalized crosswalks exist on West Colfax (aka Colorado Route 40), people walking have to bow to speeding cars anyway? It’s true. According to a study of the strip between Federal Boulevard and Sheridan Boulevard [PDF], pedestrians have to wait an average of 40 seconds to cross the street. That’s a failing grade. From the study:

Based on [level of service] criteria presented in the Highway Capacity Manual 2000… this amount of delay is at the threshold between LOS D and E, which results in a high level of non‐compliance because pedestrians often cross against the signal or decide to cross at unsignalized (midblock) locations, putting themselves at further risk of conflicts with vehicles.

Oh man, Fred Estrian. It sounds like CDOT built a street purely for speeding cars, and instead of redesigning the street for safety, the agency expects you to clean up its mess with a quick campaign. You represent the same old CDOT mentality: Build a street conducive to traffic fatalities and serious injuries, then try to market your way out of it. It’s a shame you hate clichés so much, Fred, because you are one.

  • TakeFive

    CDOT has to be one of the worst funded agencies in the country. They’re hardly able to keep roads drivable.

    Following the most recent release by US DOT in July 2015, Business Insider reported the good news: Colorado is tied for 6th worst roads in the country.

    Two other states with similar growth, Washington and Georgia last year passed fuel and/or other taxes/fees to raise an additional $billion per year. Many states have raised their gas taxes over the last 2/3 years. In Colorado it’s….. crickets.

    Where I now reside (Phoenix) has the best metro freeway system in the country (per multiple sources). Their light rail line has great ridership. A year ago August, City of Phoenix voters passed a 7/10 sales tax increase to raise $30 billion to pay for 1,080 miles of new bike lanes, 135 miles of new sidewalks, 680 miles of resurfaced streets plus Increase bus frequency by 70% and triple the miles covered by light rail.

    You want nice (safe) things? Find a way to fund them. That’s how things get done.

    • MT

      Funding is not CDOT’s problem. It’s what they spend the funds on that matters.
      Widening roads and producing cartoons is not making anything safer.

      • TakeFive

        Perhaps if you asked the people in Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Alamosa, Pagosa Springs, Durango, Montrose and Meeker they might have a different view.

        • MT

          They would think wider roads and more cartoons make things safer?

        • MT

          Seriously though, most often I hear from people outside of Denver that they would prefer CDOT fix potholes in those places before spending billions to widen highways in Denver. I’m inclined to agree with that.

        • neroden

          Fort Collins has been asking for rail service for decades, and all they get is more highway expansions from the Colorado Department of Expressways (I mean Transportation).

          So, no. I happen to know what they want in Fort Collins and Pueblo. Yeah, Colorado Springs may believe in asphalt-worship, but not the rest of the state.

    • TakeFive

      It is nice to see where out of a record 84 nominated projects across the country CDOT has two of the final 12 finalists for national Grand Prize and the People’s Choice Award. Per ForConstructionPros.com 9/12/16:
      “Colorado Department of Transportation: Best Use of Innovation category, medium project group: I-70 Mountain Express Lane project. Under Budget category, medium project group: This project replaced six obsolete bridges along US 6 in Denver.”

      • MT

        The fact that this giant canyon of concrete wins awards is the problem.

  • Cat

    You know, I ride the Sanderson Gulch bike trail regularly, which crosses Federal near Mexico. There’s a dedicated signal there for pedestrians, but seriously, it can take several minutes to get a walk signal… standing there waiting while you watch the traffic signals both north and south go through several cycles, it’s a total joke. And virtually every time I’m there waiting for the light, I witness either a pedestrian or a cyclist taking matters into their own hands and dodging traffic to get across. Honestly, I just can’t fathom the mindset which somehow holds that the lives of people on foot or bikes are so meaningless that it’s not worth holding up traffic for a few seconds to give them a safe way to cross. I dearly hope that some of this will be addressed with the upcoming Federal Blvd redesign.

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