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.

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