There’s a new pop culture icon on the scene. His name is Fred Estrian, and he’s the brainchild of the Colorado Department of Transportation. Fred, whose full name, as you may have noticed, rhymes with pedestrian, is both an animated character appearing in new public service videos, as Tom McGhee writes for The Denver Post, and an actual figure who will be appearing starting today [Tuesday] at select intersections.
CDOT invented Fred Estrian to help educate drivers and pedestrians about the importance of obeying pedestrian laws. The safety campaign will emphasize using crosswalks, will encourage pedestrians to avoid crossing in the middle of the block, and will urge drivers to be extra alert when approaching a crosswalk. The department notes that in 2015, 59 pedestrians lost their lives because of crashes in Colorado. There were 1,330 pedestrian accidents in Colorado in 2015, and 72 percent of them occurred away from intersections.
Walk Signal Man
Fred Estrian is modeled after the “classic walk signal man” the generic figure that appears on crosswalk lights when it is safe to cross the street. McGhee quotes Sam Cole, CDOT’s Communications Manager, as saying that the animated character is “a lighthearted way to begin a conversation about a serious subject.”
CDOT’s animated videos portray Fred as someone who has spent his life trapped in a small box, the crosswalk signal. His dream is to break free and do more to help pedestrians to stay safe. As the department writes, “Eventually he does bust out of his caged existence and interacts with the humans he loves so much. CDOT’s 15- and 30-second animated shorts highlight Fred’s escape and some of the major factors that play a role in pedestrian fatalities.”
Meeting the Safety Icon
You can meet him in person from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. at Denver Union Station, and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Colfax & Broadway, in Denver. Someone dressed as Fred will interact with drivers and pedestrians. The intersections he visits will eventually include ones outside schools, events, and just about anywhere there are a lot of pedestrians crossing the street.
Cole says CDOT literally wanted to think outside the box in creating this campaign. The department is focusing on digital messaging to get the word out, with a mixture of “earned, paid, social, and ambient media strategies.” It will also feature water-soluble stencil art at crosswalks, intersections, and what it calls transitional areas such as parking garages. The stencil art provides important information and safety tips for drivers and pedestrians in metro Denver.
In 2015, there were six pedestrians killed in crashes in El Paso County, all of them in Colorado Springs, Rachel Riley writes for The Gazette. In 2014, that county was the site of five pedestrian fatalities. She quotes CDOT’s Cole:
In general, people need to be extra-vigilant at busy intersections. But this is also on drivers to use more caution around the pedestrians, slow down, and stay off their phones.
Cole told The Gazette that this time of year is more dangerous for pedestrians, as the risk of accidents increases as daylight hours decrease. He urges people not to jaywalk, because there are drivers who are not paying attention to the road. The best safety advice for those who walk is to always cross at an intersection, Cole said.