New crosswalk safety measures in question

Nicholas Paulson

Due to increased concern over pedestrian safety on the College Avenue crosswalks, the City of Appleton is considering replacing the crosswalks in front of the conservatory and Plantz Hall with a single crosswalk in front of the chapel. This new crosswalk would have a pedestrian operated stoplight.

This would — in the opinion of campus authorities — significantly disrupt foot traffic in the area as the proposed location for the new crosswalk does not align with any of the current walking paths on campus. Visiting Professor of Education Robert Beck noted, “The city’s option, [the administration] felt, was not a viable approach to improving the safety of pedestrians.”

In order to prevent the congestion caused by the current crosswalks and construction of a new crosswalk, Director of Research Administration William Skinner and Beck are conducting a safety study with the help of several Lawrence students.

The study, beginning in the upcoming weeks, will explore how long it takes drivers to slow down once a pedestrian enters the crosswalk at various times of day and in different weather conditions. This portion of the study will continue until the summer of 2011 when the new safety features will be installed.

In-roadway warning lights will be installed on both of the current crosswalks. When a pedestrian enters the crosswalk, the lights will be tripped and begin flashing. Lights such as these have been shown to be effective in alerting drivers to individuals crossing the streets, particularly at night.

In addition, the current signs marking the crosswalks will be replaced with signs equipped with amber lights that will also flash when pedestrians enter the crosswalk.

Should the study demonstrate that these new crosswalk features improve the pedestrian safety to a level deemed acceptable to the city of Appleton, the crosswalks will remain as they are currently.

Skinner and Beck stressed safe pedestrian etiquette as well, encouraging students to look both ways before crossing streets and to cross in groups. They noted the campus’ large number of out of state students who may not be familiar with Wisconsin driving culture. Skinner noted that “many people, particularly new students, aren’t aware of Wisconsin state law with regard to crosswalks. [Drivers] don’t need to yield until you enter the crosswalk [and] it’s illegal for a vehicle to overtake a stopped or yielded [vehicle] in the other lane.”

The Class of 2015 received information regarding crosswalk safety at the start of the term, and there will be repeated efforts throughout the school year to educate campus. Said Beck, “We’re hoping to change the pedestrian culture on campus so that everyone is aware of the proper behavior while crossing.”

Skinner and Beck are hopeful that these new initiatives will begin a discussion of proper crosswalk etiquette. They encourage any students with information that may be useful to the study — such as stories about encounters with drivers or opinions on the issue of crosswalk safety — to contact them.