Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Crosswalk in the spotlight
By ANNE KAZMIERCZAK
Iola Police Chief Jared Warner just wants people to be safe.
A recent e-mail to parents of Iola High School students addressing crossing concerns at the intersection of Buckeye and Madison streets gave the wrong impression, Warner said. The e-mail made students and their families aware that any pedestrian crossing improperly or without the aid of a traffic device might be subject to a fine totaling $160.
“That is absolutely the last resort,” Warner said of ticketing pedestrians.
Interest has peaked recently regarding safety at the popular crosswalk, used throughout the day by students to reach classes at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center.
Students attend art, music (both band and choir) and speech and drama classes at the Bowlus, said IHS secretary Judy Baker. “We’ve got four teachers over there and they have classes all day,” she said.
Of the 357 students attending IHS, on alternating gold or blue days, 155 or 273 students use the designated crosswalk.
Or, at least, they should, noted Warner, saying the threat of ticketing came about because too many students ignore the current traffic control device — a push-button activated crossing signal — and simply dart out in front of traffic.
When the pedestrian crossing button is pushed, Warner explained, traffic signals for vehicles at all four points in the intersection go red. Students — and others crossing the street to the Bowlus or Iola Public Library, in the same location but on the north side of Madison — should wait until a walking man symbol appears on the lighted crosswalk boxes, attached to streetlight poles at the intersection. “It takes a couple seconds for it to come on,” Warner said. Instead, he said students cross willy-nilly, even in the center of the block.
That kind of crossing violates state law, he said.
Warner noted that “Standard Traffic Ordinance 65; jaywalking” states that “Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk, or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, shall yield the right of way to all vehicles along the roadway.”
And although “state law (also) requires vehicles to yield to pedestrians,” Warner said, “a pedestrian can’t leave a curb right in front of a vehicle and then the motor vehicle be at fault for not stopping.
“Thankfully,” he added, “we haven’t had any pedestrian-car accidents yet.”
Preventing them, though, is his concern.
TO RAISE awareness of the high pedestrian use of the area, bright chartreuse “Pedestrian Crossing” signs akin to those in place on North State Street at the junction of the Prairie Spirit Trail will be placed in the striped pavement on Madison that directs traffic to merge to a single lane in front of the Bowlus. The signs will act as “a visual cue to motor vehicles,” Warner said.
Weather will determine the date of their placement, he added, noting a temperature-dependent epoxy is required to secure the sign mounts.
In addition, Assistant City Administrator Corey Schinstock is looking into procuring new LED readout devices that would indicate to pedestrians just how much time they have to cross.
“There’s a greater rate of compliance with those,” Warner said of the timed signals.
In addition to the Madison/Buckeye corner, Schinstock would like to place the timed crossings at each of the four corners of the Iola square.
Five “Uniform appearance countdown pedestrian signals” could be purchased by the city for $9,000 and installed using city labor, Schinstock said. “It would just be materials cost,” he noted.
Although the item has been on the last three city commission agendas, commissioners have acted only to tell Schinstock to try to find grant funding for the project.
“Grant funding is just not available for this type of project,” Schinstock said. “It’s too small scale.”
Schinstock did note that the city does have funds for the signals — providing commissioners authorize its use.
“We can fund it through special projects money — that’s the sales tax money we collect anyway,” he said.
Come April, half those funds will be directed to the new Allen County Hospital project, he said.
“It can’t hurt a thing” for citizens to call commissioners and urge support of the project while funds remain, Schinstock said.