December 20, 2014

Elyria
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New crosswalk signage to alert drivers to pedestrians’ right of way

ELYRIA — City officials are hoping a flashing, bright yellow light will remind drivers that pedestrians have the right-of-way at marked crosswalks.

Getting drivers to stop at intersections where traffic lights cycle from red to yellow to green is easy. But getting those same drivers to hit the brakes in the middle of the road at crosswalks is another story. With more than a half dozen such crosswalks in downtown alone, Mayor Holly Brinda said changing such driving habits is a matter of pedestrian safety.

“Drivers in downtown Elyria don’t necessarily respect the crosswalks,” Brinda said. “I saw a woman the other day with a baby in a stroller try to cross the street near Washington Avenue on Broad Street, and it was more than five minutes before traffic would stop so she could cross.”

To prevent such situations, Brinda said the city is piloting a new type of crosswalk signage to alert drivers to the middle-of-the-road crosswalks.

City Engineer Tim Ujvari said the signs look like traditional signs alerting drivers to crosswalks, but they also have solar-powered lights that flash when a pedestrian wants to cross. The signs cost roughly $2,500 each and the city will receive two at no cost from a vendor who is interested in a city that wants to pilot the technology.

“If it works to increase the ease of foot traffic in the downtown area, we will look for grants and funding to pay for signs all over,” Ujvari said. “For now, we want to see if this will work.”

The signs will be near the middle of the street crosswalk on Broad Street near Court Street and Kerstetter Way near the Powerhouse Gym. They should be in place by Memorial Day and will be installed by the city Streets Department.

“The law is the pedestrian has the right to cross, but so few people stop,” said Don Wimsatt, city traffic engineer. “We haven’t had any fatalities because of this problem, but we have had an awful lot of near misses that shouldn’t have happened if drivers would have just stopped at the crosswalk.”

Brinda said the city also is taking the initiative to repaint crosswalk lines on the road with brighter reflective white paint in the area where the new signs will be installed, as well as at the intersection of West Avenue and Broad Street.

The new paint job will be 9 feet wide and should be easier to see for motorists.

“It’s a small change, but will help with making downtown better and safer for walkers and it fits into our overall strategy of increasing foot traffic in the area, which will help the downtown businesses,” Brinda said.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.