By Maria Grzywa —
University of Wisconsin–Stout students need to stop, look and listen for cars when crossing South Broadway Street near North Hall. More like stop, wait fifteen minutes for the slightest break in traffic and haul-ass when you finally see an opportunity. This heavily-trafficked area has always created problems for students trying to make their way to and from North and South campuses. However, with a recent upgrade to push-button flashing light system at the crosswalk, students should have plenty of time to stroll their ass’s safely across South Broadway.
The university, city and state have worked together to install two new push-button flashing light systems at pedestrian crossings near 10th Avenue and 17th Avenue, perpendicular to South Broadway. The projects were completed as part of a state road project designed to make Broadway, which is also part of Highway 25, safer and more efficient for pedestrians and motorists.
The city and the university each paid for one of the improved crossings.
Pedestrians at the two sites can start bright flashing amber signals attached to big yellow walkway signs that alert motorists, who are required by law to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Prior to these improvements the crosswalks were only equipped with traditional yellow pedestrian crossing signs.
“I remember always having to run halfway across, let an obviously unaware driver pass, then run the last half after I find a break,” complained Sarah Ralph, a junior in the Hotel Restaurant Tourism Management major.
“Living on North Campus, I would always have to cross Broadway to get to my classes on South Campus. Sometimes, I would be late to classes just because I had to sit and wait for the continuous stream of cars,” explained Nicholas Scheppmann, a junior in the Industrial Design major at Stout.
“Studies show the percentage of motorist compliance is much better with the new light system than with the plain diamond-shaped sign,” said Jim Uhlir, executive director of UW-Stout Health and Safety. “It’s a busy area. I believe this is much-improved for safety.”
The reason both crossings have created problems in the past is due to their location, at the bottom of hills. This layout made it harder for cars to slow down and completely stop, allowing students and pedestrians to cross safely.
“We get concerns every year on Broadway. This really helps the effort to get motorists to stop and pedestrians to use these signals. We encourage pedestrians to use the crosswalks and not jaywalk on our campus,” Uhlir said.
The lights have made an improvement to campus and student safety overall. “I feel one step closer to Tron,” joked Scheppmann.
Broadway’s crosswalks have been especially dangerous at night, because motorists could not see students or pedestrians soon enough in the dark to slow down. Now students feel safer using the flashing lights crosswalks during nightly endeavors. “The crosswalks are especially handy at night when walking home from work and school. It also helps when walking back from ‘recreational activities’ too,” toyed Ralph.
Although the additions draw attention to students waiting at the crosswalk, it does not mean that all cars will stop in time or even see the flashing lights until they’re too close.
Furthermore, there have been some rumblings from students and frequent drivers of South Broadway about the new crosswalk system. Currently there is nothing that indicates if users have successfully pushed the button to signal the lights (ie sound effects).
Additionally, the lights appear to be faulty at times as several students have complained about the uncertainty of whether or not the lights are signaling cars to stop. With this, some students assume the lights are flashing and start to walk, when the button was not successfully pushed, causing drivers to ignore pedestrians in the crosswalk.
Either way, everyone on campus and in the community needs to keep safety in mind when utilizing all crosswalks, especially on bustling Broadway.