Questions arise with new crosswalks on campus
I’m not sure about you, but when I hear “three, two, one,” I start looking around for something to go “BLAST OFF!” So when the new crosswalk lights don’t turn into rocket ships and shoot off into the sky – well, I feel a little disappointed. Especially when I hear that countdown all day, every day, from my bedroom in Murray Living Center. Even with the windows closed.
So I got a hold of the people who had the new crosswalks installed in the first place, and this is what I was told by James Moyer, the associate vice president for facilities planning.
“The audio devices are designed to aid a person that may have difficulty with eyesight,” he said. “The visual devices are designed to aid people that may have difficulty hearing. There are also tactile warning (blue or yellow plates on the sidewalks) devices to define the point where the sidewalk ends and the street begins. he majority of these improvements are covered by either the American with Disabilities Act or the State of Michigan transportation codes.”
Moyer told me that the university wasn’t required to upgrade the crosswalks; instead, GVSU was “responding to student requests for consistency between the signals.”
This is great; I love how our university is willing to take student needs and desires into consideration when dealing with campus safety.
On the other hand, they turn the audio countdowns off at night. Wait. OFF at night? If these new countdowns are put in to assist blind people in crossing the streets safely, WHY are they turned off at NIGHT? I mean, really. It’s dark out. Even pedestrians without visual impairments don’t see any better in the dark to avoid the cars, and drivers aren’t going to see any better in the dark to avoid hitting someone who might not be crossing at the right moment. Yet somehow the audio is more useful in the daytime than at night?
Moyer says that “a bit of common sense rules” in this matter. The traffic signals have a ‘night mode’, during which two sides of the signal lights flash red, and the others flash yellow. This doesn’t involve a timing sequence that would allow the pedestrian walk signals to operate correctly. Thus, they are turned off. Which, if you think about it, makes a lot of sense, common or otherwise.
Now, I think upgrading the crosswalks is wonderful, and I love that I’m not kept up all night hearing “Crosswalk on, Calder, Calder,” over and over again. There should be ways to help the blind and deaf cross the roads on campus—and anywhere else for that matter—safely. This is something that should be a priority for every group on campus; facilities, students, faculty, DPS, everybody.
But still, it doesn’t mean these devices aren’t painfully annoying for everyone else around them. I mean, really – even without adding any rocket ships, could we add “blast off!” to the end of the countdown…or at least turn down the volume?