In demonstration of new flashing light system, mayor nearly struck by passing motorist
By Brandi Makuski
“This is about common sense and common courtesy.”
That’s the reaction when Scott Schatschneider, director of public works in Stevens Point, is asked about the new Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon (RRFB) lights installed at the intersection of Division and Franklin streets.
The solar powered LED lights were installed last month, and became active July 29, at a cost of about $17,000. The lights were paid for by a 50/50 split with UW-Stevens Point.
“This is so much bigger than white pavement markings and flashing lights,” Schatschneider said. “This is about our community getting their arms around the fact that there are other modes of transportation, and it’s about common decency — if there was a veteran who was disabled, we wouldn’t have the common decency to wait for them? It’s the same concept.”
The beacons were the result of “lengthy discussions” with UWSP regarding safety concerns at the intersection, according to Mayor Mike Wiza.
“There’s a learning curve here, but this is a 25-mile-an-hour zone,” Wiza said on Aug. 16. “It’s the same concept as any pedestrian crossing light, where you just hit the button; then the lights begin to flash and you cross.”
Wiza demonstrated the new lights during his weekly “Mayor’s Minute” video address on the City Times Facebook page this week, when he crossed the city’s main thoroughfare while the lights were flashing. On his return trip across the street, Wiza was nearly struck by a white Corvette.
Wiza shrugged the incident off.
“It’s definitely going to be a process; there’s a lot of education we’ll have to do as a city to promote the idea for motorists to become aware of having those lights there,” Wiza said. “And it’ll be important for pedestrians and bicyclists to learn about the lights, too, so they know they shouldn’t be crossing without pressing that button.”
Wiza said city officials plan to attend new student orientation at UWSP this year to help educate incoming students about the new signal.
City leaders are well-aware of ongoing problems with that pedestrian crossing, Schatschneider said, but said the problem is caused by a lack of “common decency.”
“What our community needs to understand is that when folks are trying to get across the street, we need to have a common courtesy and patience to wait for them to get across the street,” he said. “Those are just things we should be able to do for each other as human beings.”
Schatschneider also pointed out state law is “very clear” about motorists yielding to pedestrians and bicyclists who are crossing a street — whether a crossing is marked or unmarked.
“Whether you’re walking, or riding a bike or in a wheelchair — the state statute is very clear,” he said. “But really, those are just things we should be doing for each other as human beings.”
The new beacons — four in all — are visible from both directions and when activated, flash a bright yellow/white LED light to alert motorists. After being activated, the lights need several moments to reset before they can be activated again to allow for traffic flow.
Wiza said the beacons will help “remind” motorists of the state statute.
“We hoping that people will become familiar with the new lights and the law before school starts in a few weeks,”
Wiza said, who added local law enforcement will be focusing on enforcing the law.
“I’d hate to see people get tickets for not stopping,” Wiza said.