The Silly Crosswalk: crazy idea or preposterous notion?

Next Tuesday, Dec. 20 at 4:30 p.m. at Arcata City Hall, the Transportation Safety Committee will again consider our Silly Crosswalk proposal. There have been a few developments, but as of this writing we’re still waiting for the key one.

That will be the judgment of the Redwood Empire Municipal Insurance Fund. It’s the city’s insurer, and if liability managers there think people acting goofy in traffic increases risk of injury and settlements, that’s pretty much the end of the idea as presently proposed.

At last month’s Transportation Safety Committee meeting, Deputy City Engineer Netra Khatri read a letter from a concerned citizen who said that a silly crosswalk runs counter to the traffic safety education taught in the schools.

“Why not designate a 'Silly Sidewalk' or a 'Silly Park'? I love the idea of being silly but not in a crosswalk,” wrote the letter writer. “It doesn't sound safe to me.”

Khatri described the objection as a “valid concern,” and it is certainly worthy of discussion. Indeed, the streets are dangerous enough, and no one wants to exacerbate that.

At the same time, in my opinion this is the kind of thing that might sound dangerous on paper, but if you go look at where it’s proposed to be, you’ll see that it isn’t. The north-south crossing on the east side of the Eighth and G streets intersection is a short one, comes off two stop signs and the silly walking option likely isn’t any more distracting than the tentacle sculpture that used to loom over it.

Support for the safety of the proposal comes from real-world trials. Stevens Point, Wisc. has had a Creative Crosswalk (same thing, different name) since last June. It’s located in front of the Wisconsin’s Children’s Museum.

I asked Mayor Mike Wiza, who initiated the idea in that town, how it was working out – is it safe, and do people actually walk silly there?

“Ours is on a street the has a 15 mph limit and narrowing in the road,” Wiza said. “I see people doing silly walks frequently during events and good weather. No liability concerns, but some people thought it was a huge waste of money until I tell them it was less than $250 for the signs.”

This crosswalk stands a good chance of becoming very silly. KLH | Union

Meanwhile, along with the Union, Arcata Main Street and Community Pride & Peace, the Arcata Chamber of Commerce is now on board with the proposal for an Arcata Silly Crosswalk, pending resolution of safety concerns.

At last month’s Transportation Safety Committee meeting, Khatri said signage won’t pose any regulatory problems. We can put the Silly Crosswalk sign on existing poles alongside the others. Also, the Union will fundraise to cover all signage costs and minimize public expense.

There’s another new wrinkle as well, and it could extend beyond the Silly Crosswalk. It turns out that a number of towns have enhanced their crosswalks with original art to replace the boring old parallel lines. There are some beautiful and imaginative designs – Google “Creative Crosswalk” to behold them. So maybe we could do that with our Silly Crosswalk as well. And not just there, but at other places throughout town.

So, that’s everything I know for now. If you support, oppose or have ideas to improve the Silly Crosswalk, please bring them to the Transportation Safety Committee meeting next week. Or you can e-mail your thoughts to Khatri at [email protected].

 

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