City to test new crossing signs

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Students rush to and from class on the campus of Columbus State Community College. The college sits at the corner of Cleveland and Mt. Vernon Avenues. It’s one of the busiest intersections in downtown Columbus, and home to one of the city’s new timer signs. Professor of Communications Bob Stein is hurrying to the intersection as he tries to make his 11:30 class. He uses this crosswalk twice a day, and he says he’s happy to see any improvements that will make it easier for him to get to work.

“I think (it’s important) especially with Columbus State building two new buildings across the street, as many people are going across here,” Stein says. “There’s parking over here, there’s buildings over here, the bookstore is over here. There’s going to be employees and students walking across here more than ever, and I think it’s important we take into consideration their safety crossing Cleveland Avenue. It’s one of the busiest streets in downtown Columbus.”

But not everyone agrees with Stein. Sophomore Michael Paramore uses this intersection at least three days a week. He says he has never seen any confused pedestrians or drivers. He says the new timers won’t do anything to ease confusion, and are a waste of tax payer’s money.

“Crossing signs are pretty self-explanatory,” Paramore says. “People just want to get across the street when they want to get across the street. The signs aren’t confusing, a countdown won’t help. People just want to get across the street when they want to get across the street.”

Another one of the city’s new timer signs sits on the campus of Ohio State University. Throngs of students use the sign to cross the intersection at High Street and 15th Avenue. OSU senior Shaun Gatson says the sign won’t stop anyone from jaywalking or taking their time to cross the street.

“It’s probably just a waste of tax dollars,” Gaston says. “It’s something else for them to spend their money on that’s unnecessary. They could take some of the money off the parking tickets I’ve racked up over the years.”

Gatson is joking about his parking tickets, but he’s serious when he says he’s never seen any problems at the intersections the city deems dangerous. The new pedestrian signs look similar to most of those throughout the city: a white silhouette means it’s OK to cross, and an orange hand tells people to stay on the curb. The only difference is to the right of the symbol is a 15 second timer that counts down the seconds a pedestrian has to cross the street before the light turns. Mary Carran Webster works with the city’s Public Service Department. She says the signs are part of a pilot program aimed at educating pedestrians and drivers.

“The idea is to show pedestrians how many seconds they have to cross the street once the red hands that says ‘don’t cross’ comes up,” Webster says. “The idea behind it was we saw a lot of confusion of the part of people. They’d be halfway across the street and the little walking guy would disappear and the red hand would come up. They didn’t know if they should continue to cross or go back.”

Pedestrians can also find the new signs at the corner of West Broad and Marconi near downtown, and the corner of West Broad and Central Avenue on the near-west side. The city purchased 20 of the new signs at a total cost of 16-thousand dollars. 16 devices remain in storage. Webster says the city will evaluate results after one year, and decide whether to install the remaining signs, and whether to purchase more.

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