NORWAY — A move to make Main Street pedestrian-safe by installing solar-activated pedestrian lights has not been wholly endorsed by some who think the poles are unattractive, officials said.
“There is always a push and pull between beauty and practicality that someone smarter than me can solve,” Town Manager David Holt said of the three sets of pedestrian lights on each end of Main Street and in its center. “We did this with the best of intentions.”
In October, the town began installing units at the intersection of Cottage and Main streets and Paris and Main streets by the Rowe Elementary School. The Department of Transportation provided Norway with the solar-powered pedestrian crossing safety devices for free.
A third set will now be installed by Main and Pleasant streets by the Gingerbread House after an anonymous donor provided $5,000 with the specification that the lights be installed at that site.
“Obviously, no location would satisfy everyone,” he said of the signals. “In recent years, I have received more complaints from people from the (Norway Savings Bank) training center than I have from up the street. That location is also sort of the center of Main Street.”
Selectman Bruce Cook said a discussion at last Thursday’s Norway Downtown meeting about the parking signs and pedestrian lights indicated there were some complaints about the lights.
“We did not take a stand for or against the lights,” Cook said Wednesday. “Some people just don’t like change.”
Cook told the board at last Thursday’s selectmen meeting that he fully supports the poles, particularly after a woman dressed in dark clothes walked off the sidewalk beyond the crosswalk at night as he was heading toward the Town Office for the meeting.
“Luckily, I saw her,” he said.
Holt said he was surprised by the reaction of a few people who have said the lights are “ugly.”
“I admit to being somewhat taken aback by the lack of satisfaction with the lights,” he said.
“Many people don’t remember, but two pedestrians were killed on the street,” Holt told the board of the 1996 fatalities on Main Street. “Those accidents wouldn’t have necessarily not occurred with the (pedestrian lights), but if you’re aware that happened, it maybe changes your perspective. The future of the street is that it needs to be walkable — and by walkable, I take it it means safe.”
Concern over pedestrian safety on Main Street surged in December 1996, when a 75-year-old woman was crossing the street by Ari’s Pizza and Subs at dusk and was struck and killed by a car. Earlier that year, a woman was run over by a car as she left the Legion Hall and crossed the street toward the Rowe Elementary School after a bingo game. The December pedestrian fatality had been the fourth pedestrian fatality at dusk or dawn in Maine within four days.
At that time, orange barrels were set up at crosswalks from Rowe Elementary School to the the Advertiser Block in an attempt to make motorists more aware of pedestrian traffic on Main Street. The same method had been used several years prior to the dual fatalities but were taken down after some motorists complained they were in the way, according to a report in the Lewiston Sun Journal.
Since that time, a flashing light has been placed in front of Rowe Elementary School to remind motorists to reduce their speed when children are crossing before and after school.
The recently installed solar-powered flashing lights drastically improve motor vehicle compliance rates of stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks, according to the Department of Transportation.
The idea for the light poles was suggested to Holt this fall by Brendan Schauffler, active community environments coordinator for Healthy Oxford Hills, after he saw information about the free offering.
According to information from the DOT, the rectangular-shaped, high-intensity signal head flashes in a wig-wag, rapidly flickering pattern. The alternating signals provide direct, ultra-bright concentration, as well as wide-angle intensity. The beacons are pedestrian activated, either via push button or passive detection.
Norway has push-button poles.
“I had hoped that the lights would generally promote pedestrian safety, especially in the dusk and dark hours,” Holt said.