Crosswalks frustrate U pedestrians

by Heather Fors

Normally when Tom Swain approaches a stop light its green face gives him the go-ahead to cross, unfalteringly. But at 9 a.m. Friday morning, his good light karma made a change for the worse.
At the corner of Washington Avenue and Church Street Swain’s plans changed abruptly and without notice. As swiftly as the light changed from yellow to red his stride came to a halt.
“I don’t know what happened; the light just threw me for a loop,” said Swain, the retired vice president for Institutional Relations. “I don’t remember the last time I had to wait for a stop light.”
“I look ahead to plan so I can be on the green all the time,” said Swain. “I don’t like waiting.”
There has been a rash of these sudden light changes in the University area in the last few weeks, throwing the schedules of thousands of students, staff and faculty members off kilter. Many pedestrians have had to stare down the menacing red lights on the opposite side of the street corners while vehicles pass speedily in front of them.
“I hate lights,” said Regent David Metzen. “I would rather get a root canal than wait at a light.”
Metzen’s loathing of the persnickety lights is so intense that he purposely plans his path so as not to confront any traffic lights — even if it takes an extra 15 minutes.
“You’ve heard of road rage — I have rage against the lights,” he said.
But some on campus take their lives into their own hands, defying the dictating lights. These individuals brave the sea of black tar and concrete and the possible onslaught of oncoming vehicles, testing the jaywalking fates.
“I have been highly trained by the military to handle situations like these,” said Mike Nelson, University public relations representative. “When crossing the street, I never adhere to those pesky, intrusive, conformist, `Walk’ or `Don’t Walk’ flashing signs.”
Unfortunately there seems to be no respite in sight for those suffering from these authoritarian task masters. Metzen said getting rid of the lights only seems to cause havoc.
Crosson Redengrene, director of the Institute for Crosswalking, said institute officials have been studying many possible solutions to this serious problem. “Those buttons that say, `Push me if you want to cross,’ are only taunting reminders of the lights’ control over pedestrian’s lives,” said Redengrene. The remote controls that some police cars have to change lights in their favor as the car approaches would definitely be advantageous, he said. But the difficulty in obtaining them and the legal implications involved make it a taxing task.
“Some day we will be able to cross without `Big Brother Light’ watching our every move.”