January 12, 1995
In a recent column, I wrote briefly about the traffic lights on each corner of the square. When one of those signals develops a mechanical problem, the standard procedure has been to turn it off and place a barrel with four stop signs in the middle of the intersection until replacement parts could be installed. Sometimes the lighted signals are not restored to working order for a week or longer. During that interval, motorists from all four directions are expected to come to a complete stop before proceeding. Pedestrians, on the other hand, have to guess when it is safe for them to dash from one side of the street to the other, trusting that any oncoming traffic will stop or at least yield the right of way.
Risky business? It sure is. Especially when you consider that not all drivers are willing to play by the rules; many of them barely make a rolling stop, much less a complete stop, when faced with a sign that means what it says. So pedestrians are playing a kind of Russian roulette, hoping that drivers will permit them to reach safety on the other side of the street.
The barrels also give a very distinctive look to our downtown business district, which really needs all the help it can get. Visitors can only wonder about a town that uses stop signs mounted on barrels that have seen better days. The term -"horse and buggy" comes to mind.
The city council took steps to resolve the matter last week by voting, 6-2, against installation of four-way stop signs, so the traffic lights will be retained.
But there is a difference of opinion about this. Some folks do not like waiting for what seems like an eternity for signal lights to change as they drive around the square. A different view is held by those who walk there; they much prefer the lights as a safety measure. Maybe someday someone can come up with a mutually acceptable compromise.
I did not realize so many folks are polarized on this subject, pro-lights or anti-lights. Still another sizable segment doesn't really care one way or the other. Makes you kind of glad that we don't have something serious to worry about, doesn't it?
Some folks wondered at how deftly, but erroneously, I was able to assign District Attorney John Maddox and his Noble county assistant, Mark Gibson, to opposing political parties the other day. Let me just say this: it was easy for me to do, but it may indicate the need for therapy. For the record, both are members of the Grand Old Party, a fact which was known to me but which became temporarily misfiled. Sorry.