Signs for the Other Side of the Brain

By Beacon Staff

Drive down Baker Street, and you’ll see two new electric-lime street signs. Not on the sidewalk, or the corner, or painted on asphalt.

“They’re not where signs usually are,” laughs Jay Barringer, construction and maintenance supervisor for the City of Whitefish. “They make you use the other side of your brain.” Located on two difficult pedestrian crossings in downtown Whitefish, the trial spring-loaded signs sit smack in the middle of the road.

“We’ve had more positive comments on those signs,” notes Barringer. “People are thrilled with them.” But Barringer passes the credit to city attorney John Phelps who took photos of similar signs he discovered while vacationing in southern Utah.

At first, Barringer had to research to see if the signs worked. “Research shows that signs don’t work very well. We’re creatures of habit,” he says. The two signs, located at the Baker Street crosswalks at First and Third Avenues, were installed on a trial basis. The City plans to add more if they work—perhaps around Central School and Pine Street—and the signs may have to be removed in winter for snowplowing.

Stopping at a crosswalk for pedestrians is a Montana state law. But often, drivers fail to notice pedestrians or go too fast to stop. “Maybe one is three drivers stop for pedestrians at crosswalks,” says Barringer. Within days after the signs went up, the City received calls from businesses who wanted them installed on the crosswalks in front of their establishments.

The attention grabbing signs seem to provide one more safety benefit: Drivers can’t cut corners when the sign stands in the way.

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