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New crosswalk signs spell out warning in Downtown Auburn

High Street, Auburn Folsom Road target drivers with middle-of-the-road messages
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Motorists have a new reminder in Downtown Auburn to stop for pedestrians. New crosswalk warning signs have been installed at two locations on High Street in the Downtown area. The signs, placed in the center of the road, have been up since Friday and are intended to remind drivers to stop at crosswalks for pedestrians – while also stating that it’s state law to do so. The warning signs are located at crosswalks on High Street between the Bank of America building and a city parking lot at Kenmass Avenue and at a mid-street crosswalk between the Elm Avenue and Cleveland Avenue. Bernie Schroeder, city of Auburn public works director, said plans are to install one more crosswalk warning sign – at the Auburn Folsom Road-Maple Street intersection. They’re a first for the city, she said. The signs were initially suggested by Mayor Kevin Hanley and City Councilman Mike Holmes, she said. The sign idea was taken up and approved at the city’s traffic committee last month. Cost for purchase and installation of each sign is about $350. The money is coming from the city’s road-maintenance fund, Schroeder said. The Downtown area was chosen along High Street because of the potential for motorists to be distracted by other signs and not notice the mid-block crosswalks, Schroeder said. The signs are designed to bend at the base if struck and rise back up, she said. Hanley said he first saw the signs while visiting Larkspur, a small North Bay community near Sausalito. “I was driving and my first reaction was to slow down and look for pedestrians,” Hanley said. High Street was a candidate for the signs because it’s a straight-of-way and drivers have a tendency to speed up as they proceed along it, he said. “And we do have a lot of people crossing that street,” Hanley said. Hanley said the new signs are a good test to see whether they work well in Auburn. “This is an example of learning what other cities do to try to boost the safety of pedestrians here,” he said. Like Schroeder, Hanley said that the extent of a new crosswalk-warning-sign program would come down to whether there is money to support it in the budget. Hanley said another approach that could be looked at as well is to paint crosswalk lines with a different color of paint to enhance safety. The California Driver Handbook states that 19 percent of all road deaths involve pedestrians. It instructs drivers to yield the right of way to pedestrians at crosswalks and always stop for pedestrians crossing at corners “or other crosswalks, even if it’s in the middle of the block or at corners with or without traffic lights.” Auburn motorist Joe Flores said he thinks the new signs have merit in keeping roads safe for pedestrians. “I think it’s a good idea,” Flores said. “I don’t think that everybody’s aware of the law, including stopping until pedestrians have finished crossing the street.”