Today, the College is installing lights at the crosswalk between the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance and Weston Hall.
These lights are part of the initiative by College Council (CC) to provide pedestrians safer conditions for crossing Route 2. The lights in this location are being used as a trial to see if they would work well and if they should they be installed across other crosswalks on campus.
This project was spearheaded by Benjamin Gips ’19 and is part of a larger project to make the campus safer for pedestrians.
“My broader project was how we could improve pedestrian safety on campus,” Gips said. “We did a little bit of an information campaign towards the end of last semester and we’re going to continue that once the lights are installed. We’re going to put up posters on campus so that people can see how to use them and so that we can get them on people’s minds.”
The lights are Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons (RRFB). They are mounted on the pole of the crosswalk sign and are powered by solar panels. The lights are activated when pedestrians push a button, and they flash bright yellow LED lights at drivers on both sides of the road. RRFB lights stop 80 percent of drivers.
“They won’t change the way that the crosswalk looks at all but when they’re activated people will know that they are there,” Gips said.
This location was chosen because it is the first crosswalk that drivers come across when they enter the College campus from the west side.
“We looked at all of the crosswalks in town and there were some that we thought maybe had higher traffic and some that were difficult to see,” Gips said. “We thought that this should be the one we would use for our test period because it’s the easiest one to retrofit because the poles are right there at the crosswalk. It’s also one [crosswalk] that drivers complain about because it’s the first one when coming into town.”
“We evaluated each crossing along the way for ease of installation, intuitiveness of use and potential impact at that particular location,” Vice President of Campus Life Stephen Klass said. “We felt that the crossing we’ve chosen represents the best combination of these attributes for this pilot.”
Gips worked originally with Director of Campus Safety and Security Dave Boyer, and then Klass and Administrative Director of Divisional Affairs Aaron Gordon and Town Manager Jason Hoch.
“This project is a wonderful example of partnership between student leaders, Williamstown leadership and College administration, and I’m excited to see it come to fruition,” Klass said. “Jason was remarkably thorough and helpful on behalf of the Town, and his interest and involvement were crucial in making this happen.”
Hoch was helpful with the installation and pledged to do the upkeep necessary for the lights. Administration at the College was very supportive of this project and hopes to do a study to see if these lights will eventually work for more crosswalks around campus.
“I hope that students and everyone in the community uses these lights and presses the button every time they use the cross walks,” Gips said. “It only works if you do it every time, so that drivers know what to expect. This isn’t license to just cross. It’s still your job to make sure that they see you because you can’t always count on that.”
“If we all believe that this is a successful pilot installation, it’s possible that it will expand, although I can’t speak to the timeframe in which we’ll be analyzing its efficacy or if we do decide to expand, when that would happen,” Klass said.