No man's land: Brattleboro crossing guards propose changes

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BRATTLEBORO — Two crossing guards on Western Avenue call their crosswalk "no-man's land."

That's because people are crossing parts of the busy road before or after the white painted zone, they said.

"We have some strong ideas," said crossing guard Jeanushka Fishell, who started the job in September but previously served in the position in Gardner, Mass. "One morning, I almost got hit."

Her co-worker Dave Wheelock has been in the position for five or six years. He's a former state trooper and said he has seen enough accidents and doesn't want to see more.

He's proposing pedestrian-activated flashing lights for a section in front of the Crowell Lot playground entrance near the bus stop. The idea came after watching people jaywalking 350 feet away from the crosswalk, where he stops traffic in order for pedestrians to safely make it to the other side.

"It's OK for young people. They get across pretty rapidly," Wheelock said. "But with strollers, they cross? We're standing here to assist you. They stare at you but they go across."

Students are told to use the crosswalks and accept the crossing guard's help, Wheelock said, acknowledging that they do. He worries about the adults who cross at dangerous spots because they think it's "more advantageous."

Wheelock is also proposing a crosswalk on the east side of Union Street and the east side of Cedar Street for pedestrians walking north and south on Western Avenue.

"It seems no one wants to use this," he said, pointing to the existing crosswalk between where he's suggesting flashing lights and a new crosswalk.

Town Manager Peter Elwell said he and Department of Public Works Water and Highway Superintendent Hannah O'Connell had a good conversation with Wheelock on Friday. Wheelock had agreed to submit a safety action request form.

The document is submitted to the DPW before it is reviewed then presented at the town's Traffic Safety and Control Committee meeting. The form states applicants will be notified about the status of the request within 30 days of the DPW receiving it.

The protocol for crossing is confusing due to the configuration, said Fishell of the stretch along Western Avenue. She raised concerns at a recent event aimed at making streets in Brattleboro safer for pedestrians.

"It just needs help," she told the Reformer. "There's a better way to make it safer."

Together, the two crossing guards estimate seeing about two or three people a day making their way across Western Avenue without using a crosswalk near Union Street and roughly the same amount of people cross below the Crowell Lot. But bicyclists cross wherever, added Wheelock.

"It puts drivers in jeopardy," he said. "It's just frustrating."

Watching young mothers cross with strollers makes his heart skip a beat, he said.

Wheelock and Fishell said they assist as many as 12 to 13 kids with crossing the street each day.

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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