Mayor: Yield, stop and wait for pedestrians at flashing lights on Grand Avenue

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Spencer City Council Chambers sign

Spencer city officials have a message for drivers on Grand Avenue: Watch for pedestrians and bicyclists at the two flashing lights crosswalks on that street.

Officials spoke out Tuesday at the Spencer City Council meeting following a collision between a bicycle and vehicle at the South Grand crosswalk earlier that day. 

“We had a very unfortunate bicycle accident on South Grand Avenue recently,” Mayor Kevin Robinson said. “And it was at the intersection where the lights are.”

The flashing lights are located on both sides of the street at two locations, one on South Grand and another on North Grande.

“It’s an extremely dangerous four-lane (street) to cross, especially early evening or afternoon as people are going,” Robinson said.

Robinson asked Spencer Police Chief Mark Warburton what drivers are supposed to do at those flashing light crosswalks.

“When the pedestrian activates the yellow flashing lights, that’s a signal for the drivers that somebody’s preparing to cross in that crosswalk,” Warburton said. “When the pedestrian is in the crosswalk, they have the right-of-way, so you have got to yield to the pedestrian in that crosswalk – there are no exceptions.”

Drivers are not required to stop, Warburton said, but must yield. 

He added that the system is not foolproof.

“We still have to look,” Warburton said. “And because we’re at four lanes of traffic, sometimes the pedestrian can get lost or hidden behind other vehicles, so it’s important for us to be diligent on both the pedestrian’s side, as well as the driver’s side to prevent these accidents.”

The lights flash for about 30 seconds. 

Robinson gave his advice to how motorists should approach those crossings.

“My recommendation as your mayor is if you see those lights flashing, just please yield, stop, wait until you’ve identified who has pressed it, where they’re at, before you proceed,” he said. “Because we certainly don’t want to see anymore accidents.”

Warburton said that drivers must be aware of multiple people crossing. He said people could be crossing from opposite ends of the crosswalk at the same time or could be spaced out in intervals.

Ward 4 Council Member Bill Orrison added that it’s important to remind children to cross where the lights are located and not at other nearby intersections as that’s safest.

The Iowa Department of Transportation put up the signals in coordination with the city a few years ago. Warburton said drivers have gotten better at paying attention since then.

“Three years ago compared to now, we’re completely different,” Warburton said. “The motorists are definitely taking note. They are stopping and it’s much safer than what it has been in the past, as far as the motorists complying to the pedestrians.”

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