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Does Eau Claire Need Stoplights?

Written By: Janette Locke  |  Posted: Monday, April 18th, 2011

            On Thursday, March 31st, downtown Eau Claire experienced a power outage and an hour of life without stoplights. It was great. Okay, so walking into an office that had no lights or power that morning wasn't so great, but driving without stoplights was definitely a bonus. According to WQOW 18 News, the power outage was caused by the malfunctioning substation at Madison and Forest Street, but thankfully no permanent damage was done and power was restored within an hour. I learned a lot in that hour. On my way to work that morning, I slowed for the stoplight at the bottom of Cameron Street hill only to realize that the stoplight was … it was off. At first I didn't know what to think, but as I watched all the other drivers, the expressions on their faces made me smile.

            Some people look horrified, like the end of the world had just arrived, others looked wide-eyed, totally lost and dumbfounded, and the rest just seemed to be thinking "Well, cool, no stoplights." Cars moved at an average speed of 25 mph and only stopped for less than ten seconds at the intersections. As I continued driving and watching people, I thought, "Wow, this kind of driving is actually fun. I can't get bored driving like this!" No more long waits. No more zombies staring at lights. No more careless drivers rushing to get through that yellow-turning-red light! People were putting away cell phones and actually, you got it, paying attention! And the pedestrians? Well, I always feel sorry for pedestrians because I know how annoying it is to stand next to a stoplight forever and ever just waiting to bolt. But not on this special morning. Pedestrians literally slowed to a snail's pace for about three seconds before they made their way through the intersections. Yep. No more pressing buttons and staring at a digital red hand.

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