Safety and Blue Lake Road

15 May
Slow Flags 1 - Resize

Slow Children at Play Sign on Blue Lake Road near Marie Lane

On May 06, 2009, the Minocqua Public Works Department garnished two SLOW – CHILDREN AT PLAY signs with bright orange flags on Blue Lake Road preceding the intersections of East Marie Lane / West Marie Lane and Blue Lake Road.  The flags are a request from the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department to indelibly caution motorists to keep their speeds in check in this area.  Green placards below the signs read NEXT FIVE MILES.  Territory extends in either direction of the signs down Blue Lake Road from Highway 51 to Mercer Lake Road.

Thanks for Slowing Down on Blue Lake Road

Thanks for Slowing Down on Blue Lake Road

In an esprit de corps of public welfare, red and white lawn signs reminding people to slow down have also been noticeably popping up around town.  These signs are part of a joint effort by the Safe Communities Partnership, Minocqua Hazelhurst Lake Tomahawk Elementary School, and the Minocqua Police Department.

BLOGOTORIAL:  As a daily user of Blue Lake Road, efforts to increase safety along this corridor are much welcomed.  The disparity in this region between conduct inside and outside of vehicles is abundantly disheartening – and this is noted from someone who has extensively lived in densely populated metropolises overrun with congestion.  Here in the Northwoods, decency and courteousness seem to somersault right out the window when motorists enter vehicles.  What has so nurtured this atmosphere of unmannerly behavior not only between motorists and each other but between motorists and pedestrians as well?  This problem is  particularly baffling since attitudes outside of vehicles seem generally pleasant.

While the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department and the Minocqua Public Works Department’s efforts to promote safety on Blue Lake Road are commendable, the unwillingness that some elected representatives on the Minocqua Board of Supervisors have displayed towards encouraging safety along Blue Lake Road is acutely discouraging.  Last October, Town Supervisors Bryan Jennings, Mark Hartzheim and John Thompson shot down an effort to lower the speed limit from 45 mph to 35 mph on eastern portion of Blue Lake Road which directly passes by a child care facility; a residential neighborhood; the Bearskin Trail crossing heavily used by bicyclists, hikers, snowmobilers and many families; equestrian traffic; youth camp traffic; heavy equipment operations and has already been the site of a fatal collision.

As motorists driving around the Northwoods don’t seem especially interested in assuming a personal responsibility of exercising sensible judgment on the road, a reasonable resolution is to make it as difficult as possible to recklessly operate vehicles, particularly in areas vulnerable to gross injury, damage and harm.  This correspondingly means adopting a safe speed limit on Blue Lake Road which inherently attaches legal consequences for misdeeds.  Nobody wants to have a police state in the BLMA but a systematic lackadaisical approach to safety has, without a doubt, contributed to a polluted mindset regarding what is appropriate motorist behavior throughout our Northwoods.

Motorists’ blatant disregard for pedestrians is also a critical topic of concern.  In downtown Minocqua, pedestrian crosswalks are well-marked and, unfortunately, often not heeded.  Crossing streets in the downtown area where the speed limit is 25 mph is seriously scary business.  With prime tourism season approaching, hopes abound that local law enforcement cracks down on such hazardous conduct.

And these concerns aren’t belying fear-mongering motives.  On beautiful day awash with persons afoot enjoying a farmer’s market, I attempted to cross a crosswalk in the middle of a Northwoods town where the speed limit was, likewise, 25 mph.  The road carried light traffic and I was eating an ice cream cone with rainbow sprinkles when I decided to exercise my civic right and cross the road in a crosswalk.  I was 30% through the crosswalk when an enormous SUV roars out of nowhere, forces me back to the sidewalk, and rolls down its window.  A voice bellows from the cavernous interior, sneering, “When you see my truck coming, get out of the way!”  And it wasn’t a teenager, either, but a grown 50-year-old man.

It took quite a bit of willpower not to reach into the open window and jam my melting ice cream on his brake.

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