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December 2015 People Mike Harrison

Innovator: Mike Harrison

What do school zones, busy downtown districts and bustling residential neighborhoods have in common? Crosswalks. More specifically, badly marked, high-traffic crosswalks that don’t necessarily correspond to a street corner or intersection—ones that can be easily missed by even conscientious drivers.
After a good friend of his struck and killed a pedestrian in just such a crosswalk, Santa Rosa’s Mike Harrison (a self-educated entrepreneur and inventor) decided there had to be a solution. “ These types of accidents cause nearly 5,000 deaths and 95,000 injuries annually in the United States,” he says.
In 1992, Harrison conceived the idea for a pedestrian crosswalk warning system. It took two years of initial research and development before a beta system was developed. But by the end of 1993, his initial concept was presented to the state of California and, subsequently, received state and local approval for testing. Phase One began in Santa Rosa in September 1994. Evaluation continued through 1996 for Phase Two, with approval of additional locations in four cities, including tests on State Route 1 and Highway 101 (near Fort Bragg and Willits).
Fast forward to today, and Harrison has been granted multiple patents for the LightGuard System (LGS; aka the Smart Crosswalk or the Pedestrian Crosswalk Warning System), which has now become a standard nationwide and is growing internationally. LGS consists of in-roadway, flashing amber LEDs encased in a durable housing to alert the motorists of a pedestrian entering the roadway.
The Pedestrian Crosswalk Warning System, which can be powered by either solar-charged batteries or available A/C power, is designed to include automatic activation features. Standard communication ports allow other database features to be included upon request by city traffic engineers, incorporating intelligent traffic systems technology.
“Although there’s no specific data to support claims of ‘safer’ streets, city officials can report plenty of anecdotal evidence that these street crossing safety systems have improved the pedestrian experience on this busy highway, which also happens to be our Main Street,” says Sebastopol City Engineer Sue Kelly on the LGS website. “The public response and feedback have been overwhelmingly positive.
LGS intends to further target key test sites to expand visibility of the system and to provide innovation for future product enhancements, such as red light running, railroad crossing enhancement, lane delineation for tunnels and bridges or even freeway off-ramp identification. “Several exciting new products and concepts are now under prototype development,” confirms Harrison, though he offers no further details. “We’re hoping for introduction in early 2016.”
LGS is still based in Santa Rosa, and the product is manufactured in the city as well.

Home for the Holidays

Sutter Home Family Vineyards in St. Helena has partnered with the Veterans Business Outreach Center to unite active duty military personnel with their families for the holidays. Now through December 31, 2015, eligible members of the U.S. military services, active duty, Reserves and National Guard can apply online at to win a trip home to anywhere in the continental United States. Up to 25 winners will be selected based on financial need, outstanding service and creativity in responding to the question, “What does home mean to you?”
Sutter Home for the Holidays will provide round-trip airfare, ground transportation and hotel accommodations for up to five nights. “Family is at the heart of our business, so we understand how meaningful it is for our troops to spend the holidays with their families,” says Sutter Home CEO and Vietnam veteran Roger Trinchero. “It’s an honor to support our troops and give back to those who sacrifice so much every day.”
In addition, Sutter home has partnered with Operation Gratitude and, through December 31, for every valid text of HOME to 89800, Sutter Home will donate $5 (up to $20,000) to help send care packages to active duty military personnel.



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