Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pedestrians on the campus

Image is not mine, thanks interwebz

Among other things I do, not focused specifically on cycling is thinking about pedestrian issues and safety, as well as accessibility. I have started a project to get a Campus Police officer at an intersection that is not the main cross point for students getting to class. This crossing is very dangerous with 4 directions of cars as well as turning cars, in addition to students crossing all 4 streets trying to get to class. The following is my proposition spelled out and I have submitted it to some of my friends for comments, and now I shall post it here.

"I want to bring up a problem and my proposed solution and then have your comments on that solution, or the problem.

The problem is the pedestrian crossing of Broad Street at Beekman Street right next to Kehoe. For many of you this is the crossing you must take getting from the south end of campus (residence halls, ACC, library etc.) to the north end of campus (Hudson, Hawkins etc.) and both pedestrians, cyclists, and car drivers have many problems crossing at this intersection at many times of the day but especially during class crossover time. In the past, the pedestrian bridge has carried the large majority of foot traffic across Broad Street, the Master Plan consultant group in their pedestrian route studies has verified this as well. This bridge will be out of commission through the fall and may be up and running by spring of 2011 due to Hudson work, but until then we have two semesters at least of a major risk in safety for all users passing through that intersection. You only have to be there at cross over time to understand the issues of cars turning with the light, cars stuck in the intersection, students late for class, students on phones, or ipods of otherwise distracted, drivers on phones or otherwise distracted, drivers trying to get to the mall area, and also to class, cyclists trying to navigate from either the sidewalk or the roadway, I think in anybody’s mind it is a bloody mess at cross over time, at least anybody who has actually watched this intersection during cross over times, let alone tried to cross.

My solution to this problem, until the bridge is open, and maybe after, is something that I have talked about and studied at a couple other campuses, including my home campus of the University of New Hampshire. That is to use Campus Police as traffic controllers at this intersection during key cross over times. Our campus Police are trained as full Police officers (not rent-a-cops) and as such have training in traffic control, and would be qualified to fill this duty. This idea was suggested to me by the campus planner at UNH as it was the solution to their similar problem, this was and has been a huge success on their campus, but unlike us, they have many more crossings as their campus is spread out, so its actually more of a challenge for them then it would be for us. They have however, had great success encouraging students to use the guarded crossings when moving across this road and have reduced many issues that arise in an environment with multiple types of road users. This is a proven solution to the problem we have with this intersection. Traffic signals and cross signals can only be successful in simple intersections, with simple problems. Human traffic controllers are by far the best way to control traffic across the board, and especially in complicated intersections.

So I talked with Keith Tait, who is the head of Environmental Health and Safety on our campus, and a good friend. He had a talk with the chief of the campus police in good faith, suggesting my idea as this intersection has been on his radar for a long time and his department has been working to try and find a solution that would minimize risk to all users. He was basically told that they would not do this, due to cost, due to pedestrians not paying attention, and due to potential liability. My response to Keith when I heard this was, what happens when a student is truck and killed and their parents sue the school for millions because the risk was known and had not been taken care of?(he agreed with me that we need to push this) This response is typical of a department that does not really care about the university students and their safety. I pay for their salaries, we all do, and when a safety issue comes up that can be solved by campus police I expect that to happen (with some work to iron out problems, such as cost, obviously) I do not expect the first response to be that, nope sorry we cant do that, not when it is their job to keep us safe. Their job is not to make excuses, their job is to serve us and keep us safe, and if their first response to a solution is no? Are they really serving us?

Sorry this is long, I don’t due quick points, there is too much of a back-story to make this quick and simple.

My solution to this is to start a petition to get campus police at the mentioned crossing during the primary cross over times, 8am to 4pm for example for 15 minutes, 10 minutes before the hour and 5 minutes after. To keep them there through the opening of the pedestrian bridge, or until it seems many of the issues at this intersection have been solved in terms of safety.

So thoughts? First off I hope to get a meeting with the chief and talk to him directly about this, sometimes I can be very persuasive and can succeed where others might fail. However I expect to hear the same answer. At that point I will then pursue a meeting with the president and SA, depending on how that goes I hope to start a campus wide petition process for students, faculty, and staff to get a guard at this specific crossing. I will need support on this and I will need you and your friends to really make this happen, but that’s some time in the future

So thoughts on the problem?
Thoughts on the responses by CP?
Thoughts on my solution?
Thoughts on a petition?
Should I go to the president instead? Should I go to the Student Association? Maybe do all of the above?

I can go on and on about the lack of pedestrian(cyclist) safety on the campus, believe me I could go for hours, I can also give solutions that will work and keep people safe, but as with anything they cost money due to physical changes in the road, however this is a problem that can be made better with a simple human, and i believe is worth fighting for."

When looking at other campuses I see the same problems, time and time again, either because of campus-town issues or lack of understanding on campus, or just pure ignorance to down right hatred. I don't think there is a solution, but we need to be doing something on each and every campus to facilitate pedestrian safety, and we have not done enough.

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