25, No. 8, Oct. 20, 2005
works with cities to improve pedestrian safety
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
University and city
officials are looking at ways to keep pedestrians safer on campus following
the death of freshman Sarah Channick of Deerfield, who was struck and
killed by an MTD bus while crossing Sixth Street at Chalmers on Sept.
It was the second fatal bus-pedestrian accident on campus in less than
a year. In October 2004, a UI graduate student was struck and killed
by an MTD bus as she crossed Gregory Drive at Goodwin Avenue. Both students
were struck by turning buses. Two other bus-pedestrian accidents occurred
on campus between the two fatalities.
UI, Champaign and Urbana police have stepped up enforcement, issuing
warning citations to drivers who exceed the 25 mph speed limit or fail
to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Pedestrians who ignore “don’t
walk” signals and fail to yield to traffic are garnering written
warnings as well.
“There’s no joy in this, but we really have to educate everyone
on safety,” said Lt. Skip Frost, UI police department. “Everyone
who has a vested interest in this campus has a vested interest in staying
Radar trailers that display a driver’s speed have been placed
on campus streets as a way to help slow traffic, and, pending approval
by the city councils of Champaign and Urbana, speed limits on campus
streets will be reduced from 25 mph to 20 mph.
The UI has begun repainting crosswalks, adding a message urging pedestrians
to look before crossing.
Drivers and pedestrians will have a few weeks to start practicing safer
habits before police start handing out tickets instead of warnings.
While feedback from the public in relation to the increased enforcement
has been largely positive, a few violators who were caught in the act
grumbled comments about police spending their time nabbing jaywalkers
and speeders instead of “real” criminals, Frost said.
“But people really have a much greater chance of being hurt in
a vehicle-pedestrian accident on campus than being the victim of a violent
crime,” Frost said.
Pam Voitik, director of Campus Services, said civil and environmental
engineering professor Rahim Benekohal is studying 25 crossings on campus
and the volume of pedestrians and traffic at each, including the crosswalk
at Sixth and Chalmers streets.
MTD officials have begun installing devices that beep when buses are
turning. Bus drivers have been asked to slow down to 20 mph on campus
and make eye contact with pedestrians; pedestrians are being encouraged
to do the same with drivers through a safety campaign on the buses.
Voitik said other possible measures being considered are decreasing
the frequency of buses traveling certain routes, assigning campus routes
to the most senior bus drivers and decreasing the number of bus stops.
In the wake of the accident that killed Channick, Chancellor Richard
Herman asked for an emergency meeting of the UI, Champaign and Urbana
officials involved in the Campus Area Transportation Study, which provided
suggestions to improve pedestrian and traffic safety following a fatal
accident that involved a UI student 10 years ago.
“Somehow we have to figure out some way we can have a combination
of less traffic, slower traffic and wiser pedestrians,” Herman
told the group. “The status quo is not acceptable. This really
is a plea for help.”
“I’m ready to get the sororities and fraternities to put
on orange sashes and be safety monitors,” he added.
Some of the suggestions from the CATS study that were implemented to
enhance safety on campus streets included restricting traffic on the
800 block of south Wright Street to buses only and redirecting traffic
on other nearby streets.
A special subcommittee of the Technical Advisory Committee of the Campus
Area Transportation Study, which includes MTD drivers and UI students,
is meeting weekly for a month to look at short-term and long-term measures
to further improve safety.
The committee also will look at what has been done on other campuses
and whether the plans that came out of the Campus Area Transportation
Study need to be changed. The study will likely involve a consultant
to review the bus routes and level of bus service on campus.