Safety campaign must extend reach

September 13, 2012

On Aug. 31 the University launched the Roads Scholar safety campaign, a distinctive display of thousands of yellow and white shoes on the corner of 33rd St. and St. Paul St. This new addition marks one of Hopkins’s latest attempts to tackle the dangers pedestrians face when crossing roads near campus.

The shoe display is part of a broader three-prong initiative which consists of managing the issue of pedestrian safety through education, enforcement and engineering. The display on St. Paul is the “education’” component, setting out to raise awareness about the severity of the issue and the shocking figures. The enforcement side consists of assigning officers to the most hazardous areas on campus and the engineering aspect will include manipulating the digital timers on the traffic lights.

The issue of pedestrian safety on and around campus is severe and also difficult to resolve. The University’s efforts to loudly raise awareness about the problem are certainly praiseworthy, but the efficacy of the striking display has yet to be determined. This page does not believe that the display will be sufficient in deterring students and citizens from jaywalking, but it is a promising start.

It is critical to recognize that the pedestrians are only one portion of the problem. The other key portion that also demands serious attention is the irresponsible driving that we see at these intersections. After all, some of the accidents have involved vehicles hitting pedestrians while making a right turn onto 33rd, at which point the vehicles are expected to carefully turn while pedestrians are crossing. As such, the education component should be extended to include effectively cautioning drivers approaching intersections.

A broader part of this issue also lies in the city’s urban planning. The difficult geography of the roads surrounding campus and the lack of appropriate signage makes them hard to interpret and know how to drive if one lacks familiarity with the area. The only way to make strides to remedy this component lies in collaboration with the city. A partial solution to this urban component will be accomplished through the North Charles reconstruction project. But it is still insufficient as St. Paul is where many recent accidents have occurred. And as yet, there are no plans for reconstruction or reorganization.

Overall, the University’s attempts to manage the challenging traffic situation are necessary and welcome. The display on St. Paul is certainly eye-opening, but in order to effectively undertake this needlessly prolonged problem, the University will have to take much more targeted action.

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