Pedestrian accidents increase on campus

By Danielle Gaines

A man and a Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District collided early Sunday morning.

According to Champaign police reports, Daniel Vollrath, a Charleston, Ill., resident, left Murphy’s Pub and crossed Green Street. Vollrath had been looking for a taxi before crossing the street. He re-entered the roadway after seeing a taxi and collided with the bus.

The bus, driven by Elizabeth M. Lirby, had been stopped at the intersection of Sixth and Green Streets just prior to the accident. The police report indicated that the bus driver slowed to avoid a collision.

Vollrath was transported to Carle Hospital via ambulance, treated for minor injuries, and released. The bus driver was taken to the hospital as a precaution and for drug and alcohol testing.

Alcohol was not involved according to the police report. Vollrath was issued a citation for jaywalking.

Tom Costello, assistant managing director of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District and member of the Illini Media Company Board of Directors, said that speed was not a factor in the accident.

“Pedestrian safety is a real issue right now,” said Cynthia Hoyle, a consultant for MTD. “There have been a number of accidents in the past week, indicating that the problem goes beyond bus accidents.”

University Police Lt. Vernon G. Frost said four accidents between a bike and vehicle were reported in the University District from Oct. 18 to Oct. 20. There was also one accident involving a vehicle and a pedestrian on Oct. 20.

Pedestrian safety has been the main focus of weekly meetings of the Technical Committee of the Campus Area Transportation Study since the death of University freshman Sarah Channick on Sept. 29. Channick was killed after she was hit by an MTD bus while crossing Sixth and Chalmers Streets.

The Technical Committee met Tuesday to discuss its final recommendations for traffic safety changes in the University District. The recommendations are categorized as short-term and long-term changes to be completed.

“Short term changes are those things that can be done under current legal authority or under legal authority that can be quickly obtained,” said Bruce Knight, committee chairperson and planning director for the City of Champaign. “Short term changes also include those projects that funding is already available for.”

Short-term recommendations include repainting crosswalks, increasing signs warning pedestrians to look before entering roadways and lowering the University District speed limit to 20 mph.

“Lowering the speed limit to 20 mph makes it clear to drivers that they are in an important area, their awareness of surroundings is heightened,” said Pam Voitik, director of campus services.

University Police continue to issue warning tickets to pedestrians in violation of state traffic safety laws. More than 450 warning tickets have been issued to pedestrians since increased enforcement began on Oct. 8 as part of an education campaign, Lt. Frost said. Officers are issuing tickets to all pedestrians posing an immediate threat to themselves or others.

The MTD has also implemented several changes. Traditional turn signals on Campustown buses will be replaced with strobe lights. The new signals will be installed on articulated buses first. All buses will eventually include this feature.

The cost of retrofitting all buses with the new turn signals is approximately $25,000 to $30,000.

The MTD is also looking for ways to decrease bus traffic on campus and reroute buses to increase safety. Several routes, including the Green and Illini, may be rerouted to decrease the number of turning motions made by buses.

MTD buses have been operating at the 20 mph proposed speed limit since Oct. 11. No changes have been made to bus arrival schedules yet.

“We want to keep our schedule, but not at the expense of safety,” said Costello. “Safety comes first.”

Long-term changes include identifying dangerous intersections, reviewing bike paths, possible street closings and changes to on-street parking.

The next meeting of the Technical Committee will be Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. at the Illinois Terminal. At that meeting, the committee’s final recommendations will be drafted and presented to Chancellor Richard Herman and the mayors of Champaign and Urbana.