Campus district receives safety recommendations

By Danielle Gaines

Recommendations to make the University district more pedestrian friendly will be forwarded to Chancellor Richard Herman and mayors of Champaign and Urbana later this week.

The technical advisory committee of the Campus Area Transportation Study drafted the recommendations. The committee’s recommendations were created by existing committee members and additional advisory members added after Chancellor Herman requested an emergency meeting in response to the death of University freshman Sarah Channick on Sept. 29. A bus struck Channick as she crossed Sixth and Chalmers streets.

Although the committee has drafted both short-term and long-term safety improvements, only the short-term recommendations will be forwarded.

“These are primarily interim actions to create a safer environment immediately,” said Bruce Knight, chairperson of the committee and planning director for the city of Champaign. “We intend to follow up with more detailed actions at the beginning of next year.”

The committee will meet in January to discuss the proposed long-term changes. The participating institutions will concentrate on implanting the short-term changes until that meeting and will report on their progress.

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Nina Gazanfari, sophomore in LAS, became an advisory member after the accident to make a difference in the campus environment and to remember Channick.

“This group is great because everyone comes from a different background and from the goodness of their heart,” Gazanfari said. “I have seen organizations bend over backwards to do things and not just make things easier for themselves.”

Steven Markowitz, freshman in ACES, has seen an increase in pedestrian safety awareness on campus.

“I never even thought there was a safety problem on campus until Sarah’s accident,” Markowitz said. “There is wider recognition of the problem and the overall safety has been raised, but things need to keep moving as fast as possible.”

As part of an educational campaign, University Police have made 368 contacts with pedestrians for violations of safety laws, said Lt. Vernon Frost. Additionally, Frost said he estimates there have been 150 warnings to drivers, though they are not logged as violations of pedestrian traffic safety laws. Common violations that endanger pedestrians are turning right on red and disregarding yield signs at crosswalks.

Beginning November 7, the University police will discontinue issuing warning tickets and will begin issuing citations to citizens violating pedestrian traffic laws.

“I really do believe that a greater number of pedestrians are paying attention to what is going on,” Frost said.

The committee also recommended the University District speed limit be reduced to 20 mph. Streets owned by the University have already posted the lower speed limit. The city of Urbana will agree to the reduced speed through administrative action prior to Council approval. The Champaign County City Council voted against the decrease.

The University Police will also increase enforcement of speeding violations in the University district after all entities approve the speed decrease.