Letter: Crosswalk confusion

By The Daily Illini

I have a privilege of having a car on campus. I also understand the high volume of anxiety driving creates in a sea of thousands of fellow college students utilizing the same roads, in their cars, on bikes or foot. A presumed responsibility to the welfare of the public is discretion when driving. Under these presumptions I’d like to discuss the complication of the several crosswalks that have been added to the highly traveled areas on campus.

In the article, “Crosswalks Promote Safety Cause Confusion,” the diction appears to be a defense for the implementation of the crosswalks, not addressing what I later will consider a serious confusion and complication of these implementations.

But first a remark on the former. “We want to enhance pedestrian safety and exhibit to the campus that our first priority is to the pedestrian,” read the article, a quote from Gary Biehl, a traffic engineer. Of course, the paramount ideal is not just moving from point A to point B on campus, but doing this safely.

However, I do wish to discuss the confusion of the crosswalks to the average driver.

Place yourself in a car on Fourth and Armory, where one of the new crosswalks has been allocated. You wait for the flow of pedestrians to pause long enough for you to progress farther up the street. If you are familiar with these streets, then it is assumed that on both sides of Armory is a line of cars waiting, anticipating the move unto Fourth Street as soon as traffic clears.

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The right of way belongs to those cars on Fourth Street without a stop sign. They cede this right of way to the pedestrians at the crosswalks. The complication is this. The long row of waiting cars on Armory, seeing the pause in traffic on Fourth, proceed out into the intersection. Meanwhile, the waiting cars on Fourth move into the intersection after the pause in pedestrian flow. So not only do the crosswalks take the right of way from those on main streets, they make it more dangerous, too.

In my own experience, I’ve seen this in its extreme, where the vehicles at the stop signs stop at the intersection even when the crosswalk is devoid of people. Essentially, crosswalks have become a stop sign. Whether crosswalks have been misinterpreted as such or have just been taken advantage of by pedestrians is unknown. But we should understand that the crosswalks aren’t simply there to signify heavy foot traffic. They signify the many levels of trafficking and the innate inefficacy of symbols to efficiently regulate traffic. If pedestrians and motorists don’t keep their eyes peeled, crosswalks are likely to become dangerous places for the public.

In a large campus like this, considering the bystreets crowded with roaming masses, cars may not seem to travel as quickly as one thinks. But be sure to give yourself enough time to properly assess these situations, move defensively, and foremost, look out for the safety of others. It definitely helps to know which streets have backups in order to avoid delays, to stick to the main roads, and to be patient. Remember what’s at stake. I remember hearing of a hit and run at Fourth and John, where a student lost her life. The crosswalk is now marked in cryptically yellow and white crosswalk posting.

Douglas Matiasek

senior in LAS