Crosswalks in crisis: Students face long waits, collision risks


Jessica Jutzi

Students walk across the intersection of Gregory and Nevada in Urbana on Wednesday. Columnust Saketh Vasamsetti argues that many campus crosswalks are unsafe and need to be fixed.

By Saketh Vasamsetti, Columnist

Just outside the Illinois Street Residence Hall is an intersection between Gregory and Illinois streets in Urbana. It’s an intersection that the entire dorm may cross on a daily basis.

On most days there is little to no traffic at all, and crossing isn’t a problem. There are certain times, however, when cars seem to disregard the street signs that say, “Stop for pedestrians.”

On multiple occasions, I have dodged cars because they seem to not see the sign. But the problem isn’t just at that intersection.

Just down Gregory Street in Urbana are two other intersections at Oregon Street and Nevada Street. That general area is a popular location for various restaurants and is also the only efficient way to get to CRCE, the nearest gym. Neither of the intersections has a crosswalk, let alone a street sign. Cars pass as they wish, and pedestrian inconvenience grows.

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Luckily, those are locations that draw only a small portion of students.

Green Street, on the other hand, is perhaps the busiest street on campus. Part of Champaign, Green intersects with Fifth Street, where cars pretty much ignore the “Stop for Pedestrians” sign.

I have stood there waiting to cross for upwards of five minutes simply because cars just move past as if there isn’t a crosswalk clearly painted on the road, or a rather large sign telling them to stop.

Not only is it inconvenient, but it can also be dangerous for people on campus without cars. Drivers who continually disobey crosswalk signs can develop a habit of doing so. When the average pedestrian comes along and attempts to cross, assuming that cars will stop for them, it puts them at risk for a collision.

Rachel Melancon, freshman in DGS, was the victim of a car ignoring pedestrian signs when she was struck while crossing the street. The accident occurred just outside the Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter house near the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and W. Ohio Street.

“This has happened more than once to other people,” Melancon says. “And both Urbana and the school have yet to do anything about it.”

Melancon said the best way to improve the situation would be for the city of Urbana to step in.

“Adding more lights and stop signs especially in areas with heavy foot traffic (would help),” Melancon says. “In areas near the quad and dorms there are a lot, but Urbana has yet to add many around their side of the campus.”

Campus safety should be one of the top priorities for our campus of 45,000 students. If the issue escalates any further, it can become a city-level problem. Crosswalks should be implemented in places they currently are not present, and crosswalks that are not ideally performing should be improved.

Smaller signs can be replaced with flashing crosswalk signs that alert drivers from a further distance away. There are even some crosswalks on campus that act as signal lights, flashing red when pedestrians attempt to cross. A majority of crosswalks simply have a sign, which only provides minimal safety for students.

Luckily for students, there may be some help on the way. The $44 million Multimodal Corridor Enhancement (MCORE) Project, funded in December primarily through local and state government, will supposedly restructure some of campus to facilitate better pedestrian, biker and bus access.

Construction, which is scheduled to begin in spring 2017, is planned to include the Fifth Street and Green Street intersection that frequently causes students problems. But, it will not include the intersections where Melancon and her friends were hit.

In the meantime, the University must also work to enforce proper consequences on those who abuse the rules.

The responsibility of this issue also falls on campus drivers. Drivers must not only put themselves in a safe position but also those around them.

Driving is a privilege, but it comes with having a proper sense of safety and the responsibility not to be a jerk.

Saketh is a freshman in DGS.

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