UI Wellness Center to rate campus walkability

The University Wellness Center will be training volunteers next Tuesday to help study something only they know best: their day-to-day surroundings.

As the fall semester approaches, the Wellness Center wants to increase the amount of walking on campus by conducting a thorough review of the area, dividing campus into 12 different quadrants, said Michele Guerra, director of the center.

Based on his or her familiarity with an area, a volunteer will be given a quadrant to analyze immediately following Tuesday’s training session.

“They will be ranking it in a number of different areas and writing down specific observations they have,” Guerra said.

The criteria that volunteers will examine includes path quality, pedestrian traffic and aesthetics, among other things, she said.

Guerra said this particular project is an initiative to promote more exercise around campus.

With more staff recently procured, the center was able to create the project.

The center’s overarching institution, Campus Recreation, provides gym facilities such as the ARC and CRCE, but Guerra said options for exercise are not limited to those buildings alone.

“There are large numbers of people, for whatever reason, who are probably not going to use those facilities and need another way to get physical activity,” Guerra said.

In order to increase “lifestyle activity,” Guerra said the University’s pathways need to be as pedestrian-friendly as possible.

The center will try to achieve this by using volunteers’ criticisms to build a “walker’s toolkit,” which will be posted to its website. The toolkit is meant to act as a guide to the best and safest walkways on campus.

In addition, the center will work with University’s Facilities and Services, as well as the Division of Public Safety, as to what should be changed in the area. Guerra said Facilities and Services is in on the deal, as it has expressed positivity about the initiative.

“Facilities and Services has requested that we look at things for them,” Guerra said. “They are all very excited about it.”

Lt. Skip Frost of the Division of Public Safety said he appreciates the center’s collaboration with the division and Facilities and Services, as they not only plan to make recommendations, but involve both institutions in the process.

He said it is good for the three different entities to come together and make walking on campus a good experience for all students.

But Frost’s main concern of safety caused him to question the center’s idea of posting the safest walkways on the Internet.

He said posting those pathways online may actually cause predators to target these areas more, since pedestrians may lower their guard.

“Why would you provide the pathway they suggest to everyone?” Frost asked.

“I don’t think you can put a pathway up and say, ‘Okay, this is a safe way to walk.’”

While students think the initiative for wellness is a good one, some are more concerned with safety, including Gulen Ozkula, graduate student in Engineering.

She said she thinks that walking down University Avenue is dangerous and has a suggestion of her own for officials at the University.

“Maybe they can put more security around White Street or Clark (Street),” Ozkula said.

Others have construction suggestions, such as Rachel Poe, a visitor from Wheaton, Ill.

She said some sidewalks are very narrow, and it is hard to walk through them when bikers are around.

Overall, she said the campus already seems “pretty walker-friendly,” but thinks the center’s idea will benefit campus community.

“I think more people will walk if they feel it’s walker-friendly,” Poe said.