Since 2007, Indiana University’s campus population has grown from about 39-thousand people to more than 42-thousand. The growth means not just more bodies, but more cars and bicycles navigating the same street space.
And following the death of sophomore Peter Duong in September, the growing amount of traffic has a task force comprised of city officials and school administrators — like Assistant Dean of Students Carol McCord — asking questions…
“How can we keep people’s awareness of the severity of the situation or the potential danger in the situation at the forefront of people’s minds and the other question is many of Peter’s friends are asking how can we use Peter’s life and loss to help people perhaps to do that,” McCord said.
McCord says there are options the University is looking in to, including the drastic step of limiting driving on campus, but she says IU leaders would rather reorganize.
“When we have this many people in a confined space that is the boundaries of campus all trying to get around and we have people both on foot and driving and also on cycles we are going to have the potential for these problems to arise and we have to encourage people to be aware,” McCord.
Currently the task force is considering mechanical improvements, such as reducing speed, investigating traffic flow, and better regulating pedestrian movement. Bloomington Public Works Director Suzie Johnson says one solution might be found at local grade schools.
“Well, we use crossing guards at all of our elementary schools because we think that those children need help crossing. So we provide that service. I think when you’re talking about a campus for the most part that are over the age of 18 they understand the rules of the road, now whether or not they choose to abide by those whether they are a pedestrian or driving a vehicle it’s something else a crossing guard isn’t necessarily going to change anyone’s behavior,” Johnson said.
IU officials cover traffic safety during new student orientation. But Task Force member and IU professor Kurt Zorn says the training doesn’t seem to stop inattention by pedestrians.
“We all know when people get off buses they want to cross and sometimes unfortunately they think they’re still on those yellow school buses instead of the green and red buses. So they think all the traffic is going to stop. People walking around with diversions in their hands and ears, IPODS, telephones, texting, driving and walking. Lack of attention and then education people forget what we were taught when we were little bit stronger than you when you’re walking across the street,” he said.
In 2008, 604 accidents were reported on the IU campus, including 70 with personal injury. This year has seen one fatality and almost 50 accidents involving personal injury.
IU Police Captain Jerry Minger concurs with Zorn, saying the biggest cause of accidents is inattention…
“One particular that I really remember were the radio call was pedestrian bus accident at 10th and Jordan but when officers got there they discovered…the pedestrian had actually walked into the side of a turning bus reading a book headphones on didn’t hit the pedestrian and those things I think happen all too often,” Minger said.
All that leads Suzie Johnson to a common sense solution:
“The message that the committee can carry forward is that everybody has a responsibility to take care of their own personal safety and if you’re a pedestrian that means you stop and look both ways and make sure the road is clear before you cross and when you’re driving a vehicle you have …an obligation to yield to the pedestrian once that pedestrian is in the crosswalk,” Johnson said.
The committee plans to meet with IU Bloomington Provost Karen Hanson to present its recommendations.