Student leaders are stepping up their commitment to pedestrian safety, working with the University to assess the daily dangers of crisscrossing campus.
Student Association Sen. Danica Brown, U-At Large, spent the fall campaigning for an official campus safety review with the D.C. Department of Transportation, which she hopes to see by the end of the semester.
“I think [pedestrian safety] is a concern many parents have, especially parents of students from rural areas. The University is large, and if you’re not used to being in a city, you need to be more alert,” she said.
Pedestrian safety raised concern last March, when vehicles on campus struck two students. After these incidents, the Student Association felt that H Street should be a priority for their efforts.
The District sees about 650 cases yearly where a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle, resulting in an average of 15 pedestrian deaths, according to DDOT’s website. Pedestrian crashes increased by about 23 percent from 2009 to 2010 – the last year for which data is available.
In mid-December, Brown conducted a campus walk-through with University safety officials, including University Police Department Assistant Chief Frank Demes and Director of the Office of Emergency Management George Nuñez, to observe the movement of pedestrians and vehicles on H Street. Based on their input, Brown is now in the process of applying for a DDOT assessment of the high-traffic intersection near Gelman Library.
“There’s a lot of movement of cars and movement of humans,” Brown said of the area, adding that she hopes to expand the review to other areas in the future.
As part of the proposed pedestrian traffic audit, a trained DDOT team would observe busy campus sites to determine potential safety improvements. Possibilities include re-zoning an area by changing speed limits or placing traffic-calming devices, such as speed bumps or grids on the road to slow tires, DDOT spokesperson Michaud Gray said.
A speed bump could only be installed if 70 percent of the block’s residents support the measure.
While the DDOT assessment does not cost money, any physical changes that result from the review would require financial support from GW.
Brown and Student Association Executive Vice President Ted Costigan met last fall with several GW officials, including administrators who handle city relations, to vet campus safety plans. Brown also met with the Ward 2 liaison for the mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Engagement, James Bulger, who likewise recommended the University seeks a DDOT review.
Brown is also coordinating a street smart awareness week for this spring. She hopes to use a social media campaign to discuss the risks of using electronic devices while walking in a city, giving students “a wake up call to pay attention.”
At the national level, a study published last week by the University of Maryland found the number of headphone-wearing pedestrians seriously injured or killed near streets and railways has tripled over six years. Of the 116 cases studied, two-thirds of the people involved were younger than 30.