GW urges pedestrians to look at road, not phones

Media Credit: Tatiana Cirisano | Hatchet Photographer
Freshman Tiffany Monzon checks her phone while crossing the intersection of H and 21st streets. GW recently launched a pedestrian safety campaign to remind students to “look up” rather than at their phones.

GW is giving students a few reminders to unglue their eyes from their phones as they cross the street.

Sidewalks between 21st and 22nd streets on H Street and I Street – intersections that safety officials have called the most dangerous on campus – now feature bright yellow and red stickers that tell students to “walk now, text later.”

Samantha McGovern, a project coordinator in the Division of Operations, said as students crisscross campus wearing headphones or typing on their smartphones, it’s “a recipe for danger.”

“We’re a school in an urban environment, and it’s very easy for our community to jut out between cars with their headphones in and their faces in their cell phones,” McGovern said. “You can’t just expect cars to look out for you.”

McGovern said the idea for the “Look Up” campaign surfaced after the Student Association called for an official campus safety review with the D.C. Department of Transportation last year.

McGovern said students wanted speed bumps built on H Street, but that D.C. “wouldn’t have allowed it.” Speed humps can only be installed on residential streets according to the District Department of Transportation.

Student leaders began pushing for pedestrian safety after two students were hit by cars on campus in April 2011. About 650 pedestrians in D.C. were hit by cars every year between 2005 and 2010, according to the transportation agency. But that number rose to 768 crashes involving pedestrians in 2010, the most recent year of data.

GW targeted the 22nd and I street intersection near Whole Foods, where car and foot traffic has exploded since the opening of The Avenue. Last spring, the city installed two sets of stoplights there to improve traffic flow.

SA President Julia Susuni said initiatives tackling student safety started with student leaders almost two years ago and said her administration followed up with GW about the issue.

Last spring, SA Sen. Danica Brown, U-At-Large, worked with the D.C. Department of Transportation to review campus pedestrian safety and discussed a potential social media campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted walking.

Susuni said the SA hopes to expand the sidewalk safety campaign by continuing to speak with McGovern and other administrators, but could not list any specifics.

“There are definitely other ideas that have been discussed,” says Susuni, “But those are just conversations that are going to be ongoing, but aren’t necessarily something that you can see, like the stickers.”

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