Increased traffic on campus is not a new issue to us. The university has increased funding for the Oxford-University Transit bus program and has modified parking lots and decals. But there is still the issue of pedestrian and cyclist safety.
As an avid pedestrian, I can think of three occasions in which I have nearly been hit by a vehicle — this semester alone. Some may say that I’m the problem. In retort, I can say that I use all the rules of being a pedestrian: look both ways (sometimes twice), use the crosswalk and acknowledge the driver, who’s a safe distance away.
Nevertheless, on previous occasions, the driver has tended to proceed to drive right on through the crosswalk – the one I’m innocently walking in.
On one such occasion, I stopped in the middle of the crosswalk to make a point. And, to allow the driver to proceed so I wouldn’t lose my legs. Sure enough, she blew through the crosswalk, zooming by a foot away from me. With a distressed look on my face, she knew well enough that I had stopped to make a point, but she continued anyway.
Frankly, I am scared to cross the street. A chicken, as the saying goes. But we pedestrians shouldn’t have to be scared chickens.
While the university has put a number of things in place to help reduce traffic on campus, there are still serious issues that need to be addressed. Other universities such as Texas A&M University and the University of Washington have large portions of campus closed off to vehicles, providing pedestrians and cyclists a safer environment. The University of Virginia closes off its core of campus to through traffic during the busiest parts of the day.
This would be relatively easy for Ole Miss to implement, especially since commuter parking lots are on the outskirts of campus. Consider closing off the road in front of the Union at the busiest times of the day, leaving it open for OUT buses and university vehicles only. This would reduce the amount of vehicular traffic, and I wouldn’t feel like I’m going to get slammed down each time I step into the street.
From environmental and health standpoints, increasing the ease of walking and biking around campus would decrease our carbon footprint and would encourage physical activity. Plus, the University Police Department should better enforce the speed limit. Start clocking drivers. I’ve watched many of them — they are clearly not abiding the 18 mph and frequently are addressing their cell phones instead of the pedestrians in front of them.
And for the drivers: Using your phone for anything while driving doesn’t work. We know this; statistics prove it, so let’s not do it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2009, 1,000 people died and 24,000 people were injured in the U.S. from cell phone-related accidents. That’s much more than the number of people who attend Ole Miss at this campus.
And frankly, doing anything else besides carefully watching the crosswalks while driving on campus doesn’t work either. The Circle is indeed not a racetrack, and the hill by the Union is not a roller coaster.
Just last week, on Sept. 17, a student texting and driving was charged with negligent homicide for killing a pedestrian and severely injuring another on the campus of Brigham-Young University in 2010. Yes, actually killing someone.
We can’t wait for a pedestrian to get hit before finally putting better policies in place. While administrators should consider the above options, student drivers can also be more aware of the world in front of them while driving. We must all make modifications to create a campus friendly to all forms of transportation.
I know I can’t be the only person who feels unsafe while crossing the streets on campus. Tell me about your near-death incidents. I want to hear from you angry pedestrians.
Emma Willoughby is a junior sociology and liberal arts double major from South Haven, Mich.