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June 10, 2004

Committee Focuses on Pedestrian Safety

One of the charms of an urban campus such as Pitt’s is the plethora of activities available within walking distance. One of the drawbacks is that walking around campus, amid poorly marked pedestrian crossings, unsafe road surfaces, hazardous intersections, counter traffic-flow bus lanes and some 75,000 cars whizzing through Oakland on any given day, can be dangerous.
Following two pedestrian fatalities last fall, a University Senate committee was galvanized to focus on pedestrian, bicycle and traffic safety on the Pittsburgh campus.
The community relations committee (CRC) appointed a working group of Pitt faculty and staff along with representatives from community organizations and the City of Pittsburgh to prepare recommendations on campus pedestrian safety that Faculty Assembly and Senate Council could consider adopting.
The mission of the working group is “to work with University decision-makers and community partners to identify, advocate for and monitor the implementation of educational and enforcement efforts to insure that the Oakland campus is a pedestrian-friendly and safe environment, recognizing the rights and responsibilities of both pedestrians and drivers.”
Wesley Rohrer, co-chair along with Pitt Police Chief Tim Delaney of the CRC working group, presented initial findings and recommendations to the Assembly June 1 [and the Senate June 7/check w/ Bruce], while maintaining that much more study needed to be done.
“I want to stress that this is a preliminary report of an evolving strategy,” Rohrer told the Assembly last week. “One, it doesn’t have the associated data and references that you might expect in a full report,” such as data on local accidents, traffic tickets issued and pedestrian complaints. “That will come later, in a more comprehensive report by the end of the fall term,” he said.
“This report is also preliminary in that it tries to highlight some approaches that might be considered to be put in motion with regard to pedestrian and traffic safety. Thirdly, although this is the work of a broad-based working group, we actually want to broaden that base and include more representatives from the community as well as other universities in the area.”
The committee will meet regularly, expand its membership, compile relevant data and attempt to present formal recommendations and an action plan to Assembly and Council by the end of the fall term, he added.
Rohrer strongly recommended that the subcommittee or an equivalent group maintain the focus on priorities, issues and approaches for addressing pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular traffic safety concerns. “The idea is that we would continue to work with the campus police, the University, the community and other stakeholders, and look more seriously at how to minimize pedestrian accidents and increase the awareness of pedestrians and drivers in the area. The bottom line is that our group or one like it will continue to provide the opportunity to fact-find and keep the institution informed on this very important issue.”
The working group’s report lays out a number of other general recommendations, including building a data base of scholarly and media commentary relevant to urban pedestrian safety; incorporating pedestrian and traffic safety education into all student, staff and faculty orientation sessions; surveying the community to asses the level of safety awareness; contacting other urban institutions; improving the campus’s infrastructure by restoring and maintaining pedestrian crosswalk markings and signage; adding traffic light delay and walk-only features at particularly dangerous intersections; enforcing traffic and jaywalking violations, and sharing resources among city, county, University and community organizations to increase public awareness.
One of the byproducts of the group’s deliberations, Rohrer pointed out, was a pedestrian safety poster display in the Graduate School of Public Health this spring, inspired by the World Health Organization’s 2004 theme, “Road safety is no accident.”
Rohrer also praised the work of the Staff Association Counsel’s safety and security committee in documenting dangerous pedestrian areas on or near campus.
The CRC working group’s report described the subcommittee’s five main goals:
* Identify key issues and problems, including high-risk intersections and crossings, to help prioritize safety efforts.
* Identify available resources and partners including potential funding sources, in-kind gifts, volunteer services and products relevant to traffic safety.
* Develop a pedestrian safety strategy with action recommendations, including approximating target dates and costs for actions.
* Change the culture to increase the level of safety awareness on campus by integrating safety with established programs and processes such as student orientation, and by adding programs such as annual events focused on pedestrian safety.
* Assess performance by establishing a mechanism to identify trends, accumulate data and monitor the effect of recommendations.
-Peter Hart

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