Pedestrians need to be safer on campus

By Lanthorn Editorial Board | 9/13/17 10:25pm

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At Grand Valley State University, several precautions are made to ensure pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists stay safe as they pass through campus. During peak traffic hours, there are crossing guards who direct and stop traffic to ensure pedestrians cross the street safely. In addition, there are clearly delineated walking and biking paths through the Allendale Campus on one side of the road to ensure that pedestrians and bicyclists don't collide.

Nevertheless, some pedestrians at GVSU continue to engage in unsafe walking practices on campus, practically canceling the university's efforts to keep them safe. A theme we see more often than not at GVSU is students taking the "right-of-way" mentality too far. 

We've all seen it: people crossing the street without even looking, glued to their phones and completely zoned out from their surroundings. Too many students assume that cars will stop for them, so they walk with little regard for the dangerous situation they are creating.

This mentality not only puts the crossing pedestrians at risk—it also endangers people who are driving. Walking across any busy intersection without at least looking up to see oncoming traffic is never a good idea. Cars need sufficient time to stop, so whether or not a pedestrian has the right of way is ultimately irrelevant in a situation where they cross the street when a car clearly does not have time to stop safely. At that point, the pedestrian is putting everyone in the situation in danger.

Another issue we see all too often are students engaging in unsafe walking practices by the buses that run through campus. Despite the automated bus voice explicitly warning pedestrians not to walk in front of the bus after exiting, some students do just that, forcing bus drivers to slam on the breaks to avoid hitting them. 

One possible explanation for many pedestrians' careless behavior is the pervasive myth perpetuated with every incoming class that if a student gets hit by a bus, they "automatically" get free tuition. For all those actually considering this possibility, please know doing this will in fact not get you free tuition.  

Of course, motorists too have a huge responsibility in creating a safe campus environment. People operating motor vehicles need to be extremely observant of their surroundings, and oftentimes they are not. Speeding through campus is unsafe for everyone, especially since GVSU pedestrians are prone to exercise their right of way with little regard for oncoming traffic.

Recognizing the desperate need for traffic education, officials from Grand Rapids instituted a pedestrian safety campaign Monday, Sept. 11. The campaign will focus on 21 enforcement zones around the city, and at these locations, police officers will observe motorist and pedestrian interactions. 

According to Chris Zull, traffic safety manager for Grand Rapids, officers are not present to issue citations but are instead there to educate about the pedestrian safety laws in Grand Rapids and issue warnings. 

This is a wise initiative, considering many people aren't aware of—or just simply ignore—the very necessary rules of the road. Perhaps the powers that be at GVSU should consider implementing a similar campaign on campus.

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