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Pedestrian safety remains a concern despite push for crosswalk blinkers

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Photo by J. Matthew Serafin/matthew.serafin@marquette.edu

Photo by J. Matthew Serafin/matthew.serafin@marquette.edu

The Department of Public Safety and Marquette Student Government implemented new measures this year to improve pedestrian safety on campus, including a new blinker crosswalk on Wisconsin Avenue near the Alumni Memorial Union. There are also blinker crosswalks on 15th Street, one by the Rec Center and one across from the DPS’s office on 16th Street.

Despite this measure, a student was hit by a car Sept. 26 at the blinking crosswalk on Wisconsin Avenue near the AMU and Olin Engineering Center. She had to be taken away by paramedics but was responsive.

Interim Director of the Department of Public Safety Russell Shaw said students need to be aware of their surroundings when using the crosswalks.

“Having the flashing lights is certainly more effective than not having anything there,” Shaw said. “In that regard, I think (the crosswalks) are effective, and I think the drivers on the street definitely see this.”

Shaw also said that especially on Wisconsin Avenue, vehicles cannot always see students on that crosswalk.

“Students have to be responsible to make sure that the vehicles still stop before they start crossing,” Shaw said.  “It’s almost a process: You push the button and the lights flash, but still, you have to make sure that the vehicles are stopping. What I see is that students get complacent because they assume once they push the button people are going to stop, and that’s where I think we run into problems.”

Rana Altenburg, vice president of public affairs, said safety is the most important aspect of her job.

“We have a long history of working with Marquette University Student Government on improving pedestrian safety throughout the campus and plan to continue this partnership throughout the school year,” Altenburg said.

Altenburg and her office helped work with MUSG and Milwaukee Alderman Robert Bauman to put the crosswalks on campus.

Sarah Lentes, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said she is not sure what to do at these blinker crosswalks.

“I think that the blinker crosswalk is confusing because I’m never sure if the cars are going to stop or if they just have a yellow light,” Lentes said. “I think the other crosswalks do make us more safe if used properly, though hardly anyone on campus can say they’ve never darted across.”

MUSG President Sam Schultz said he is seeing improvement in the traffic control around campus.

“I think when people press the buttons and use the crosswalk, a lot more traffic stops than used to stop,” Schultz said. “I think it is a step in the right direction in regards to pedestrian safety and slowing down some of the traffic on Wisconsin Avenue.”

Schultz said there are also more of these crosswalk blinkers across Milwaukee. The city is part of a national study on the effectiveness of these blinker crosswalks. 

The study, conducted by the Federal Highway Administration’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Research Program, examines the safety of pedestrians at uncontrolled crosswalks and provided suggestions as to how to increase safety. The study was done by taking a tally of the pedestrian traffic volume at over 2,000 pedestrian crosswalks and taking data based on several different factors, such as number of accidents and the type of crosswalk employed.

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