UVM student-researchers call on university to make cross walk safer

Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 6:45 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Some University of Vermont student-researchers say four intersections around campus are unsafe.

“We’ve seen a lot of almosts, but I can tell you I’m actually surprised someone hasn’t been hit at this intersection,” said David Warshaw, a UVM professor who says he’s been walking on the University Heights and Main Street crosswalk for 25 years.

His colleague, Mark Nelson, agrees. “You have people turning right over the crosswalk, people coming over the hill that can’t see things, and so something bad is going to happen at some point,” Nelson said.

UVM student-researchers in their energy alternatives class share this opinion and decided to conduct a study noting different instances of dangerous activity seen on the intersection and three others during a one-hour period. At University Heights, they found 133 dangerous incidents including vehicles not stopping for pedestrians, speeding, or running red lights.

Many we spoke with who use the intersection say they’re not surprised to hear that. “It’s kind of a mess,” said Dakota Smith, a UVM junior.

“A lot of cars do run red lights, so it’s hard. And also sometimes there’s a lot of students, so crossing is really difficult,” said Chloe Echo, a UVM junior.

Some students admitted that pedestrians at the intersection also occasionally jump the gun. “I’ve almost gotten hit a couple of times, but I think it was mainly from me putting myself at risk. I don’t feel that unsafe at the crosswalk, personally,” said Russell Gomery, a UVM freshman.

“I think students will start walking before the walk light turns and that makes me nervous,” added Anna Klieger, a sophomore.

Students say the goal of the research was to remind UVM officials and the city of a longstanding complaint. “It’s been brought up to the school more than once and there’s never been enough attention for them to do anything about it or try to propose any solutions,” said Avery Anderson, who helped with the study,

University officials say they’ve actually done a lot to mitigate the risks that come with the intersection. They say the sidewalk was created to disperse crowds. They’ve also added an underground tunnel and a walkway to avoid having to cross at the intersection.

Lisa Kingsbury, associate director of planning, says they’re not done yet. “We’re continuing to monitor it and continuing to look. They’re going to make some additional adjustments this fall, opening up some of the fences that are here to give people more room to get across,” she said.

UVM has also partnered with the city’s Department of Public Works, which found the intersection does not qualify as a high crash zone. From 2014 to 2019, only 50 crashes took place at the intersection, none of which were fatal and none of which involved pedestrians.

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