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Bloomington Campus Traffic Safety Task Force
Indiana University’s Bloomington campus is large consisting of more than 40,000 students and 8,000 faculty and staff. Approximately 11,000 students live on campus, while many others live within walking or biking distance of the campus. The campus has a relatively large footprint in the City of Bloomington. It is bordered by residential areas on the south, east and west sides and to the north by relatively undeveloped areas. There are a number of major city streets adjacent to the campus and one heavily traveled street (10th street) that traverses the NW and NE quadrants of the campus.
The campus is served by both a campus bus system (Campus Bus) and the Bloomington city bus system (Bloomington Transit). Many students use the bus systems to get to campus, or around campus, or both.
Over the last ten years there have been numerous accidents involving vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians. Over that time, however, for a campus of this size the number of accidents has not been alarming. In fact, the overall traffic safety record arguably has been quite good. However, in recent years there has been a growing sense and some evidence that the “safety margin” has diminished as the number of students, faculty, and staff increased along with the number of vehicles operating on campus. Sadly, three accidents in the last seven years have resulted in fatalities, two in 2002 and one in September 2009 in which sophomore student Peter Duong was hit by a car while crossing Fee Lane.
On September 18, 2009, Provost Karen Hanson created the Bloomington Campus Safety Task Force asking it to “conduct a thorough examination of traffic safety on our campus.” The task force was charged with examining the factors that contributed to recent pedestrian accidents on the Bloomington campus and recommending feasible measures to improve traffic safety not only at the locations of recent accidents, but also throughout the campus. The task force was composed of faculty, staff and students, as well as officials from the City of Bloomington. (Appendix A contains a full list of task force members.)
Concurrently with the formation of the task force, the Office of the Provost created an e-mail account where members of the university community and the community at large could send suggestions on how to improve traffic safety on campus. Over five hundred suggestions were received. These suggestions were reviewed by the task force and used in their deliberations.
After Provost Hanson presented the charge to the task force at its first meeting on October 5, its members discussed the charge, the context for the traffic safety issue, and parameters that would govern its subsequent discussions:
1. It is important to note that the streets that generate the vast majority of concerns regarding traffic safety (Fee Lane, 10th Street, Jordan Avenue, 3rd Street, Atwater, Indiana Avenue, and 17th Street) are city streets, controlled and maintained by the city of Bloomington. Any changes to these streets must be made by the city of Bloomington.
2. The task force had a lengthy discussion of the Indiana laws governing pedestrians and traffic. It was clear that the statutes involved are confusing. The laws are written in such a way that it is difficult to determine who has the right of way, even in a crosswalk.
3. It was acknowledged that no one at the university is an expert on traffic safety (traffic engineer). Therefore it may make sense to enlist the services of a traffic safety expert at some point in the process.
The task force met four additional times during the month of October, gathering information and discussing possible recommendations. During its second meeting, members walked along Fee Lane between 10th and 17th street to observe first-hand the interaction of pedestrians, vehicles, and bicyclists. (Appendix B contains the minutes of the task force meetings).
Some initial observations emerged from the meetings and tour:
1. The laws governing pedestrian crosswalks are confusing and, as a result, open to interpretation. It was clear that IUPD, the Bloomington Police Department (BPD), and Bloomington Department of Public Works agree on a common interpretation. Basically in the absence of special pedestrian control signals that exhibit the words “walk” or “don’t walk”, pedestrians must yield the right of way to vehicles under Indiana law. However, the code is often interpreted to provide the pedestrian the right to cross in a designated crosswalk as long as the pedestrian does not “…suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.” (IC 9-21-17-5) In other words, Indiana code does not require vehicles to stop for pedestrians in pedestrian crosswalks unless they have the aforementioned pedestrian control signals.
Based on this interpretation of Indiana code governing pedestrian crosswalks and due to the fact that a significant number of students, faculty, and staff come from areas with different rules, the City of Bloomington is not in favor of installing additional traditionally designed mid-block crosswalks. Their presence may give pedestrians a false sense of security when in reality pedestrians do not have the right of way in these crosswalks.
2. Pedestrians generally pay attention to traffic and follow the rules although there is a tendency for many students (and some faculty and staff) to talk on the phone, text, or listen to music while walking. The concern is that these activities can be distracting and reduce awareness on the part of pedestrians.
3. Many bicyclists fail to follow traffic laws although, by Indiana law, they must observe the same rules as vehicles.
4. The increased use of the bus system seems to have changed the pedestrian traffic flows. For example, at the living areas on Fee Lane there are large numbers of students who cross the street to get on the bus or after they disembark from the bus.
5. Traffic seems to be exceeding the speed limit on Fee Lane. However, a subsequent monitoring of vehicle speed on Fee Lane determined that vehicles were not traveling significantly over the speed limit.
Subsequently, members were asked to formulate a prioritized list of initiatives they felt should be considered by the task force. (See Appendix C). These priorities were discussed at both the October 16th and October 23rd meetings and form the basis for the task force’s recommendations.
1. Undertake an extensive education program at the beginning of each semester to make sure the university community understands the “rules of the road” and the inherent dangers associated with pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular traffic around campus.
a. Basic principles of the education program:
i. The message should be visual, simple, and straightforward
ii. It should be a recurrent message to ensure continuity over time
b. The program should be as widespread as possible:
i. Work with the Office of Enrollment Management
1. Incorporate educational message in freshman orientation, campus visits (red carpet days), etc.
ii. Work with RPS to disseminate educational message
1. Floor meetings
2. TVs/monitors in lounges and Union Building
3. “Move in Week” safety table
4. Bulletin boards on residential floors
iii. Use the IU Web page, Twitter, etc. (follow the approach used to disseminate information concerning the H1N1 virus)
iv. Disseminate traffic safety information during Information Fair at Wells Library during summer orientation; in January place a display in the library lobby
v. Place message on cards inside campus buses
vi. Launch media blitz in association with enhanced enforcement by IUPD
vii. Include more pedestrian and bicyclist and safety information in the “Getting Around Campus” brochure developed by the Division of Transportation Services. Make this brochure widely available (and possibly available as part of the basic education program).
2. Implement a plan that creates a new type of crosswalk that delineates the safe “zone” for pedestrians entering a crosswalk. The “safe zone” defines an adequate distance between the crosswalk and vehicles, thereby providing pedestrians with the right of way as long as no vehicles have entered the “safe zone” before the pedestrian steps off the curb to enter the crosswalk. The “safe zone” delineates what is an adequate distance between the pedestrian and vehicle in order to satisfy the requirements of IC 9-21-17-5 (referenced above). The city of Bloomington has designed crosswalks based on crosswalks used at other universities (see Appendix D). These crosswalks provide both drivers and pedestrians visual clues as to when it is safe for pedestrians to enter crosswalks, and when drivers must yield to pedestrians.
a. The task force recommends installing these crosswalks at two locations on Fee Lane as a “pilot” to ensure they work as planned. The two crosswalks should be located north of where Foster Circle exits onto Fee Lane, near the bus stop across from Foster and by the Fee Lane Parking Garage.
b. To heighten awareness of the newly designed crosswalks, IUPD and BPD should launch an education campaign for pedestrians and drivers on how these crosswalks should work. This campaign could be coupled with enforcement to increase awareness and compliance.
c. The city of Bloomington has identified six other potential sites for the newly designed crosswalks. They include:
i. 10th street and Walnut Grove