November 23, 2009

Indiana U. issues traffic safety recommendations

An Indiana University, Bloomington, task force on traffic safety recommended an extensive education campaign and phased installation of a more effective type of pedestrian crosswalk as key steps to improving vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle safety on campus.

The Bloomington Campus Traffic Safety Task Force report also calls for coordinating the locations of campus and city bus stops and establishing an IU Bloomington standing committee with ongoing oversight of issues related to campus traffic safety.

Provost and Executive Vice President Karen Hanson created the task force on Sept. 18, 2009, charging it to study traffic safety issues, examine factors that had led to recent accidents and recommend measures to improve safety throughout campus.

"The task force has conducted a thorough investigation of the issues and made thoughtful and appropriate recommendations," Hanson said. "The campus is grateful to the members of this group for their outstanding work, and we look forward to working with the City of Bloomington to improve campus traffic safety for students, staff, faculty and community members."

The task force was chaired by Kurt Zorn, associate vice provost for undergraduate education, and Paul Sullivan, deputy vice president for capital projects and facilities. It included representatives of various IU offices and departments; student, staff and faculty representatives; and members from city government.

"Director of Public Works Susie Johnson and Bloomington Chief of Police Mike Diekhoff were actively engaged in the deliberations and decisions," Hanson said. "This exemplary cooperation between campus and community is essential to improving traffic safety."

Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan also praised the teamwork represented by the task force. "The task force recommendations are important for two reasons. They will result in real safety improvements, and they are indicative of how much good comes from campus-community cooperation," Kruzan said.

Hanson appointed the task force in response to growing concerns about campus safety and accidents involving vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. Three accidents in the past seven years have resulted in fatalities.

Task force recommendations include:

  • Undertaking an extensive safety education program, ensuring that the campus community understands the "rules of the road" and the inherent dangers associated with pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle traffic on campus.
  • Implementing a plan that creates a new type of pedestrian crosswalk with clear delineation of a "safe zone" in which pedestrians have the right of way. The crosswalks would be installed first at two locations on Fee Lane, with more sites possibly to follow.
  • Making a limited number of changes in bus stops with the goal of eliminating confusion between IU Campus Bus and Bloomington Transit bus-stop locations.
  • Engaging a traffic engineer to study pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle traffic patterns with attention to speed limits, traffic signals and street alignment. The study would be coordinated with implementation of the campus master plan.
  • Forming a standing committee or advisory body to maintain oversight of campus traffic safety issues and coordinate efforts with the City of Bloomington.

The education campaign recommended by the task force would convey a safety message that is simple, visual and straightforward. It would be repeated each semester and would be as widespread as possible, presented in cooperation with the Office of Enrollment Management and Residential Programs, and making use of the campus Web page, social networking tools, orientation and student-information meetings, Campus Bus messages and the media.

The new type of pedestrian crosswalk would include clear signage for both pedestrians and drivers to clearly delineate a "safe zone" — an adequate distance between the crosswalk and approaching vehicles to make it safe for pedestrians to cross. Depending on the configuration of the roadway, the design could include a pedestrian island.

Two such crosswalks would be initially installed on Fee Lane — one near the Fee Lane Parking Garage and the other near a bus stop across from Foster Residence Center. IU and Bloomington police would launch an education campaign on the new crosswalks, coupled with increased enforcement. If the effort is successful, crosswalks could be added at six other locations identified by the task force.

The report points out that Indiana laws on pedestrian crossings are confusing, creating a need for better signage and education.

The complete report can be seen at online at http://www.iub.edu/provost/traffic/.

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