Putting the brakes on crosswalk incidents

Close calls at crosswalks being addressed a number of ways, but the problem continues

Tayla Scott, News Collective Intern Ω

TRU's rainbow crosswalk was painted in September 2013. Photo courtesy Nic Zdunich

TRU’s rainbow crosswalk was painted in September 2013. Photo courtesy Nic Zdunich

The three-way intersection in front of Old Main is one of the busiest and most dangerous intersections for pedestrians on campus. Many students report close calls with motorists while crossing the rainbow crosswalk. On March 4, a student was hit by a car while crossing.

The student was crossing around 9:30 a.m. when a car drove through the stop sign. The driver slammed on the brakes but wasn’t able to avoid contact with the student. The student only suffered bruises, but was very shaken up by the incident. The student recounted the story to Stacey Jyrkkanen, TRU manager of health and safety.

The driver stopped the car “long enough to roll down their window and swear at the person they had just hit for being on the road and then sped off,” Jyrkkanen said.

The student who was hit did not want to comment on the incident.

There are no cameras in the area and the driver still hasn’t been caught. The RCMP sent out a news release to help catch the driver.

The release stated: “The vehicle involved is described as a dark blue four door car, with a fin on the back and was being driven by a female driver at the time of the incident.”

Close calls with motorists at this intersection are often reported to security or to Jyrkkanen, who confirmed that it’s one of the worst intersections for close calls with motorists on campus, although she doesn’t have exact statistics on the number of incidents.

“We don’t get all of the reports. For every one you get there’s probably at least one close call that hasn’t been reported,” Jyrkkanen said. “I’ve been one of those close calls.”

Jyrkkanen once had to jump out of the way of a car while crossing the rainbow crosswalk.

“It has been a problem ever since we opened the House of Learning [in 2011],” she said.

Jyrkkanen described all the attempts to make the intersection safer for pedestrians.

“We put in stop signs, which people drive right through. We made the stop signs really, really big and people will still drive right through those. We put in two flashing red lights,” she said.

The only thing that got drivers to slow down were the seasonal plastic speed bumps that were put down in the fall. They had to be removed for winter plowing but facilities will be putting asphalt speed bumps in once the asphalt plants open.

“This is all to try and stop people from just driving right on through and hitting people,” Jyrkkanen said.

Director of environment and sustainability Jim Gudjonson participated in a recent competition put on by Carmanah Technologies. Colleges and universities across North America competed to get more likes and shares on social media. The prize was a free solar-powered crosswalk signal that Gudjonson wanted installed at the rainbow crosswalk.

“It’s one of the busiest crosswalks because of its proximity to the bus stop and also getting up to the gym and the TCC,” Gudjonson said.

Unfortunately, the top three finalists were announced on April 1, and TRU was not among them.

Another hot spot for close calls with motorists is the crosswalk that leads off-campus to Subway.

“I was actually hit there back in November,” Stacey Jyrkkanen said. The student who hit her slammed on the breaks last minute, but still knocked her down. Then the student drove off without stopping.

“The student told police I came out of nowhere, but that doesn’t just happen. You don’t just come out of nowhere,” Jyrkkanen said.

Both Jyrkkanen and Gudjonson agree that both pedestrians and drivers need to be aware of each other, and be more careful.

“The number one thing is to just slow down and be aware. It’s a stop sign and it’s there for a reason,” Jyrkkanen said.