What steps has the university taken to improve campus walking/biking/driving safety?
Last fall President Gordon Gee formed the Traffic Safety Task Force led by Jay Kasey, senior vice president of Administration and Planning, and Javaune Adams-Gaston, vice president for Student Life. The task force was charged to provide an initial assessment of safety on campus as it relates to pedestrian and vehicular behavior and suggest both short- and long-term solutions. The task force reviewed safety measures and practices both at Ohio State and on other university campuses and considered research on traffic safety. All of this came together in a report that includes recommendations for improving the safety of our campus (go.osu.edu/SYz).
What has been implemented and what’s next?
There have been several changes around campus since fall. For example, “Look” has been painted into some of the crosswalks on Woodruff and College. Signage has been placed throughout campus encouraging students to look and listen, expect bikes and other messages. This spring there are plans for a number of educational events. On March 20 from 1-2 p.m. there will be an educational event focused on pedestrians and jaywalking. On April 13 from 9:30-10:30 a.m. there will be an educational event for bicyclists and the rules of the road. There also will be distribution of safety materials across campus. On April 17 from 1-2 p.m., an event will be held on the Oval focused on the Walk Zone for the Oval. Volunteers will be communicating about why the university is honoring the Oval by making it a Walk Zone. There also are plans for the university in partnership with Franklin County to focus on enforcing regulations around operating a vehicle while impaired.
How were these safety measures determined and why were they right for our campus?
The recommendations were based on observations of traffic conditions on the OSU campus, best practices at other universities and research on traffic safety. The research shows that multifaceted campaigns that include education, infrastructure and enforcement work best, and the university is focusing on these three key elements. Within each element we have looked at research that points to specific strategies. For example, OSU City and Regional Planning Professor Jack Nasar conducted the first study of injury rates due to walking and using a mobile device. His studies, along with other research, shows that mobile device users have distracted attention, are less aware of their surroundings, are more likely to walk into traffic unsafely and over the past five years have had an injury rate increase faster than that for drivers using cell phones. Nasar believes that enhanced signage on the pavement would be effective because many mobile device users look down to text and women in particular tend to look down while talking on their mobile phone. In addition, embedded signage would increase awareness of the need to practice safe use of mobile devices, which is why the task force made the recommendation for enhanced signage and why “Look” signage is being tested on College and Woodruff. Initial observations indicate that the “Look” signs may be helpful. For example, pedestrians who crossed Woodruff at the Physics Research Tower, 8 percent did not look before crossing. At the crosswalk at Koffolt, 15 percent of pedestrians did not look before crossing.