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TRAN: Rutgers pedestrians need to be more mindful

Column: Hung Up

While Rutgers pedestrians tend to expect cars to stop for them, they should actually be more aware of their surroundings. – Photo by Kevin Butz / Unsplash

Roughly speaking, humans are about 100 to 200 pounds of meat and bones, spread across five to six feet high and two feet shoulder-to-shoulder. A car comes in at approximately 4,094 pounds of metal and with a "slow" road speed of 20 miles per hour. Despite the obviously massive physical threat, so many pedestrians, who are mainly students here around New Brunswick, seem to blatantly disregard roadside awareness and disrespect drivers.

In the United States, people aged 1-44 years old die from injuries and violence, including motor vehicle crashes, more than any other cause. Even if a collision is not enough to kill someone at a hypothetical inner-city street speed of 20 mph, it is safe to assume that there will be some sort of injury the majority of the time.

If a vehicle goes just a bit faster at 30 mph, the chance of injury jumps from 5 percent to 45 percent, and the other half would be injured out of a sample of 20 people. These speeds are not unrealistic for any given road, even in denser areas with more pedestrian traffic such as around New Brunswick.

At Rutgers, this is never more clear than at the bus stops. On the College Avenue campus, the College Avenue Student Center and the Student Activities Center bus stops are rife with people trying to cross the street as quickly as possible.

George Street and College Avenue are quite busy in the afternoons and evenings, and this is a time when most people are walking from these bus stops. Many people cross the street in front of Brower Commons as soon as they get off the bus. This often means stepping out in front of the bus, where you cannot see oncoming traffic and the traffic cannot see you. 

While crossing an empty street is fine, and jaywalking is its own topic, so many pedestrians are seemingly unaware of the presence of oncoming cars. They just walk without slowing down, hoping that the cars stop instead.

Further, many walk directly in front of buses or other cars, not more than an arms-length away. If the driver just slightly moves their foot off the brake pedal, there may not be enough time for either person to react. Even at crosswalks, such as those in front of the Yard @ College Avenue, many walk without slowing down or looking at oncoming traffic — again presumably expecting any cars to stop.

While pedestrians have the legal right of way, sometimes the driver is not planning to stop or is already going too fast to stop comfortably. Instead of rushing the crosswalk, pedestrians can slow down for just 1 or 2 seconds to allow the car to have time to pass first, especially when the walk signal and traffic light indicator are in their favor.

These issues are not only present on the major streets. Cars on Bishop Street and Seminary Place must drive extremely slow and constantly stop as people cross wherever they please. Even when there is only one car traveling down the road, pedestrians still seem insistent on crossing as soon as possible, meaning in front of the car.

Instead, if they continued down the sidewalk for just a few extra steps, the car would be allowed to move unimpeded, which also has the benefit of leaving the road behind completely empty and free to cross. While this is not very dangerous, it still demonstrates the lack of respect for drivers.

A lot of these issues are not seen as such due to drivers’ knowledge and awareness of the prevalence of pedestrians on these roads. They drive slower and look more frequently for what would otherwise be unexpected crossings. But pedestrians, being the ones at risk, should be the ones spending excess effort to take care of themselves and be aware of vehicles, not the other way around.

A solution from the infrastructure side, specifically for the College Avenue campus, would be to have a bus stop on the "inside" area between College Avenue and George Street. As it stands, Brower Commons, Alexander Library, much of the student housing and academic buildings are all across from 1 of the 2 major roads when getting off the bus stop. This idea may be difficult or impractical due to traffic and efficiency issues, though.

There could also be a fence similar to the one across from the Yard, across from the College Avenue Student Center in front of Brower Commons. This would prevent the excess crossings, but perhaps this would be at the expense of walking convenience when the roads are more empty.

Still, though, pedestrian safety is ultimately the responsibility of those walking. We need to do a better job of paying attention and being mindful of the drivers rather than relying on them to pay attention to us.

Tyler Tran is a first-year in the School of Arts and Sciences majoring in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and minoring in Economics. His column, "Hung Up," runs on alternative Fridays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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