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UA problematic for pedestrians


Photo
Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat
A 15-year-old Tucson High Magnet School student gets loaded into an ambulance Aug. 24 along North Euclid Avenue near La Aldea graduate student housing. A UA student, Ryan Thomas, was cited at the scene and released. Police say accidents of this type are common on North Euclid and East Campbell avenues.
By Seth Mauzy
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 22, 2005
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A string of campus-area accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists struck by cars has drawn attention to the safety of UA crosswalks.

According to Tucson Police Department statistics, cars are more often at fault than pedestrians when failing to yield, with 136 drivers cited since 2000 compared to 107 pedestrians. Bicyclists were the biggest offender, with 200 cited for not yielding in crosswalks since 2000.

TPD did not have statistics detailing which neighborhoods have higher incidences of pedestrian-vehicle collisions, but University of Arizona Police Department spokesman Sgt. Eugene Mejia, said a number of factors make the university area more problematic for pedestrians.

"The downtown and university areas have higher degrees of foot traffic combined with larger numbers of young drivers," Mejia said. "This creates a more dangerous environment for pedestrians."

The UA has taken various steps to increase pedestrian safety, including installing barrier walls on the medians of East Speedway Boulevard to discourage jaywalking, tunnels underneath Speedway, and pedestrian pathways with traffic signals across Sixth Street, Mejia said.

But despite these measures, a number of highly traveled areas remain without traffic controls and pose hazards to pedestrians.

"There are areas on Campbell Avenue and Euclid Avenue that are highly traveled by pedestrians and cars," Mejia said. "We have seen a number of collisions in those areas."

UAPD has handled three incidents of pedestrians or bicyclists hit by cars this year, although other campus-area incidents are handled by TPD or are simply not reported, Mejia said. Timothy Hart, a political science sophomore who was struck while crossing East Speedway Boulevard at North Mountain Avenue earlier this month, is one of at least five pedestrians or bicyclists hit this semester.

"We're college students, and I don't think we need crossing guards, but maybe blinking lights or something to let people know there are a lot of pedestrians," Hart said. "Pedestrians aren't safe even in the crosswalks."

Mejia also said the increase in the use of cell phones has led to an increase in the number of accidents because of inattention.

"Anything that distracts a driver is going to add to the problem, whether it's phones, stereos or something else," Mejia said.

While many states have passed laws banning drivers from using cell phones while driving or requiring a hands-free system, Arizona is has no such law, Mejia said.

More than traffic signals and tunnels, Mejia said the most effective way to keep pedestrians safe is to use common sense.

"Drivers and bicyclists need to abide by the traffic laws and share the road with pedestrians to avoid collisions," Mejia said. "Vehicles must yield to pedestrians even if they're not in a crosswalk."

But pedestrian safety isn't just up to drivers, Mejia said.

"Pedestrians need to be paying attention to their surroundings and not be distracted," Mejia said. "Often people will just walk into the crosswalks without looking to see if traffic is going to yield. We all need to pay more attention."



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