Students at Cornell are at risk for traffic accidents, especially in congested areas, and during peak traffic time between classes. According to the traffic tips posted on Cornell University's Police Department website, "10,000 motorists, hundreds of buses, dozens of construction vehicles, thousands of cyclists and 30,000 pedestrians, in-line skaters, skateboarders and scooters" compete with each other for the right-of-way when commuting on campus, which has resulted in a number of accidents. According to an article published by United Press International, Cornell experienced 37 personal-injury accidents involving motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists in 2012.
A safety program implemented by the CUPD to insure the safety of students, staff, and visitors involved officers standing near busy intersections to ensure that pedestrians practiced proper right-of-way. Officials interviewed in the article stated that "the main focus will be on pedestrians who cross the street improperly, step out in front of vehicles unsafely and fail to obey the crossing signals." According to their website, CUPD has placed bright yellow signs and barrels at key crosswalks on campus and offers a cycling skills and safety course for participants interested in improving skills for casual or commuting cyclists. Historically, CUPD has also launched jaywalking campaigns and handed out tickets to students who were jaywalking. Last October, CUPD issued 94 tickets to jaywalkers over a two-day period. For comparison, in all of September 2011, 143 tickets were issued.
However, these solutions do not seem to be long lasting, nor do they cover the entire geographical scope of the issue. Bicyclists and walking pedestrians who share the same paths are also at risk. Given that the jaywalking campaign has not occurred yet this year, CUPD and students should consider other alternatives to improving student traffic safety on campus.
Nate Chertack '14 recalled an instance at the intersection of Tower Road and Garden Ave earlier this September. "There was a car in the middle of the intersection, trying to turn left, but all of the pedestrians crossing the street completely ignored him." This particular intersection is notorious for being exceptionally crowded, especially during the middle of the day between class times. Additional areas on campus are similarly affected along most major roads. Traffic on campus Road and East Ave has notably increased due to construction on Gates Hall and Klarman Hall.
In order to improve pedestrian and traffic safety on campus, some of the following options should be considered:
- A more convenient crosswalk on Thurston Avenue between bus stops at Risley Hall and Balch Lawn
- Crosswalk signals at the intersections of: Tower Road/Garden Ave, Campus Road/East Ave, and Tower Road/East Ave to be in effect between class periods
- Providing more time in between class start/end times and/or proposing more lenient tardy policies for students with back-to-back classes on opposite sides of campus
- Widening sidewalks on Tower Road and East Avenue, repairing dilapidated sidewalks, and installing sidewalks where there are none
- Underground tunnels between: Future Klarman Hall/Physical Sciences Building, Kennedy Hall/Comstock Hall, Statler Hall/Phillips Hall, Sage Hall/Statler Hall, Phillips Hall/Future Gates Hall
Even though costs associated with these projects may be significant, the issue of pedestrian traffic congestion is relevant to the safety of all persons affiliated with Cornell University. Furthermore, costs due to injury of pedestrians are very expensive. A study published by the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine revealed average costs per case are as follows: pedestrian-motor vehicle injuries cost $135,558, pedestrian-no motor vehicle injuries cost $96,098, pedalcycle motor-vehicle injuries cost $58,188, and pedalcycle-no motor vehicle injuries cost $17,831. Given that the study was published in 2004 and nationwide medical costs have risen since then, these numbers are presumed significantly higher. Since a large portion of the student body is enrolled in the Cornell University Student Health Insurance Plan, the University should consider improving road infrastructure and safety measures in the interest of avoiding the expensive healthcare costs associated with pedestrian injuries.