Andrew Renneisen | Photo EditorOn the Hill
Point of caution: In light of Comstock accidents, efforts made by DPS, SU community to improve pedestrian safety
Both accidents happened a little after 10 p.m. Both happened within the same semester. And, both happened along the exact same strip of Comstock Avenue, where the busy, two-way street slightly inclines, across from the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity house.
On Feb. 6, a car struck Sammy brother Benjamin Essig as he crossed the street when returning to his fraternity’s house after studying. The Daily Orange reported that the driver hit Essig’s leg as he attempted to cross the road, and Essig, who tried to run and speed up, didn’t make it to the sidewalk on time.
On May 5, then-senior Maria Cristina Sanfeliu-Cruz of Puerto Rico was hit by a taxi driver and was in critical condition with a head injury at Upstate University Hospital for approximately two months. She studied writing and rhetoric at SU and was on track to graduate in May.
Syracuse University’s Department of Pubic Safety is launching a pedestrian safety campaign starting Tuesday, Sept. 4 in hopes of reducing the dangers taking place on busy campus streets.
“Unless a car runs a red light, crosswalk or hops the curb, you’re in college, you should know how to cross the street properly by now.”
Craig Leppert, Former Sammy president
But when it comes to the 700 block of Comstock Avenue, there’s only so much that DPS can do.
“We identified last year that there were some problems with pedestrian safety, especially on the crossings of different streets,” said DPS Captain John Sardino. “We monitored it for some period of time and really found that the issue lied with the pedestrians and not necessarily the vehicles going back and forth.”
“Unless a car runs a red light, crosswalk or hops the curb, you’re in college, you should know how to cross the street properly by now,” said Craig Leppert, former Sammy president.
Leppert developed a deep understanding of the dangers of Comstock Avenue when he personally witnessed his fraternity brother, Essig, get hit. Essig made a full recovery and is currently doing fine, said Leppert, a television, radio and film and political science dual major.
Essig declined to comment.
This summer, a committee was established within DPS with the intention of figuring out how best to fix the pedestrian crossing problem and plan the campaign, Sardino said.
DPS officers will be on various street corners for a two-week period to interact with members of the SU community and remind them of the potential dangers of crossing the street without paying attention.
Specifically, officers will be located on Comstock Avenue, University Avenue and parts of Waverly Avenue.
But Leppert said he doesn’t believe anything will change on Comstock Avenue because he doesn’t think that street is a problem.
“With the Greek community heavily invested on Comstock, there will always be a lot of activity on the sidewalks,” he said.
And as a street that is used by many people and important to SU for its transportation route to South Campus, heavy traffic will only continue.
“After the incident, I am always more aware and conscious when crossing the street and looking at oncoming traffic,” Leppert said. “Did it severely change my mindset on Comstock? No, it didn’t.”
When asked whether it would be best to reduce the speed limit on Comstock Avenue, Sardino said he isn’t sure if a speed reduction would stop the people who decide to drive faster than they should.
There are a number of different postings and crosswalks near Shaw Hall, so people are aware of the fact that they are driving in a school area.
Paul Mercruio, transportation planner for the city of Syracuse, is currently working on a study with traffic engineers involving Comstock Avenue.
Mercurio, who is responsible for the engineering and design of the streets in Syracuse, said he has suspicions that Comstock Avenue, along with Waverly Avenue, specifically, are wider than normal, explaining why reckless driving might occur. If the study shows that this is actually true, Mercurio said, then traffic cones will be placed on both streets.
DPS has found that there is, on occasion, a motorist driving above the speed limit on Comstock Avenue, Sardino said.
But, there are plans to increase the amount of DPS officers on Comstock Avenue. These officers will monitor motorists and make sure the speed limit is being enforced.
But, he does not believe a reduction in the speed limit would change any of the current problems.
“The problem is not the speed limit, but the character of the road,” Mercurio said. “Cars do drive faster because it is a wider character, so that needs to be changed to make it a little more natural.”
DPS’s pedestrian campaign, Sardino said, will involve a series of phases. He said he wants the program to grow and try to make as many people as aware of traffic danger as possible. DPS will collect data throughout the campaign to see what the next appropriate step should be.
Sardino said DPS plans to implement this campaign at the start of every semester just to reinforce the idea of being cautious when crossing the road.
As of now, though, he said the officers will not be taking any punitive measures, such as citations, toward anyone not following the proper pedestrian safety measures.
DPS will additionally use positive reinforcement as a tool to further inform people of pedestrian safety. Officers will be handing out cards with safety tips, which will have a coupon on the back for $1 off at Dunkin’ Donuts, Sardino said. Food Services is a working partner on the campaign.
The cards will only be given out as positive reinforcement, though, and not to those who are breaking the pedestrian safety rules.
Students and faculty need to be aware that intersections are busy and there are designated crosswalks, Sardino said.
Said Sardino: “We want to get the word out to the masses as much as we can. We’re looking to educate people to follow the rule.”
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