Last Thursday, I was driving down Richmond Road toward Confusion Corner to take my friend across campus toward Earl Gregg Swem Library. It was 10 minutes before classes began on the Sunken Garden, and a light rain was drenching city streets and sidewalks. As we approached Sorority Court, a maintenance truck in front of me came to an abrupt stop, jumping and sliding up to the crosswalk just ahead. Mere inches away from the truck’s bumper stood a terrified pedestrian shaken, but unscathed.
Crossing Richmond or Jamestown Road is something many students at the College of William and Mary do every day, sometimes multiple times a day. We depend on vehicles to stop for us, and the drivers of those vehicles anticipate that they’ll receive ample opportunity to do so from us. Unfortunately, it’s when either our consideration or their anticipation fails that the chance of a collision forms. Steps must be taken in order to rectify these dangerous possibilities, and I believe nothing has reduced the chances of crosswalk-related collisions better on any campus I’ve been on than the push-button Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon signs.
RRFBs are usually installed at crosswalks in the absence of an otherwise acceptable traffic light. An RRFB is an electronic sign post that can be activated by pedestrians to emit a series of flashing lights designed to increase driver awareness. Our only RRFBs on campus are located at the Richmond Road crossing between Blow Memorial Hall and Tribe Square, and the Jamestown Road crossing at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business and the sidewalk that leads to Ludwell Apartments. I always activate these RRFBs when I approach them, and it is blissfully relieving to see drivers come to a cautious stop whether they can see me or not. Without an RRFB, I must awkwardly poke my head out into the street, eyeball the drivers through their windshields and wave a hand up as if to ask their permission to notice me so I can cross the street.
Meanwhile, at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, I almost never have to do this embarrassing crosswalk-crossing dance: The school has installed at least eight times the number of RRFBs as we have. No matter how randomly placed they may appear, or how many there are, UVA has installed RRFBs anywhere they have found students frequently making crossings. Most notably along its University Avenue, on a portion of the road similar both in length and student crossings as our Richmond Road, there are six RRFBs, each at every single crosswalk not otherwise supported by a traffic light. Every time I visit UVA, I witness its students using them habitually, and road traffic always stops.
At the College, we can cover an acceptable minimum of our crossings on Jamestown and Richmond Roads with RRFBs with the same amount that UVA has installed on its half-mile stretch of University Avenue alone.
On Richmond Road, we need an RRFB at the crossings for the Bryan Complex, the Archeology Center, Sorority Court and Old Campus. On Jamestown Road we need an RRFB at the crossings for Old Campus and Campus Center, Old Campus and Taliaferro Hall, Corner House and Barksdale Field and Cary Street and Lemon Hall. The Armistead Avenue and Richmond Road intersection deserves a traffic light to juggle all the road and foot traffic encountered.
Watching a vehicle nearly collide with a student last Thursday probably won’t be my last time witnessing a crosswalk-crossing scare. While I intend on bringing this concern forthwith to my colleagues on the Student Assembly Senate, I believe action from the College and the City of Williamsburg will be necessary to see a final solution implemented. I hope my peers will consider contacting President Rowe and members of City Council to advocate for further pedestrian safety around our campus.
Email Jack Bowden at [email protected]