Seth Novak ’25 is majoring in government and American studies. He plays on the club lacrosse team and is a member of the Sigma Pi fraternity, while also being the president of the Randolph Complex Community Council. Email Seth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.
Note: This and my previous articles are both criticisms of the College of William and Mary. My intention is not to solely attack the College, but to hold them accountable. As a student, it is my and all of our responsibility to make the campus a better place for all its inhabitants.
One of the things I take pride in is the walkability of the College of William and Mary’s campus. It takes no more than 15 minutes to walk from any location to another, which is especially convenient when I’m running late to class. The College considers this one of their biggest attractions and I completely agree with it. If this is the case, though, why is the campus so unsafe for pedestrians?
The three roads that create the boundaries for our school trap students within them, for to cross the boundary is a risk. To get to Wawa, I first have to cross Richmond Road. This does not seem a daunting task at first, with it only being two lanes and a posted speed limit of 25 mph, but this is misleading. Cars are coming from higher speed limits and expect to maintain that speed through the campus area. In an effort to make crossing this road more favorable to pedestrians, Williamsburg County erected light-up cross walk signs to indicate someone will be crossing the street. Good! Drivers might see the light and slow down for the pedestrian peeking their head out from the street parked car that obscures most of their body.
Jamestown Road, on the other hand, mostly has residential areas across from campus, so there is less foot traffic crossing this road. Because of this, the county instead decided to only have three crosswalks for the entire length of the street for students who would like to return home after classes or other activities. Cars have a lower expectation for pedestrians and less deterrents, so they are usually well above the same posted speed limit of 25 mph.
Students are corralled into campus by busy, speeding streets with a threat of injury looming over if they decide to leave. I would think that at the very least, the road that runs right through campus would be an effective thoroughfare for students who just want to travel from point A to B. This is not the case, unless you have a car. There are brick sidewalks, unfriendly to bikers or wheelchair bound students, so there is a bike lane. An unprotected bike lane. There are four crosswalks for students to get from one side to the other, but only one lights up to alert drivers. I don’t often use these cross walks specifically because they are at inconvenient locations along Ukrop Road.
After being at the College for a year, I’ve begun to notice some trends. Once it gets dark, all traffic laws go out the window, especially on Ukrop Way. Cars speed up and down the road, trying to get from one side of campus to the other, rarely stopping for pedestrians, or just not seeing them. After realizing this was a major issue that affected all students, I decided to do something about it. There were clear hazards towards the students and I thought there would be someone able to help in mitigating those hazards.
First I called Mayor Doug Pons, and he informed me that Ukrop Way was under the school’s jurisdiction and that I should contact them. I did not question him about Richmond or Jamestown Road.
I contacted Parking Services in an attempt to discuss this issue, and instead got redirected directly to WMPD Chief Deborah Cheesebro, the Chief of William and Mary Police. In my original email to Parking Services, I mentioned that speed bumps might be a sound way to protect students and deter speeding, because they physically bar a car from going faster than they should. There is nothing to stop a car from blowing through a stop sign or crosswalk, but a speed bump forces a car to slow down. In response to this, Cheesebro gave me some reasons why bumps “are no longer the preferred traffic calming measure in a situation such as our campus” which I will now dissect.
I would like to mention that some of these criticisms are completely valid, but I weigh them against the possibility of a student getting hit by a speeding car.
This first group of reasons I will put into a section that I would say does not understand my true intention. I do not want cars inside our campus because they are a danger to the students that inhabit it, which takes priority over everything. We, as students, deserve to be safe and comfortable on our own campus, and cars do not have a place in that picture. Some of the reasons that do not address this are as follows:
- Speed bumps are a source of excessive wear on tires, brakes, suspension systems, shock absorbers and rattle dashboards.
- Many areas have been forced to remove speed bumps because of overwhelming and constant complaints by drivers and residents of the areas.
- On roads with speed bumps, carbon monoxide emissions increase by 82%, carbon dioxide emissions double and nitrogen oxide increases by 37%.
- Reduces fuel efficiency and increases gas consumption.
All of these work with the idea in mind that we are catering to the driver when we install speed bumps. This is simply not the case. It is a good thing if these problems happen to a car, because it also means they’ll be less likely to drive through that street. We need to orient our mindset towards the vast majority of pedestrians, not the drivers who could easily kill said pedestrians.
I think it is also necessary to say that speed bumps do increase response time for emergency response vehicles, which I do not wish upon anyone in any situation, and I do not yet have a fool-proof solution for this problem. I don’t claim to know the answer in every situation, but I still believe it is important to point out when something does not work.
As for the other reasons given by Cheesebro, I believe they are blatantly untrue and produce more questions than answers in Cheesebro’s argument:
- Speed bumps may not change driver behavior and may result in other dangerous driving behaviors, such as going “off road” to avoid the bumps.
- Speed bumps are not bicycle friendly.
Let’s be honest here. We’re in Williamsburg, VA. No one is going “off road” to avoid a speed bump near the campus and if you build a speed bump effectively, there will be no way to avoid it while on the road. This second reason is honestly amusing to a certain degree. I don’t want to go into this more than I have to because it is cut and dry, but speed bumps are not a deterrent to bicycles.
I emailed Cheesebro back hoping to generate an in-person discussion with them, but I never got a response back.
We often are forced to use cars because there aren’t many other quick and easy options on campus. I’ve been attempting to get the College on board with a partnership with an electric scooter company, as they were attempting a few years back, but without much luck. This article is a call to action for the College, and I hope they heed it.
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