On Feb. 3, 2003, freshman piano major Pei Chen was hit by an oncoming van while crossing at 54th Street and Troost Avenue.
Chen was treated at St. Luke’s Hospital and was in critical condition until Feb. 14, the day she passed away from her injuries.
It’s been seven years since Chen’s death, however, UMKC has seen several incidents like this happen on campus.
According to UMKC Police Department records, there have been a total of seven cases.
“Since Jan. 2, 2000 to Feb. 8, 2011, we have had seven total pedestrian vs. vehicle incidents reported to us,” UMKC Police Captain Donald S. Simmons said. “Three of which were on our campus and the other four were on the city streets.”
Just last semester, two hit-and-run incidents were reported to the U-News in the Police Blotter.
On Sept. 28, a pedestrian was struck by a staff member at Miller Nichols Library. The staff member fled the scene.
Then again on Nov. 29, another incident took place at the Law School.
With so many reports, some students have become worried about their safety while walking on campus.
Sophomore Sara Conwell said she feels unsafe crossing the street by her on-campus apartment.
“When I cross Oak Street from the apartments, I feel unsafe because it is hard to see around the parked cars and you can’t see if a car is coming,” Conwell said.
Others feel UMKC should take more action toward the safety issue.
“[UMKC] should have a UMKC Police officer at the corner of 50th and Oak Street during rush hour,” junior Amanda Osborne said.
Sophomore Walker Cowles feels the street lights are a factor in pedestrian safety.
“I feel like the lights turn off or dim when you walk under them especially on the route from the quad to the student Union [51st Street],” Cowles said.
The area Cowles refers to is in close proximity to where a student was struck last March.
A student crossing the street by the Rockhill parking structure on 52nd street, was struck by communications professor, Donald Shields.
Eye witnesses watched Shields speed down Holmes Street and hit the student, causing the student to fly through the air.
Associate Professor of Communication Studies Peter Morello was also a witness in March.
He commented in an article by the U-News stating there is too little control at 52nd and Holmes Street.
“People are always driving too fast,” Morello said. “There needs to be some control, like speed bumps or signage.”
In a Dec. 7, 2009 Letter to the Editor, Senior Andrew Clarke submitted his take on pedestrian safety on campus.
“Throughout campus, the speed limit is 25 mph. Yet the area that houses the highest amount of Roo density is the most dangerous area for those of us on foot,” Clarke said. “At the melting pot of where campus begins to physically connect with the city, the inevitable is bound to happen when one of our own will suffer a serious injury or death while trying to cross Oak Street.”
Clarke who was also a forerunner for the advertising team for the Bus Pass referendum last week feels strongly about the issue.
“UMKC takes pride that we are located within a city, but when it comes to crossing the street from campus into the city, pedestrian safety has been thrown out the window,” Clarke said.
Though many feel the campus is unsafe for pedestrians, many drivers feel differently.
Some drivers claim walking students do not make themselves aware of oncoming traffic.
“I think pedestrians, and I know from when I lived on campus, are bad about not caring if cars are coming or not,” junior Austin Rennicke said.
Sophomore Hieu To thinks the pedestrians should be more considerate while crossing the street.
“Pedestrians think only about themselves and how they can get from point A to point B the fastest,” To said. “Instead of watching where they are going and forgetting that cars can be a death machine on wheels , they would blindly walk in the street hoping on blind fate that the cars will stop for them.”
Many believe traffice should be monitored in high traffic areas such as the intersection at 53rd and Cherry Street.
Rennicke thinks the university should moderate that area.
“I think the campus should hire a couple traffic officers in between Epperson, Education, Law School, and then also at 51st where people cross the street to get to the quad.”
Most think the University should do more to ensure pedestrian safety, but what are they doing?
According to the UMKC Parking and Transportation Task Force Report and Recommendations, campus policies are stated regarding pedestrians in the pedestrian walkability of campus section of the 29 page report submitted Aug 5, 2009. The report can be found at www.umkc.edu/adminfinance/parking/images/pdfs/task%20force/Parking-and-Transportation-Task-Force-Report-August-2009.pdf.
“Walkability is a major incentive for people on campus to walk to classes, meeting, lunch and other activities, rather than driving and incorporate walking as a part of their multi-modal commute,” the report says. “UMKC scored an A in categories of directness, completeness, visual interests, and amenities, security with a B in the category of the street crossing due to high motor traffic volume.”
According to the report, the effectiveness of the campus design can be seen to the North, East, and the West, including both Oak and Rockhill Streets.
“The campus was designed with walking students in mind, providing wide sidewalks, landscaping and visual amenities throughout,” the report continues to read.
“Students, staff and visitors alike know that the greatest challenge is crossing the streets to the adjacent areas of campus, except to the south which is more residential and has less motor traffic.”
At the time of the report, a plan was suggested to update the campus for pedestrians by observing the more problematic areas along Volker Blvd.
The plan also gave three years for incorporating walkability into Rockhill Road, provide pedestrian refuge along Volker Blvd., Brookside Blvd., Rockhill Road, and Troost Ave.
“As the campus continues to grow, the UMKC Master Plan is placing even more emphasis on pedestrian accessibility with plans to close street traffic on 51st Street between Troost and Cherry Streets,” the 2009 report says.
As for the campus law enforcers, the UMKC PD undergoes thorough training for safety for all UMKC students.
“All police officer training, in some shape or form is geared towards the protection of life, safety and property,” Simmons said. “Pedestrian safety falls generally into our mission.”
UMKC has begun to take measures to ensure a safe crossing for pedestrians.
Over the summer, two solar-powered flashing red light stop signs were installed along Oak Street to control traffic at rush hour.
It is clear that UMKC is taking steps to prevent both pedestrian injuries and deaths on and around campus.
However, as the childhood saying goes, look both ways before you cross the street.
- Check for oncoming traffic before crossing the street.
- Only cross the street at pedestrian crosswalks.
- Pay attention to stop and yield signs; some intersections, such as 52nd and Holmes streets, do not have a stop sign. Others, such as 52nd and Cherry, do not have four-way stop signs and are notorious for speeding drivers.
- Be careful in parking garages, where drivers have a tendency to turn corners quickly.
- The campus speed limit is 10 mph, unless posted otherwise.
- Pay attention to pedestrian crosswalks and posted signs. Pedestrians have the right of way at crosswalks.
- Pay attention when turning corners in parking garages and lots.
- Be courteous to other drivers.