In the aftermath of the death of Tundun Lawani ‘14, additional stop signs were placed on South Street during winter term to help control the traffic flow. Now, additional safety measures are also
being considered around campus.
Although the additional stop signs along South Street were put up only recently, Illinois state law HB 43 has dictated since 2010 that all drivers must come to a complete stop for pedestrians at all crosswalks.
While the previous law required drivers to yield and stop “when necessary,” the current law states that “when traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation the driver of a vehicle shall stop and yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within the crosswalk.” The law defines a crosswalk broadly as anywhere “a sidewalk leads into the street.”
In October 2012, the city and college jointly authorized the placement of additional stop signs at the intersections of Cedar and South, West and South, Cherry and South and Knox and South in an effort to enforce the law and reduce the number of pedestrians crossing mid-block.
Since then, the South Street Traffic Safety Committee — made up of city officials, Knox students and Galesburg community members — has monitored the effectiveness of the signs.
Sophomore Brian Tanaka praised the prompt addition of the stop signs as a testament to the city’s and college’s positive involvement in the Galesburg community, but is ambivalent about how much the signs have helped.
“On a local political level … it was a good example of a tragic situation and something being done about it,” Tanaka said. “It doesn’t affect me much, but of what could have been done, I think it was beneficial … I just don’t know what it would do for a drunk driver at 3 a.m.”
Post-baccalaureate fellow Casey Samoore ‘12, who lives near the intersection of South and West streets, says that the addition of the signs has made his life “much less stressful.”
“I love them,” he said, “It’s my third year living there … and they make me feel safer.”
When asked about the effect of the signs, Samoore said, “As a walker, I’m less cautious; as a driver, I’m more cautious.”
Although responses like Samoore’s show a positive sense of security among pedestrians, Director of Campus Safety and committee member John Schlaf warns that the signs should not be an excuse to cross the street without caution.
“The pedestrians who are using the crossings still need to exercise personal safety,” Schlaf said. “I hate to go back to when we started crossing streets, but looking both ways is a good old-fashioned warning that still applies today É maybe it’s even more important now.”
Unlike Samoore, junior Kayla Kennedy expressed an increased feeling of stress as a pedestrian due to the ambiguity of what the signs mean for drivers.
“Because they aren’t full [permanent] stops, I think it’s problematic. Drivers don’t know how to respond. … People view them as suggestions,” she said.
Schlaf says that pedestrians should know that the driver is not obligated to stop unless a pedestrian is within the crosswalk. The law strictly states that the driver is required to stop “when the pedestrian is upon half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.” This means that pedestrians must be cautious to make sure that they begin crossing the intersection with enough time for oncoming traffic to stop, and not to “dart” into the intersection, Schlaf said.
In addition to the stop signs, Schlaf said that in regards to other potential solutions to traffic flow and pedestrian safety issues, “nothing has been taken off the table.” In a South Street Traffic Safety Committee meeting on March 6, there was discussion about adding a roundabout at Academy and South to “calm” traffic flow.
“The roundabout is a traffic engineering concept that is becoming more and more popular in the U.S.,” Schlaf said. “[For] intersections that are now protected by lights, roundabouts can take away those lights. Traffic keeps moving but stays moving slow — and aesthetically, they are pleasing.”
It was also suggested at the meeting that the sidewalk in front of Williston Hall be removed in order to direct people to intersection crosswalks, and that a sidewalk be added to the west side of South West Street by the Umbeck Science-Mathematics Center.
The next big traffic works project for the city will be an underpass on Main Street, which the committee hopes will move traffic from South to Main.
The South Street Traffic Safety Committee will meet again in a few months. As for now, Schlaf said it will take time for the new law and safety measures to sink in for Galesburg pedestrians and drivers.