Yalies relish the cerebral: big ideas, big debates and big conversations. We can’t help it. But sometimes, it’s worth a reminder that the “basics” in life can make the difference — sometimes even the difference, as we have been reminded too often this past year, between life and death.
Here in New Haven, that’s particularly true because one such “basic” — pedestrian safety — remains neglected. Pedestrians on our campus (and in the surrounding community) are, in short, at risk.
In the past few years alone, a medical student died crossing South Frontage Street, a bus hit an undergraduate at the corner of Grove and College, and a freshman miraculously survived even after a car hit her at the intersection of Elm and York. And because most automobiles in the city obey no speed limit, it sadly came as no surprise when an 11-year-old girl died this summer while crossing Whalley Avenue.
Yes, speed: the primary cause of this mayhem. The chance of a pedestrian dying in a 40-mph collision is 85 percent, according to the Department of Transportation, as opposed to five percent for a collision at 20 mph. We must, however, turn to the safety deficiencies that are in Yale’s control; the driver’s mind unfortunately is not.
To where, then, should the administration turn its immediate attention? Here are five areas of concern:
1) Trumbull and Prospect, arguably the most terrifying intersection at Yale, is a disaster waiting to happen. Vehicles zoom around the bend with minimal regard for students, even though hundreds pass through on their way up or down Science Hill. The University promised to add a crosswalk here, but this improvement should have been completed before the school year began. For now, confusion reigns.
2) The stretch of Elm Street between Howe and College should be marked as a pedestrian-priority zone, and crosswalk indicators should be added to the intersection at High Street, between Old Campus and Rose Walk — one of the most frequented intersections on campus.
3) Although Mila Rainof MED ’08 died after a collision at South Frontage Road and York Street, danger still abounds around Yale-New Haven Hospital.
4) The stretch of Grove Street between SSS and Payne Whitney should be rethought. Cars move quickly, and pedestrian visibility is dim: curb extensions and crosswalk signs could do the trick.
5) Other intersections that need in-street crosswalk signs include Mansfield and Sachem, Hillhouse and Trumbull, Whitney and Trumbull, and Whitney and Audubon.
This marks the start. In addition to pedestrian tragedies, the campus has unfortunately seen its share of bicycle accidents of late, too. The University and the city should work together to bring the neighborhood closer to the model of Cambridge, Mass. or Portland, Ore. Even though New Haven offers a decidedly more urban feel, many of the blocks are fully Yale. The entire campus — including its economy and ambiance — would benefit from these improvements.
Fortunately, several among us — all members of the New Haven Safe Streets Coalition — are furiously lobbying to improve pedestrian and cycling safety. President Levin issued an admirable response to the group’s grievances, promising to address safety before Yale builds two new residential colleges on Science Hill.
But waiting could prove a fatal error. Improvement should — no, must — come this month. Anything less at a university of Yale’s standards and wealth is unacceptable.
That’s one big — and basic — idea on which we all can agree.