The USC’s new policy paper on pedestrian safety combines dramatic recommendations for infrastructure with a message of co-operation between Western and London to combat pedestrian safety issues on campus.
The paper was authored by USC associate vice-president Mauricio Diaz, and presented by vice-president Jamie Cleary in front of council on March 1, where it passed unanimously.
Both cite the death of Western Student Andrea Christidis, who was struck by a car while on the sidewalk in 2015, as having catalyzed the USC’s once-passive interest in a pedestrian safety initiative.
“The conversation started to happen on our campus, and got noticed by officials in the London community, when we had the death of a student on our campus,” said Diaz. “We felt we should have a stance on it.”
The paper, as well as the USC’s advocacy papers for rapid transit, are the first externally facing position the USC has had on pedestrians and pedestrian safety.
To inform a continual progress, the paper calls for a comprehensive and accessible information base on Western’s part as well as the city. It recommends Western assess its services every four years and publish its findings to the Western Safe Campus website, and for London to do the same, publishing it to the Community Safety & Data Collection website.
Though data is sparse, the USC nonetheless identifies several areas needing development on campus in the near future.
The paper states that 60 per cent of pedestrian deaths in London occur at night. In response, it recommends implementing more lighting fixtures around roads, as well as painting the emergency phones on campus a more noticeable colour than the current dark grey.
It also calls for a re-orientation of Western’s Foot Patrol service, as well as Campus Police.
Diaz said that the lack of data from Foot Patrol usage could lead to inefficiencies, and that if the USC could better understand the different reasons students use the service, it could be adapted to fit those needs. He also mentioned the recommended change in the philosophy of pedestrian policing on campus:
“We need to make sure that we’re not penalizing students for perhaps violating something, but more so ensuring that Campus Police is operating in a way that considers where pedestrians feel safe.”
The paper calls for all these changes to occur within two years.
But there are larger and far more significant recommendations which outline infrastructure changes needed throughout campus.
The paper recommends the building of pedestrian islands, like those at the intersection of Western and Wellington, by Saugeen, down the whole of Western Road.
Another intersection is Western and Sarnia Road, which is singled out for major change. Besides lowering the current speed limit around the crossings, the paper recommends the construction of a four-way underground tunnel beneath the intersection.
The USC and Diaz decided on a tunnel in deliberations with London city councillors as well as the Mayor. Of the available options — an overhead walkway, a pedestrian scramble, and the tunnel — the tunnel was chosen as the most effective method lowering the risk of pedestrians crossing at the intersection.
Cleary said that the paper’s high aspirations will require a “long-term conversation” between London and Western, but he is optimistic about the paper’s future:
“Ultimately what the paper will do, is allow us to have a stronger advocacy effort, because now we have a research backing, and it has council’s full support.”