Unofficial roads pose unofficial danger

February 27, 2015

Driving problems are not new on our campus. Last year, Maryanne Cai ’16 addressed the issue of campus safety in her opinion article “Drivers must be more conscientious on Loop Road,” published in The Brandeis Hoot. Before that comes a long line of earlier complaints or warnings. All these writings make it clear how problematic our official roadways are, but I would like to add that the issue of campus safety goes beyond designated roads on campus, as I’ve observed throughout my first year at Brandeis University.

On my second day of class at Brandeis, I decided to walk around Chapel’s Field from Massell Quad to the library, when suddenly I feared that my life was in danger. As I looked around, other students moved towards the sides of the path and some even stopped walking entirely. I figured that maybe these students were other first years that were just confused about where they were going, as I had been during most of my first week at school. But suddenly, I heard two loud honks, and I knew what was wrong.

There was a large van behind me, whose driver was alerting me to move out of the way, as it hurdled up towards upper campus. I was primarily embarrassed, and went to the side of the pathway, letting the car pass by. However, as I thought about the situation further, I became very concerned for Brandeis students’ safety. There were no indications that cars were allowed on this pathway, and if they were permitted on this “road,” why were there no sidewalks?

Unlike South Street and even Loop Road, most on campus pathways have no sidewalks, and cars are still allowed to drive right through them. As a conscientious pedestrian, I cross at crosswalks and walk against traffic whenever possible (something I learned was especially important to avoid accidents when I ran cross-country). Whether a person follows these strategies or not, there should definitely be sidewalks to protect them from passing traffic. Looking into this problem further, I noticed that there are brick sidewalks on the first pathway in the front entrance of campus, as well as cement sidewalks around the admissions office. Seeing that these sidewalks were placed in these primary campus areas, I wonder why such safety measures were not carried out around the rest of the campus.

In addition, if cars are permitted on these on-campus roads, then there should definitely be signs indicating speed limits, places to yield and where to stop. Some of these concerns were addressed in Cai’s article, and they must be considered on all campus roads. In extension, I feel that there should definitely be signs indicating where cars are actually permitted to drive, as the distinction between a path and a road is so unclear. For example, when my parents came to visit me this past November, we were frustrated because we could not figure out where we were allowed to drive on campus and had difficulty exchanging my summer and winter clothes because we had to travel back and forth from my dorm to the parking lot. By the time we were done exchanging the clothes, and walking back and forth, we saw at least five cars pass by on roads that seemed more like walkways.

From the experience I had with my parents, I understand why cars are convenient to have on campus roads. In addition, being a student here, I feel that these roads are important for emergency situations, as they allow BEMCo, the Brandeis University Police and other emergency services to travel across campus quickly. However, with the benefits of these roads, there should not be an increased anxiety for students and drivers over the possibility of accidents. The accident risk is especially concerning during the winter, when large snow banks can prevent students from avoiding cars on the slippery campus roads.

Overall, Brandeis University can maximize both safety and convenience by placing sidewalks or at least increasing the amount of signage on all roads around campus. As a student, I would feel much safer walking along a pedestrian-only sidewalk and knowing that cars are not speeding, than having to fear the next car hurdling behind me. I hope that sometime soon students will never have to fear a van sneaking up on them at night.

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