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More pedestrian safety at East Wooster crosswalks

Kevin Mensah

Painted concrete paves a way for pedestrians to cross roads safely, though accidents do happen.

“I’ll just say one fatality, one serious injury crash is one too many,” Sandra Wiechman, the Safe Communities Coordinator of Wood County, said.

From 2017 to March 21, 2022, there have been 38 pedestrian-related car accidents reported by the Bowling Green Police Department, nine of which occurred on the surrounding city streets of the BGSU campus: East Wooster Street, Thurstin Avenue, Mercer Road and East Poe Road.

BGSU Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety Michael Campbell said crosswalks are always placed in high traffic areas and specific intersections.

“There are a few that are placed at specific areas based on the amount of pedestrian traffic to identify a safe place to cross,” Campbell said.

Crosswalks provide a valuable safety feature that assists pedestrians to get from one side of the road to another.

“I think pedestrian safety is a concern at all times because anytime we have pedestrians interacting with a motor vehicle, that can be something that is obviously dangerous … and I think it’s a focus to try and increase pedestrian safety and some of those steps are done through, say education as well,” Campbell said.

Wiechman’s position is grant-funded by the university and helps educate those in the community. They target youth drivers, typically ages 16-25, and senior citizens ages 62 and older. This year the team was allocated $42,000.

“We do education and awareness on seat belts, impaired driving, motorcycles and distracted driving. Those are the four key points that everyone that’s a Safe Communities Coordinator in Ohio does,” Wiechman said.

Some pedestrians don’t report their incidents, but it is always important as it will add to the already accumulated data and allow those evaluating the area to understand its needs. 

“I would encourage those people who are experiencing those things or are involved in something like that to report those things … I think from a safety perspective, understanding what’s happening in our community, making sure we understand, maybe if there’s some type of shortcoming or some areas of improvement, we need to address, those things are helpful to look at as well,” Campbell said.

There are different kinds of crosswalks installed all around campus, some variations include the standard pavement markings, pedestrian hybrid beacons, refuge islands and crossing lights. The Ohio Department of Transportation has specific criteria for certain crosswalks to be installed. 

For a PHB crosswalk to be installed, roadways have to be larger than two lanes and there has to be a specific speed limit through the area. Traffic and pedestrian volumes and basic engineering standards are all taken into account upon determination.

USG President Alexander Chiarelott said he has been working on the initiative to get a crosswalk placed near Lot 21 to the Greek village on campus.

The crosswalk will fall between Williams Street and Biddle Street and include a refuge island, which will cost about $3,600. 

“What’s tricky with Wooster, specifically, is that it’s a state route. So when this crosswalk was being discussed, we had to bring in the state as well, to make sure that they were okay with the crosswalk being put in there,” Chiarelott said.

Chiarelott and his team have been discussing this initiative since summer 2021, but it has been a slow process. Some progress is being made as cameras have recently been placed at Lot 21 and the Falcon Health Center. 

“I was told directly that there could be some activity seen on that soon. So, soon could mean a lot of things. Hopefully within the next month or so. But certainly, over the summer, it would be a great time to do that,” Chiarelott said.

Bowling Green’s Director of Public Services Joe Fawcett said citizen-led initiatives and the increase of incidents are two key factors to establishing new crosswalks. The city approached BGSU to partner and install a new crosswalk, and all the steps have been taken to proceed with the process.

“We hired an engineering firm to do the study, to identify the pedestrian counts, identify a location that would be optimal and then to help us design what the crosswalk would look like and what kind of treatments they recommend,” Fawcett said.

Fawcett said the most important thing is for people to actually use the crosswalks correctly.

 “Even if you’re in the crosswalk. You have to make eye contact with the driver to make sure they’re going to stop,” Wiechman said.

“I think East Wooster (Street) is a very good example of you could put a lot of crosswalks down. But sometimes people just don’t use them, they’re going to follow the path of least resistance, or what is most convenient for them, which is a constant struggle with identifying specific locations,” Fawcett said.

There are a number of steps when it comes to figuring out where to place a crosswalk, 

“The first thing that we do is identify where the locations are of pedestrian versus vehicle incidents. That kind of helps narrow the focus, and we hire a traffic engineering firm to do something called a pedestrian count,” Fawcett said.

Through the counts, the number of people that cross at different locations will be counted then can be used to help define optimal locations for potential crosswalks.

“Our objective is to capture where a majority of people are, are crossing, but it’s not like a silver bullet kind of approach that you put a crosswalk at ‘X’ location, and every single person is going to cross,” Fawcett said.

In 2015, BGSU conducted a joint study with the City of Bowling Green and was funded by ODOT to collect data on pedestrian movement and counts to find where they don’t utilize an existing crossing line.

“It’s an evaluation based on the necessity of should this be a crosswalk or is there one in close proximity that could be used?” Campbell said.

With Wooster Street being a state route, it made the perfect location for the study to take place. ODOT funded the project, paying $489,191.

“They wanted to really identify if there were places for the new pedestrian hybrid beacons that we see at Founders and then down at the Stroh Center. So, they spent time studying incident rates and they looked at where people were crossing and how, and then they determined or provided kind of an implementation matrix of what are some physical improvements we can make to help with pedestrian safety,” Fawcett said.

This study resulted in the creation of various crosswalks, four along Wooster Street, three between the traffic lights at Manville Avenue and South College Drive and one next to the Stroh Center. There is another connecting the BG Flight Center to campus on East Poe Road, and improvements to two crosswalks on Mercer.

“We always want to make sure that our pedestrians are utilizing the crosswalks that are there … I would also just encourage our pedestrians when they are using those crosswalks to utilize whatever safety mechanisms are in place,” Campbell said.

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