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Courtesy signs mark first step in long-term plans for shared walkways

Although the 75 biker-pedestrian courtesy signs that have dotted campus for the past two weeks will be gone before the weekend, they are only the first part of an ongoing Washington University initiative to make campus paths safer.

The University will be removing the signs both to protect them from predicted inclement weather and to give students a break from the signs meant to act more as reminders to stay cautious than as permanent campus fixtures, but within the next few semesters, a variety of new signs will be on the way.

Reading anything from “Courtesy is contagious. Pass it on!” to “Ride slowly and predictably on campus walkways,” the placards created by Parking & Transportation Services are only the first signs to appear on campus as the University overhauls the way it marks different lanes and intersections under its mobility marking project.

“It’s a soft touch with a clear message,” Andrew Heaslet, alternative transportation coordinator, said. “There’s no one magic answer, but we’re pushing ourselves in a direction where it’s safe to go around campus.”

Although the signs will be taken down, Heaslet said the University plans to put them up toward the start of each semester to reinforce the message. In the longer term, Parking & Transportation Services and the Office of Sustainability are collaborating on plans to put up additional signs and add markings such as rumble strips to intersections along Forsyth Boulevard, where administrators say a number of accidents have happened in recent months.

Those markings are intended to clarify biker and pedestrian lanes and also ensure that drivers remain cautious and look for students crossing.

In addition to the new signs and intersection markers, the University plans to meet with students in the coming semester to discuss new policies for bikers and pedestrians to follow.

“We’re thrilled that people are riding bikes on campus, but the bikes on campus are creating a few problems,” Provost Holden Thorp said. “A lot of us are concerned.”

Thorp voiced particular concern with the number of bikers who do not wear helmets and congestion on walkways by the library and Underpass. He said the intersection of Forsyth and Hoyt Drive is also a location where accidents often occur.

“The signs are a small step in the direction of talking about these issues,” Thorp said. “It’s going to be a long process.”

Initial student response to the signs has been generally positive, according to senior Tyler Loucky, alternative transportation intern in the Office of Sustainability.

“I don’t know if it’s wishful thinking, but I do feel like it’s gotten a little better. Pedestrians seem to have been a little bit more aware of their surroundings and people trying to signal,” Loucky said.

“I haven’t actually witnessed any pushback to the campaign because the campaign’s so positive,” she added. “All we’re saying is people should be nice to each other and be willing to share the path.”

Heaslet said students he has talked to appreciate that the signs are fairly unobtrusive but noted that his office is not necessarily able to measure whether they are actually leading to more people sharing campus paths.

“It’s a difficult thing to quantify,” Heaslet noted.

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  • Thoughtful Melon says:

    But if I ride slowly, I can’t drift around corners or cause inattentive pedestrians to shriek when I zoom around them. Where’s the fun in that?

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878