On October 30, representatives from MUNSU, the University Administration, and the City of St. John’s met to discuss the issue of pedestrian safety on campus. After a long meeting, there are some initial plans in place for work to be done before next semester.
“I think this meeting is a great first step,” said Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth. “We have a lot of work to do to make sure that we make MUN more walkable from a citizen’s point of view.”
This past summer, the University commissioned a report to review safety concerns on Westerland road and gave this report to City staff a week in advance of the meeting. The report recommends installing permanent curb extensions to make pedestrians more visible to drivers, adding a pedestrian cross signal at the crosswalk, and adding significant new signage along the length of Westerland Road and on the crosswalk.
Ellsworth says City employees are currently reviewing the report and anticipates work on Westerland road will be complete before the beginning of next semester. Ellsworth also said he commends MUNSU and the University for being active on this issue and looks forward to meeting with them again in late November to discuss progress on addressing these safety concerns.
Candace Simms, MUNSU Executive Director of External Affairs says the meeting was encouraging and that MUNSU plans to keep pedestrian-safety a top priority for the City and the University.
“It was great to be able to sit down with the stakeholders to get those commitments,” said Simms. “This is a very serious issue and the students’ union fully intends to make sure that action is taken.”
Pedestrian safety has been an ongoing campaign for students, dating as far back as October 17, 1980, when a student named Judy Lynn Ford was struck and killed while trying to cross Prince Philip Drive. In response, students organised a large protest causing Prince Philip Drive to be shut down for several days until city hall promised to build the skywalks. The resulting skywalks are currently in place over Prince Philip Drive today.
The student population at Memorial has more than tripled since 1980 and traffic in the City of St. John’s has grown over that time as well. As a result, the issues of pedestrian safety are even more prevalent today and have also spread to many other areas of campus. So far this semester, two students have been hit on Westerland road and accidents of this nature have been common on campus for the past several years.
Prior to meeting on October 30, several students demonstrated at high-traffic crosswalks on Westerland road and Prince Phillip Drive in order to raise awareness of the pedestrian-safety concerns on campus. Simms says the student union will continue to organise these awareness demonstrations regularly until further action on pedestrian safety is taken. Simms also says MUNSU hopes to continue to work the City and the University on this issue and says a full review of pedestrian-safety on campus is needed to avoid potential accidents in the future.