A little over two years ago, a prospective student was severely injured crossing Cascade Ave when she was hit by a pickup truck, according to Carol McGraw of the Colorado Springs Gazette.
The discussion about improving crosswalk safety, especially on N. Cascade Ave., has been an ongoing campaign since the ‘60s. According to research conducted by CC senior Sarah Vélez, architects were brought in on the project in ’68 and suggested that Cascade be closed.
During the Transportation Planning meeting that occurred this past Tuesday, the closure of Cascade was not even discussed as a possibility.
Among the proposed options from the panel for increasing pedestrian safety were pedestrian bridges and underpasses, speed bumps, tunneling Cascade under campus, employing pace cars to pace other drivers through campus, and moving the student center to the other side of Cascade.
But student safety wasn’t the only issue at the panel.
Panel member David Watts said students are “blasé when crossing the street.” Local homeowner Rick Villa added, “It would be nice to receive some acknowledgement from students crossing the street.”
Panel members and homeowners presented it as if yielding to pedestrians was a courtesy, not a compliance with traffic laws. Despite laws safeguarding pedestrians, a handful of students still jaywalk and disregard the very real danger of traffic.
Garrett Benisch, a CC student, runs the Integrative Design Club and is on the college design review board. Benisch said, “Many community members walked into [the meeting] with the initial assumption that the students do not have the courtesy or have not been taught well to look both ways.”
Benisch noted that there are actually many recognitions of pedestrian safety from flash e-mails to the education during New Student Orientation.
“It is not the students’ morals, emotions or values that are keeping the students from looking both ways, it’s the fact that the crosswalk is designed to seem very safe,” said Benisch.
The flashing lights of the crosswalks on campus can sometimes be misinterpreted as a “green light” for pedestrians when in reality the signs are to alert drivers.
For the above reason, the flashing signs were unfavorable with the panel. In addition, the signs tend to blind drivers to the actual pedestrians, who are silhouetted by the lights.
Though several people brought up tabletop speed bumps, among other financially conservative options, the panel seemed to favor discussing large-scale projects.
The most debated option was the construction of several pedestrian underpasses or bridges that spanned the length of Cascade. However, this posed several problems to the group.
The clearance necessary for a bridge would require a substantial heightening or lowering of the road. In addition, the aesthetic continuity of the campus, one level plain from Shove Chapel to Cutler Hall would be disrupted.
“The plan should also be aesthetically pleasing and create a sense of arrival when approaching the campus, integrating the college with the life of the city and respecting the historic nature of neighborhoods,” said college President Jill Tiefenthaler, according to the master plan website.
The points of entry to these bridges or underpasses would need to be controlled. Kathleen Krager, Transportation Manager of Colorado Springs, suggested “fencing” lining Cascade to prohibit jaywalking.
“This is a design issue that is causing students to be perceived as arrogant; this is not actual arrogance,” said Benisch.
Disgruntled CC alum and local resident Jim Beechwood also preferred “gates to prevent students from crossing Nevada and Cascade.” Additionally, he raised the issue of the blind spot created when one car is stopped at the crosswalk, and another drives through.
Reducing the road to one lane could eliminate the blind spot, the cause of many near-accidents on Cascade. However, no amount of public discussion was enough to convey the dissatisfaction with this proposal.
One angered local homeowner, among others, questioned repeatedly, “What’s that going to do to the homeowners on Nevada if you move it down to just one lane over here on Cascade? The traffic is going to build on Nevada.”
Transportation Manager Krager said, “I’m fine with reducing the number of lanes on Cascade,” yet recognizes the city-wide effects of such a closure.
Meeting moderator Lisa Bachman concurred that there were larger effects of the plan, and that “This is also an opportunity to create synergy with the other master plans in the community: the Old North End master plan and the Downtown Partnership master plan.”
“A successful final plan will reflect neighborhood and community interests. Our desire is that the process balances the college’s need for safety and mobility with the interests of the surrounding community and adjacent neighborhoods,” said Tiefenthaler, according to the master plan website.
“Though the underpass is an interesting option,” said Benisch, “There is nothing educational about it. Cars will speed up. It’s just one more separation between us and the Springs.”
The next meeting, which is open to the public, is on Feb. 26 at 4 p.m. in Slocum Hall. The next installation will focus on creating proposals to be later analyzed with traffic studies.
Deputy News Editor