For those of us living off campus, we commute in different ways. Some travel by metro, others ride the bus and a majority zoom onto campus in cars. The closer commuters and on-campus students choose less motorized ways of transport, like bikes or good-ol’ fashioned walking.
I live in the University Drive neighborhood behind campus, which houses a fair number of Mason students.

Residents of this neighborhood must enter campus by crossing University Drive using the crosswalk in front of the police station.

Earlier this year, Michelle Dawson was hit by a car at a crosswalk in the same area, which has since been moved. According to interviewees in a Broadside article, the most dangerous aspect is the crosswalk’s placement in front of the light.

Mason’s response was to move the crosswalk about 30 feet closer to the light, which is a good first step, but more precautions need to be added.

This crosswalk is extremely dangerous due to the lack of a crosswalk button, a pedestrian signal, signs on both sides of the road and most importantly, its location on a high-traffic road. In addition, drivers should respect road signs and traffic laws and yield when pedestrians are present.

One morning, I was crossing the crosswalk and had already passed one side of traffic. There was a car coming on the opposite side, a student driver car, and it was far enough away to have clearly seen three people in the crosswalk.

Not only did the car not stop, but the driver was alone, leading me to believe that it was the instructor. He was also talking on a cell phone. I was shocked.

This driver’s lack of attention is not uncommon on the road. Throughout the day, drivers arriving on campus are concerned with how quickly they can find parking, perhaps not paying as much attention as they should to the road. Also in a hurry, pedestrians may dart in front of cars to quickly cross roads.

Since there are no pedestrian signals at the crosswalk, I must make assumptions. I assume it is safe to cross when the light facing the garage turns green for cars exiting the Rappahanock Parking Deck.

The light only turns green, causing University Drive traffic to halt, when there are cars leaving the parking deck.

If pedestrians want to cross at any other time, they must use their best judgment. It only takes one distraction, by either pedestrian or driver, to cause someone’s life to drastically change.

Another assumption I make is that pedestrians have the right of way when crossing the street. However, the law doesn’t seem to affect Mason drivers who seldom yield to pedestrians.

The irony of the police station’s location is notable, since the disobedience of federal, state and campus law occurs in front of their headquarters every single day.
In order to remind drivers, there is one tiny sign near the police station that reads, “STOP for pedestrians in crosswalk.”

The sign remained in this location after the crosswalk was relocated, but now drivers pass the crosswalk before they read the sign. Also, there is only one sign posted and last time I checked, there are two sides of the road.

I believe I am a good pedestrian. Heeding my mother’s words, I look both ways before I cross the street.

However, drivers seem to lack common sense when they are behind the wheel. I guess the two seconds they save by not stopping at the crosswalk means they’ll find the perfect parking spot.

Mason Transportation Department: please install a crosswalk button and pedestrian signaling system. This crosswalk is dangerous and unsafe, as was proven earlier this year.

Another sign on the other side of the road would be welcomed. Make it a little bigger this time.

Mason drivers: stay vigilant and attentive to the road, and don’t worry, there are plenty of parking spots waiting in Lot K.


1 Comment

  1. fyi-an overall campus crosswalk signage package is being worked on which will include the bright yellow pedestrian crossing signs. As part of the project, some crosswalks will also be eliminated where they are clustered too close together which increases risk of vehicle-pedestrian conflict. Several new crosswalks(and 4-way stops) were added this summer as part of the muliti-phased plan.

    A signalized crosswalk is a bit more complicated and is being looked at as well. I think you hit though on the other crucual element to pedestrian safety-educating drivers and pedestrians to be alert. Obviously distracted drivers are a problem everywhere. For pedestrians, it is advisable that even when having the right of way, one still must look up and make sure its safe to cross.

    Will take a look at the current crosswalk sign. One thing to note is the relocation of the crosswalk had nothing to do wth the very unfortunate accident. The prior location of the crosswalk aligned with the existing sidewalk from the City. As part of the parking deck project, the University Park where University Dr once went through was planned-as part of that project the sidewalk from the city was relocated to align with the traffic signal.

    Your concerns are very well noted-as pedestrian safety and reducing vehicle-pedestrian conflict and normalizing crossswalks has been a major part of the campus transportation master plan underway since last December.

    If you or others have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact the Transportation office at as we work closely with Safety, Police, and Facilities, as well as the City and County on these issues.

    Josh Cantor
    Director, Parking & Transportation