Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020
New signs installed around the Monroe Park and MCV campuses earlier this month are part of the university’s continuing work to improve pedestrian safety.
Over the past few weeks, VCU Police has finalized two projects: sidewalk decals at four intersections and RAMSWay street signs on the MCV Campus.
The bright orange-and-yellow sidewalk decals feature images of a hand, ear and eye and the text, “Heads up and phone down. Stop, look, listen. Watch for all wheels.” The new sidewalk decals are located at: West Franklin and North Harrison streets, West Main and North Cherry streets, North 11th and East Marshall streets, and North 11th and East Leigh streets.
The idea for the signs came from the university’s Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute. Renee Adams, a VCU Health clinical transformation support specialist and a Harris leadership team member, went on a police ride-along in 2019 to study busy intersections and the habits of drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and people on motorized scooters.
In addition to looking at the focus and behavior of drivers and how the presence of people on scooters affected pedestrians, Adams also studied people as they crossed the street. She said they were often looking down and texting, or were wearing headphones. She said the new graphics are meant to help pedestrians be more aware of their surroundings.
“When they come to that crosswalk and see something that stands out, with colors and boldness, people tend to look at it, and what’s around, what’s coming and going,” Adams said. Messaging on the signs stems from work conducted in 2019 by students at the VCU Brandcenter.
In a spring 2020 safety survey, 37.8% of respondents said VCU Police should focus on pedestrian safety as a top priority. Police worked with the city of Richmond to have decals approved and installed this summer.
The RAMSWay signs are another idea that originated at the Harris Institute. RAMSWay paths are designated routes connecting key campus locations and are marked with aluminum signs attached to light and street posts along the route. The paths are intended to bring community members onto a common, well-traveled route.
Signs on the Monroe Park Campus were installed in 2016. The new RAMSWay path on the MCV Campus stretches from Broad and 12th streets to VCU’s parking deck on Eighth Street and uses existing pedestrian patterns, key locations, major crosswalks and recent and future construction. Pedestrians following the route from start to finish pass 10 Emergency Reporting Telephones and multiple security cameras.
The two projects are part of ongoing work at VCU and in Richmond to improve pedestrian and mobility safety. In 2017, Mayor Levar Stoney signed a pledge for Richmond to participate in Vision Zero, a strategy to reduce traffic and pedestrian fatalities and injuries. In June, a new ordinance went into effect in Richmond that bans the use of cellphones while driving. And last summer, VCU completed one of the first projects of its new master plan when it widened sidewalks, improved lighting and reduced the crossing distance for pedestrians at the busy intersections of Franklin and Shafer streets and Main and Linden streets.
VCU Police Chief John Venuti said he wants students, faculty and staff to know that police are actively collaborating, internally and externally, to come up with solutions for pedestrian safety.
“Our hope is that the sidewalk graphics will prompt people to be aware of what’s happening around them,” Venuti said. “The RAMSWay signs give the MCV Campus community a set path to follow, especially at night. While we know that drivers, cyclists and pedestrians all play a role in keeping roads safe, we are thankful to have these initiatives implemented, especially as VCU and VCU Health evolve and grow on the medical campus.”
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