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Crosswalk flagged for move
Jefferson Park Avenue crosswalk
Photo by Jenny Gerow
Posted on the barrels at the crosswalk (above), which spans Jefferson Park Avenue from the B1 parking lot to New Cabell Hall, is a notice from the City of Charlottesville. It states: “Before stepping into the street, grab a flag, wave it while crossing the street, then deposit it in the orange barrel on the other side. Thank you. (This strategy is successfully being used in Maryland and Utah.) Work on a long-term plan to relocate the crosswalk is currently under way.”

By Matt Kelly

Harry Gamble, a tall, lean religious studies professor, paused and looked both ways for traffic but did not use one of the provided orange flags to cross Jefferson Park Avenue near the B-1 Parking lot on a recent morning.

“Not many people use the flags. Flags are stolen sometimes,” he said, although he acknowledged, “This crossing is a real hazard, and there have been any number of injuries.”

The crosswalk, which connects the B-1 parking lot with central Grounds, will be moved in the next six to eight weeks. After English professor Cynthia Wall was struck by a car there last fall, the city put red flags for pedestrians to carry across the striped intersection to alert motorists. The flags are to be deposited in barrels on either side of the crossing for reuse.

The flag system is intended to give pedestrians more visibility, said Angela Tucker, the city’s development services manager. Some people have used the flags, but when they were first put out flags were stolen and had to be replaced every other day. The system will be discontinued when the crosswalk is moved.

“We recommended that they change the location of the crosswalk,” said Mark Fletcher, chairman of the University’s Security and General Safety Committee who participated in a tour of sites of concern in November.

Informal observations on a recent Friday morning showed most pedestrians ignored the flags.

“A lot of [the drivers] don’t seem to know they are supposed to stop,” said English professor Hoyt Duggan.

“There’s a lot of traffic through here,” said Gamble. “And when the bus is stopped, that blocks the vision [in the direction of the Medical Center] so people coming around the buses can’t see.”

Gamble, who uses the crosswalk every day, said moving the crosswalk 150 feet east may be an improvement.

The crosswalk is near a city bus stop and the point where westbound traffic splits into two lanes. When a city bus stops in the right westbound lane to accept passengers, traffic moves into the left lane to drive around the bus. The stopped buses block westbound drivers’ view of pedestrians as they step onto the crosswalk.

Moving the crosswalk east, so it lines up with the stairs leading to New Cabell Hall, distances it from the bus stop and the split in lanes, so pedestrians would only cross two lanes of traffic.

Duggan doubts the move will help.

“There has been a change in the driving culture [in the last several years], and they are not inclined to stop,” he said. “People drive by here at a good clip, and people who aren’t thinking of stopping and aren’t observant don’t have a lot of time [to stop for a pedestrian].”

The University and the city of Charlottesville are working together, with U.Va.’s Department of Parking and Transportation Services building a staircase from the B-1 lot to street level and the city relocating the crosswalk to meet it.

“Once the steps are relocated, we would provide the curb cuts, the crosswalk and black out the existing crosswalk, “ said Tucker.

The cost to build a new staircase, demolish the old one and relocate a nearby emergency telephone is expected to be about $12,600, said Rebecca White, director of the Department of Parking and Transportation Services.

The crossing was added to the safety committee’s list of crossings to examine, which includes the grade crossing near Memorial Gymnasium, the crossing near Kerchoff Hall, the crossing in front of Madison Hall and a crossing on University Avenue near Mincer’s. Fletcher said the Memorial Gym crossing was made safer by replacing a light bulb. The others will be considered in the future.


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