USC’s pedestrian safety campaign has been doggedly trying to instill a sense of accountability in the large contingent of cyclists and boarders on campus. But and equally important component of pedestrian safety is pedestrian accountability.
Somewhere down the line, there seems to have been a subtle injection of an us vs. them mentality into the safety campaign, which is a serious obstacle to the campaign’s goal. A community where students are truly considerate of one another’s safety and space cannot develop without a sincere partnership between walkers, boarders, and cyclists alike. But several things need to happen before that partnership can be forged.
First, pedestrians need to realize that spatial awareness is not a skill reserved for people on wheels. All students have a responsibility to watch where they are going. People complain about bikers and boarders who text—and this is a problem—but what about the pedestrians who step into bike traffic or walk into other people because they’re too absorbed in their cell phones to worry about walking in a straight line? Moving slow doesn’t give you the right to just check out and assume other people will move out of your way.
Being a pedestrian also doesn’t give you the excuse to ignore the rules designed to encourage pedestrian safety. Campus police are repeatedly having to warn pedestrians not to walk in the bike lane, and it’s not uncommon to see people stop and chat in front of oncoming traffic. A pedestrian in the bike lane is no less of an offense than a biker in the pedestrian zone—both are inconsiderate and both can potentially lead to dangerous accidents.
Blaming the entire safety problem on bikes and boards leads to a general undermining of the prominent bike and boarding culture that exists on campus. USC is ideal for these kinds of transportation—if we lost that culture, it would be a real shame.
Alternatively, if this culture is encouraged—if we stop acting like pedestrian traffic is preferred and like wheels have no positive impact on our campus—then safe bike and boarding culture will be encouraged as well.