Consider students when addressing jaywalking

Helen Hansen

Last week, the Austin Police Department began cracking down on jaywalking with a focus on Guadalupe Street, according to an article in The Daily Texan. The two-week campaign is a response to the 17 pedestrians who have been killed this year in motor vehicle accidents in Austin, according to Lt. Ely Reyes of APD’s Highway Enforcement Command. To be effective, APD should continue this initiative for a longer period of time. However, the city also needs to lengthen the time the crosswalk is open for pedestrian traffic if they are serious about reducing the number of pedestrian deaths.

Students caught jaywalking are written a ticket for more than $100, a hefty discouragement to anyone thinking to make an illegal sprint across the street to get to class on time.

APD, however, only promised a zero-tolerance policy from Oct. 24 to Nov. 5 — less than two weeks. This brings up the question of whether APD is truly concerned with protecting pedestrians for the long term or if it is simply using this misdemeanor as an excuse to jack up revenue at the end of the month. If APD wants to make a real difference in the number of pedestrian deaths, it needs to be stationed on the corner of Guadalupe and 24th for a lot longer.

Most students jaywalk because they know that if they wait for the crosswalk signal to change like they are supposed to, they will likely be waiting for several minutes and possibly be late to class. Anxious students rush across the street at the first lull in traffic, putting themselves and the oncoming driver at physical risk.

This dangerous traffic dance could be avoided if crosswalks were open for longer periods of time or more frequently. At the length of time crosswalks across Guadalupe are currently open, students waiting right on the curb are lucky to make it across with more than a few seconds to spare. This means almost no students walking toward the crosswalk have a fair opportunity to cross and they must then wait for at least two minutes before they get their turn.

In those two minutes, masses of students pile up on the sidewalk waiting to cross so that, when the light does finally turn in their favor, there is not sufficient space in the crosswalk for all of them. Jaywalking is not only defined as crossing a street without the light in your favor but also as walking outside of the crosswalk. The students, who obediently waited for so long to cross the street end up jaywalking anyway because the crosswalk does not accommodate the number of walkers.

Because so many students live in West Campus, it would be very prudent to increase the crossing time across Guadalupe from the 25 seconds it is at now to 45 seconds or even a minute. This should especially apply to weekdays during the afternoon, when student pedestrian traffic is at its highest and motor vehicle traffic seems to be at its lowest.

Certainly Guadalupe is a busy street, but usually it is only backed up with vehicles after 4 p.m. and on game days. During the school day, when motor vehicle traffic is low and pedestrian traffic is high, priority should be given to pedestrians.

As college students, we must remember to exercise more caution on Guadalupe Street than on campus, as the Drag is not part of the University. But the city needs to recognize that part of Guadalupe a regular stomping ground for students, and city planners should consider our safety and daily routine when discussing the issue of jaywalking.

Hansen is a Plan II and public relations freshman.