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Make walking safer in Iowa City

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | NOVEMBER 26, 2012 6:30 AM

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City officials are working to make Iowa City more amenable to pedestrians by renovating the Iowa River Power Dam pedestrian bridge spanning the Iowa River, but the city must do more in light of recent accidents involving pedestrians to ensure that those traveling on foot can do so safely.

In a town so dependent on foot traffic, officials should take all the necessary steps to ensure that the safety needs of pedestrians and bicyclists are met, even if some modifications to Iowa City’s traffic flow come at the expense of convenience for drivers.

Pedestrian accidents are simply too common in Iowa City. In September, a young woman was hit by a car that failed to yield at the intersection of Madison and Washington Streets. She suffered only minor injuries from the incident. Another accident at the same intersection in September 2011 landed a University of Iowa student in the hospital after she was struck by a Cambus.

In February, a pedestrian was injured near campus after being hit by a car at the intersection of Iowa Avenue and Gilbert Street.

In late 2010, there were two pedestrian accidents on Madison Street near Burlington Street, one of which prompted a few necessary upgrades to the intersection near the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center including new traffic signs and crosswalk timers.

Given the relative prevalence of pedestrian accidents near the University of Iowa campus, the city and the university should continue to make the area safer for those who choose to travel on foot. The current closure and renovation of the Iowa River Power Dam pedestrian bridge, which spans the Iowa River between Iowa City and Coralville, is a pedestrian-friendly move, but there a many other parts of town that demand attention.

The intersection of Madison and Washington near the Main Library and a number of intersections along Burlington Street seem to be some of the most dangerous locations near campus for pedestrians. A few relatively simple modifications could have a major effect for those wishing to safely traverse Iowa City.

The addition of a fourth stop sign — or, perhaps, a set of traffic lights — at the intersection of Washington and Madison could make it easier for pedestrians to navigate the intersection, particularly when bus traffic is high.

A pedestrian bridge over Burlington Street at either Clinton or Gilbert would reduce the high amount of street-level foot traffic that leads to potentially dangerous intersection interactions and often slows rush-hour traffic to a crawl.

Some areas with low pedestrian densities are also cause for concern. On Burlington, both the intersections of Dodge and Governor are poorly lit and daunting for pedestrians when traffic is heavy. Dubuque Street near Church Street is also difficult to cross at times. The city should consider adding better-lighted crosswalks to that area.

There are simply too many people on foot in Iowa City to justify the number of pedestrian problem-areas in town. A notable lack of pedestrian fatalities does not necessarily imply safety; too many people are injured on the streets of Iowa City. City officials should adopt more pedestrian-friendly measures to keep automobile traffic in check in the most densely walked parts of town, even if such measures would be inconvenient for drivers.


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