BY ANNA HASSON ’21
Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Shannon D. Gurek sent the Mount Holyoke student body an update on the safety of the crosswalk on College Street on Oct. 31. Representatives of the Mount Holyoke administration “have met with Town and State officials regarding pedestrian and traffic safety on the section of College Street that runs in proximity to the College,” according to the email. The parties involved have agreed on preventative actions that will ensure the safety of both pedestrians and drivers.
The email said, “The Town will initiate a speed limit and traffic safety assessment of College Street running from Morgan Street to the Commons. The Town has approached the South Hadley Electric Light Department about improving lighting in the area of the crosswalks. The use of cameras to monitor traffic and crosswalks in the area noted above will be explored.” These discussions were prompted by the death of a pedestrian near the Village Commons that took place in late summer this year, as well as by safety concerns from students.
Zoe Farr ’21 lives in Pearsons Hall, so she has to cross College Street every day to get to classes. “Crossing the street is really anxiety-provoking for me because sometimes you’re halfway through the crosswalk and someone starts driving down the road,” she said. “You can’t tell if they’re going to stop or if you have to run because of how fast they’re going.”
On top of these safety measures, Campus Police will also have a more active role in spreading awareness about pedestrian safety to the Mount Holyoke community. “Campus Police helps to share information about crosswalk safety and can monitor the crosswalks as they are moving about the campus,” said Gurek. In the case of an accident, they are often a first responder as they are very close by.” However, “[Campus Police] are not allowed to issue tickets or stop reckless drivers.”
Students can expect to see improved lighting and cameras over the crosswalks on College Street, as well as more aggressive outreach to pedestrians on safety tips for crossing the street.
Right now, Gurek said that it’s unclear what form improved lighting will take. “South Hadley Electric Light Department will be doing a study to see if improvements are needed and what that would look like,” she said.
When asked who would watch the possible cameras over the crosswalks, Gurek replied, “If cameras were to be implemented, it is unclear at this point whether they would be monitored by the College or the Town. More information would be needed to understand if adding cameras would improve safety at the crosswalks and then to determine who monitors and maintains them.”
Another initiative will be headed by Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Marcella Runell Hall. “I am working with Campus Police to make a short video about how to properly use the crosswalks which should be available for Spring orientation; additionally we always send out reminders about how to use the crosswalk effectively when new students come to campus,” said Hall.
In a statement to the Mount Holyoke News, Hall provided tips for safely crossing College Street. She said, “It is important to be aware of your surroundings when crossing any street. Don’t expect that a car will see you and stop. When you approach a crosswalk, stop and attempt to make eye contact with drivers. This way you will know that they see you before stepping into the street.”