FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — Simply paying attention will either save your life while walking or riding your bike, or prevent you from taking a life while driving, local police say.
A bicyclist was injured after being hit by a truck at the intersection of Gregg Avenue and Sycamore Street on Monday.
In February, an 18-year-old University of Arkansas student was killed when she was hit by a car while walking through a crosswalk on Garland Avenue.
The student’s death came almost a year after a bicyclist was struck by a hit-and-run driver and left with serious injuries at the intersection of Garland Avenue and North Street.
“Usually, it’s because the driver of the car or the operator of the bicycle isn’t paying attention or disregarding some type of traffic safety device,” said Cpl. Dallas Brashears with the Fayetteville Police Department.
Capt. Gary Crain, public information officer for the University of Arkansas Police Department, also said lack of attention is the primary cause.
“Either one or both are not paying attention,” Crain said. “[Either] the driver and the pedestrian or the driver or the pedestrian are not paying attention. Either one of them can prevent it, but when they’re not paying attention it’s likely to produce an accident.”
There are crosswalks throughout Fayetteville, many of which trail systems, such as the Razorback Greenway, run through.
“There are many crosswalks in the city where the trail system itself goes across the trails, and a lot of our bicycle operators operate a [bicycle] in the same manner as they would operate a car,” Brashears said. “If you’re operating a bicycle as a vehicle, you don’t necessarily have to stop and walk across the crosswalk, but if you ride across the crosswalk you don’t have the same rights as the pedestrian.”
It’s alarming each time a pedestrian or bicyclist is struck, Crain said.
“We don’t have a lot of accidents, but some people have been hit and some seriously,” Crain said. “We’ve had two fatalities 20 years apart, but still, that’s two people who lost their lives crossing the street.”
University police do their best to protect pedestrians and bicyclists.
“Officers are on patrol everyday. They look for speeding vehicles, they make sure people are obeying the speed limit, obeying the traffic laws,” Crain said. “If anything out of the ordinary catches their attention then they pull the people over and make a correction in their behavior, whatever it is.”
Accident prevention also includes reaching out to students and the public.
“We, especially at the beginning of the semester, make public service announcements or we go out talking to groups of people,” Crain said. “We emphasize that a lot of people here may come from places where pedestrians are not as numerous, and so they’re not used to having to stop at every block, every crosswalk to let people cross. Here they probably will. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to go three blocks without stopping for a pedestrian.”
With college football season coming up, droves of people will be visiting the U of A campus on Saturdays to watch the Razorbacks play. Many fans will park far away and walk to Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Both UAPD officers and Fayetteville officers will be out in large numbers to ensure the safety of those fans.
“Football games are a whole other beast; there are so many cars and so many pedestrians, nobody’s going anywhere fast,” Crain said. “One thing about gamedays, traffic is restricted to certain streets. So a lot of streets are closed, the traffic is going very slowly and there are police officers at every intersection around the stadium.”
Fayetteville police are on-hand on gamedays to manage heavily trafficked areas beyond the U of A campus, according to Brashears.
“Pretty much every intersection that’s not on university property is managed by a Fayetteville officer or a group of officers,” Brashears said. “MLK [Boulevard] and Razorback [Road], we’ll have an entire set of officers down there stopping traffic, letting pedestrians go at specific times. We do a great job of managing the vehicle flow and the pedestrian flow during gameday.”
The university has implemented numerous measures to prevent pedestrians and bicyclists from being hit, including road bumps, flashing lights and signs in the middle of the street and along the roadside. But there’s a simple way that pedestrians and motorists can best protect themselves and each other, according to Crain.
“It boils down to two people paying attention to what they’re doing,” he said.