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6,000 shoes: Taking steps to improve pedestrian safety at JHU

THE JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY
OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS
901 S. Bond St., Suite 540
Baltimore, Maryland 21231
August 28, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MEDIA CONTACT: Amy Lunday
443-287-9960 office
410-804-2551 cell
acl@jhu.edu

This Friday, thousands of traffic-sign yellow shoes will appear near the corner of St. Paul and 33rd streets as a reminder to students at The Johns Hopkins University to put their best feet forward when it comes to pedestrian and bicycle safety.

Between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 31, volunteer students and staff members will hang 3,000 pairs of shoes – most tinted an eye-catching yellow with real road striping paint – on a chain link fence surrounding a university-owned lot at the busy intersection. At least two pedestrian-involved accidents occurred at that corner during the past academic year.

By design, the display of loafers, running shoes, wingtips and wedges will be impossible to ignore: It’s the first step in the university’s new Road Scholar campaign to halt wayward walkers and cyclists in their tracks before they traverse city streets while tweeting, texting, talking or sporting ear buds.

Why so many brightly painted shoes? The yellow footwear represents the nearly 3,000 people hit by vehicles each year in Maryland, according to the State Highway Administration. More than 100 of those accidents end in death; the victims who died are represented by 100 pairs of shoes painted white.

The Road Scholar campaign, in partnership with several student groups, encourages smarter pedestrian and cycling behavior in the neighborhood, urging students to be aware of traffic and eliminate distractions while walking and biking. That means removing ear buds and stowing smart phones so there’s no texting on the go. The shoe display is the first of several attention-grabbing endeavors focusing on pedestrian safety that are in the works for this academic year.

“After four serious accidents in the last two years, we knew we had to think outside the box,” President Ronald J. Daniels said. “So, in addition to better safety engineering and stronger enforcement, we’ve also launched a creative and wide-reaching communications campaign designed not just to increase awareness but also to change behavior.”

While pedestrian and bicycle safety has been a consistent focus for Johns Hopkins’ urban campuses, new efforts were spurred by a number of serious pedestrian and bicycle collisions involving vehicles near the Homewood campus. Two students, Miriam Frankl and Nathan Krasnopoler, were fatally injured, in 2009 and 2011 respectively.

In 2011, the university enlisted faculty from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Bloomberg School of Public Health to conduct a study and make recommendations for improving pedestrian and bicycle safety around the Homewood campus.

“Our report emphasized the three Es: education, enforcement and engineering,” said Keshia Pollack, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health. “This strategy has been a part of other successful comprehensive programs to improve pedestrian safety.”

The report recommended incorporating student input throughout the campaign, a suggestion that the administration took to heart as it sought to create meaningful opportunities for peer-to-peer conversations about safety. As a result, the Office of Communications teamed up with the Student Government Association’s leaders last spring to envision a different approach to public safety on the city’s streets.

“The student body has experienced tragedy several times in the past few years,” said Moses Song, president of the Student Government Association. “Yet, we still see a lack of awareness regarding pedestrian and bicycle safety at the Homewood campus and throughout the surrounding neighborhoods. SGA plans to focus efforts on heightening awareness in the hope of altering behavior so that students and local residents feel at home.”

Shoes for the Road Scholar kickoff were collected over the summer in bins around the university, and more were purchased from Goodwill Industries. In tandem with the shoe display, there are sidewalk graphics located on busy walkways throughout campus, along with prominently displayed ads and signs. The messages will also target drivers, who will see decals on university shuttle buses and banners on the pedestrian bridge over San Martin Drive, which winds along the western edge of the Homewood campus.

Beyond the Road Scholar campaign, university security and facilities personnel, working with city police, have been improving enforcement and roadway signs around the Homewood and East Baltimore campuses. Next week, a long-awaited reconstruction project is scheduled to begin on Charles Street from 25th Street to University Parkway to change traffic patterns and signage and increase pedestrian and bicycle safety. The $28 million project, led by the city’s Department of Transportation, incorporates federal and local funds with a $2.5 million contribution from the university.

“Combined, these efforts have the potential to make a real impact on student and community safety,” said Daniel Ennis, senior vice president for finance and administration. “But we all have to take responsibility. We all have to be Road Scholars.”

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Office of Communications
Johns Hopkins University
3910 Keswick Road, Suite N2600
Baltimore, Maryland 21211
Phone: 443-997-9009 | Fax: 443 997-1006