Op-ed from Vista alum
MATT HOSE | UNIVERSITY OF SAN DIEGO CLASS OF 2015
Standing in the middle of Linda Vista Road, with a hundred or so cars whizzing by me in both directions and only a couple of yellow lines to separate us, I used to wonder what the chances were that one of those cars would barrel into me.
Luckily for me, I graduated from the University of San Diego in 2015 without an incident, making it through two years of playing a life-sized game of Frogger across that road in an effort to shave several minutes off of my commute to class.
But when I saw the news that a woman had been struck by a car on that street causing life-threatening injuries, it made me shudder.
A similar tragedy could easily happen any day to a USD student walking to class. Linda Vista Road’s inaccessibility to pedestrians is a public safety hazard that USD needs to address immediately. Our university needs to add a crosswalk with a traffic light between the West Entrance and the Main Entrance to campus.
Take a look at Linda Vista Road on any given school day around its intersections with Goshen Street, Brunner Street, or Colusa Street, and there’s a strong possibility you will see students with backpacks strapped to their backs, standing like Olympic hurdlers to prepare for a mad dash across the road.
That’s because for many students who live in the neighborhood south of Linda Vista Road – and no, I don’t mean the Carmel Pacific Ridge apartments – the two main entrances to USD are not easy options to access campus. There is no crosswalk for a half-mile between USD’s West Entrance and its Main Entrance, in the span of which there are several blocks’ worth of apartments south of Linda Vista Road, including USD’s own University Terrace Apartments.
Instead, for the students who live in that area, the easiest entryways to campus are either a staircase between Goshen Street and Brunner Street leading to Loma Hall, or a lesser-known dirt path leading to the Shiley Center for Science and Technology.
It’s much easier to do a quick sprint across the road to get to one of these entrances instead of a roundabout U-turn to go to the crosswalk at the school’s main entrance, or to go on an even more circuitous route to the West Entrance followed by a steep climb up a hill to the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice.
The lack of pedestrian infrastructure on Linda Vista Road turns the street into a speedway in between the two existing traffic lights, encouraging cars to travel well above the posted 40 mph speed limit, which is already too high for a road that is straddled on both sides by USD buildings.
Granted, our campus has a unique layout. Its linear shape and hilly features really don’t make a walking commute convenient for anyone. But when students are putting their lives in danger to get to class, the university needs to find a way to make those trips safer.
Tim O’Malley, vice president for University Relations, acknowledged that those students have been a concern of the school’s for at least the past two years.
“We see them every day morning, noon, and night jaywalking across,” O’Malley said.
In my opinion, labeling these students as jaywalkers, is not the right approach to take.
O’Malley related an adage among university planners: when building a university, don’t build the sidewalks before the students have arrived. Let the students determine their pathways, and then build the infrastructure around their footsteps.
As the neighborhood across Linda Vista fills with more students, their footsteps are telling a story. Maybe they are jaywalking, but they only jaywalk because the university and the City of San Diego have not provided adequate infrastructure for pedestrians.
However, the university is headed on the right track.
O’Malley said that administrators have been in talks with the city for at least two years to install some sort of pedestrian infrastructure on Linda Vista Road, possibly at the intersection with Goshen Street.
According to O’Malley, city officials said the only viable option would be a traffic light, but a project like that would be low on the city’s list of infrastructure priorities. In other words, the university would have to raise the funds itself if it wanted to convince the city to install a traffic light.
The time to do that is now.
When I crossed Linda Vista Road every single day for two years, I knew that I was taking a risk. But it should not have been a risk I or any other students had to take in the first place.
These students’ footsteps are telling us the paths they take to commute to our university. If USD chooses to ignore them, someday we will have a campus tragedy.
And it will only take one errant driver checking their phone for that tragedy to happen.