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Education Faculty, Staff, and Students Protest Westerland Rd.

December 4, 2012

Members of the Memorial University community took in a safety symposium and awareness demonstration on Tuesday afternoon. Meeting in the McCann Centre of the Education Building they discussed safety, and pedestrian and vehicle traffic on the St. John’s campus.

Afterwards, MUNSU members, as well as some faculty members, marched to the Westerland Road intersection with Bailey Oake. Oake was injured on the Westerland crosswalk one year ago, and even as she recovers it’s clear the dangers remain.

The group saw taking to the streets as an effort to bring attention and foster safety awareness to traffic and pedestrians on Westerland Rd. The area, located next to the Field House and Aquarena, is high-traffic for both pedestrians and vehicles and has resulted in multiple incidents that are cause for concern.

The protest brought together members of faculty and staff, as well as students, in an effort to draw attention to the concerns in the area. It even included the mother of a student killed in the area in 1979, before the crosswalk was in place.

Immediate results were seen, as the event was covered by several local media outlets. Said one student of the protest:

“It’s great to see. This place is a madhouse most days, especially after classes or when people are going to get their [coffee]. More attention needs to be paid by the city and by the university here before something happens that can’t be undone.”

Staff members in the GA Hickman Building, who often use the area as a thoroughfare for breaks and travelling to parking lots, echoed those sentiments.

“I use [the crosswalk] every day, a few times a day. There are many days that I’m on the crosswalk that I’ll be halfway across the road and someone will roll right by, right in front of me, and look at me and smile,” said Valarie James of the Graduate Programs office. “It’s almost to the point where when you’re crossing there, you’re wondering if this is the day you’re going to be hit.”

“I’ve had some pretty close calls [in the area],” said John Collins of the Undergraduate Programs office. “The amount of traffic there has increased. I’ve had probably five or six incidents myself. I found that several times while I was on the crosswalk I’ve nearly been hit, actually. I think [the protest] was a great idea.”

While Bailey was injured on December 8,2011, Dean of Education Dr. Kirk Anderson also was hit by a car on the same crosswalk last week but was not injured.

The MUNSU reps argued for changes to lighting, speed bumps, and the speed limit on the road. Others have suggested closing the road in the area of the crosswalk during the day seems worthy of consideration. One thing is for certain, the hope is that the protest will open some eyes and lead to some changes.