Students, staff collaborate on Walk-Only Zones to create safer campus community
As the late-morning sun grew more intense, Jared Siliverdis took a swig from the small hose that snaked to the water bladder positioned on his back.
It was his third shift as a Walk-Only Zones ambassador on the ASU Tempe campus. His bright yellow, Walk-Only Zones Ambassador t-shirt was damp from the swelter of the Arizona summer, but his demeanor was calm and cool.
“You’re only allowed to work outside for three hours, but the heat was pretty brutal my first day,” Siliverdis said. “I didn’t wear a hat, I didn’t put sunscreen on and I wore sunglasses.”
Battling sunburn effects, the junior business and economics major now donned a soft Panama Jack hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.
“I don’t think it’s too bad, I have my water supply right here and it’s pretty easy,” he said.
His confidence to handle the extreme elements extends to his ability to educate pedestrians about the Walk-Only Zones, which are in effect Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“I only had like two out of 30 people who really didn’t comply,” he said.
Siliverdis’ decision to become a Walk-Only Zones ambassador stems in part from wanting to make campus areas safer for pedestrians, and also from his own personal experiences.
“I’ve been on campus and I’ve been run over by bikes, skateboards, and I’ve also seen other people get run over by bikes and skateboards, so I thought the [Walk-Only Zones] concept was good, the money was good and so that’s why I decided to become an ambassador,” he said.
Fellow Walk-Only Zones ambassador and junior accounting major, Gustavo Macgrew, shares Siliveridis’ sentiments. Engaging with campus travelers and promoting pedestrian safety also were deciding factors for him to apply for an ambassador position.
“You get to communicate with fellow students and educate the public about a very important project for ASU,” Macgrew said. “I really want to help my fellow Sun Devils to prevent bikes from running into them and to have a safer environment.”
In an effort to enhance pedestrian safety and to ease vehicle congestion in heavy foot-traffic areas on the Tempe campus, ASU created Walk-Only Zones. The initial zone covers Hayden Lawn and extends east and south past the Memorial Union. Zone, cart and vehicle path maps, along with a feedback form, can be accessed on the walk.asu.edu website.
With tens of thousands of campus travelers traversing the Tempe campus on a regular basis, stopping the swarms of students and staff to educate them about Walk-Only Zones could be challenging for the ambassadors who stand post at zone entrances.
“It’s going to take some time for people to get used to it,” Macgrew said.
The research conducted about Walk-Only Zones – before their Aug. 1 establishment – also took some time. The Office of the University Architect collaborated with ASU Student Government on a three-year study that, in part, analyzed pedestrian foot traffic on the Tempe campus.
“The Walk-Only Zones are a part of the larger, university access-management plan that our office is working on,” said Ed Soltero, ASU university architect. “We plan to launch subsequent zones in succession; our hope is to learn from the effects and successes of the initial zone, and make necessary adjustments as we proceed with future zone installments.”
When asked about the establishment of bike paths to help bicyclists travel around the Tempe campus, Soltero explained that in the built-up, urban campus, bike paths would not be optimal.
“Our research found that the ratio of pedestrians to bicyclists on the Tempe campus is 75 percent pedestrians to 15 percent bicyclists,” Soltero said.
Soltero added that in the campus layout, there are too many crosscutting intersections where bicyclists would need to yield to pedestrians; bike paths are more effective when there are longer distances of uninterrupted travel.
“Moreover, based on actual bicycle counts at peak times, the available width of the malls slated for pedestrian-only use would be filled to capacity allowing only this mode of transportation,” he said.
Soltero also noted additional elements being added to the current Tempe campus infrastructure that are rolling out with the launch of the Walk-Only Zones, such as: new bicycle rack types, locations and card-access-only storage; bicycle valet areas; daytime-only golf cart parking areas; and locked skateboard racks.
Additional Walk-Only Zones collaborators include current ASU Student Body President Jordan Davis, who is featured in a short instructional video on the walk.asu.edu website and the Disability Resource Center (DRC).
A DRC employee since August 1981, Jim Morin’s current role is the Disability Access and Resource Transportation (DART) program supervisor. According to Morin, DART services provide a means for qualified students, staff and faculty to get to and from their classes, and carts operate on a scheduled, shared-ride basis.
“DART participants must have a medically documented temporary or permanent mobility disability that limits their ability to walk prescribed distances,” Morin said.
Since the DRC is located in Matthews Hall at the northern edge of the initial Walk-Only Zone, DART carts carrying passengers could require occasional zone access during the wheeled-restriction times.
“It was determined that in order for our vehicles to be easily identified when operating within the [Walk-Only Zones] it would be necessary to ‘re-brand’ the service,” Morin said.
Morin worked with Elaine Rettger, a graphic designer in ASU Business and Finance, who designed a “wrap” for the DRC’s seven-cart fleet. The design brands the carts in ASU colors and has “DART” emblazoned on the sides.
“The re-branding of the service is the key for our driver’s ability to maintain the level of service we offer without contributing to the problem,” Morin said. “We ask the ASU community to understand that in order to maintain our charter, we will have to occasionally mix in with the pedestrian flow.”
Note: The Walk-Only Zones are not intended to limit or redirect use of mobility devices by individuals with disabilities. Access more Walk-Only Zones details and a feedback form at walk.asu.edu.