Since early 2016, the crossing guards on Walnut Avenue and Grand Street were a familiar sight for Chapman students. However, at the start of this school year, they were gone.
The guards were hired to compensate for an inaccessible sidewalk on Center Street during the construction of the Keck Center for Science and Engineering, which was completed by fall 2018, Chapman officials said. But students say that two pedestrian accidents and a tendency of motorists to race down Walnut indicate a necessity for permanent placing of crossing guards at the channel from the dorms to main campus.
Chief of Public Safety Randy Burba said he doesn’t think the crossing guards are necessary.
“Crossing guards are basically for grade school kids who don’t follow directions, who don’t know to look for traffic both ways,” he said. “With the safety features in place, and adults being adults, it should be fairly safe.”
Those safety features at Walnut and Grand include hazard lights lining the crosswalk that are activated when buttons on either side of the street are pressed. Prowl found that the lights stay on for about 20 seconds at a time. At Walnut and Center, crosswalks exist at the stoplight.
The crossing guards, who were paid for by the university, initially worked from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, but soon had their hours extended to 6 p.m., according to a blog post from the university.
Two accidents occurred on Walnut close to the dorms in the spring of last school year.
Sydney Green, now a sophomore broadcast journalism major, believes that she may not have been hit by a pickup truck on Walnut had she crossed with the protection of a crossing guard. At around midday in March 2018, she was walking toward the dorms on Center Street, distracted by her phone, when she was grazed by a pickup truck and rolled her ankle.
Green said she was “very shaken up by it” and that she would like the crossing guards to return.
“They should have crossing guards – that’s a really hard street to cross. It’s not safe to cross because cars come speeding down Walnut,” Green said. “They definitely made it a lot easier and safer to cross the street. I now drive up Walnut and the (students) struggle to cross the street.”
Green said she understands why the university wouldn’t want to pay for the extra labor, but that college students will cross the street where and when they want to.
Sophomore graphic design major Alice Premeau was hit one month later at the Walnut and Grand intersection when she was walking back from Leatherby Libraries at night.
“I distinctly remember thinking the next morning how terrified I was to cross the street again,” Premeau said. “But having the crossing guards there made me feel safer and reassured.”
Premeau suffered bruising to her ribs and minor whiplash. She said the crosswalk lights were on as she entered the street, but turned off before she reached the other side.
Some students also say that traffic on Walnut has increased.
“The traffic is terrible, especially in between classes, because none of the students stop,” said junior public relations and advertising major Saarini Madhava. “It was far better when they had the crossing guards there because they knew how to facilitate traffic.”
“It’s just awful, kids just go whenever they want. People should know how to cross the street, but they don’t,” said graduate student Jake Ummel.
Burba said with two crosswalks open, the volume of people crossing should be more controlled.
“I think there are some things, yes, that are out of (the students’) span of control, things that we need to do as an institution to build a safety net,” he said.
Students also brought up the camaraderie between dorm dwellers and the crossing guards, and said that the crossing guards made them feel safe.
“Even before the accident happened, I felt a bit better when they were there,” Premeau said.
Green said the guards would say hello and ask how your day was going, and she liked knowing that they cared about the students.
“It was upsetting when I saw the crossing guards not there anymore,” Madhava said. “They were so friendly.”