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Students petition for light

Ann Marie Jakubowski | Monday, November 12, 2012

After senior Monica O’Hearn was hit by a car Wednesday night at the intersection of Twyckenham Road and Vaness Street, her roommate, senior Karen Allen, started a personal petition on behalf of O’Heam to install a stoplight.

The petition has gathered more than half of the 300 signatures Allen set goal for. She plans to submit the signatures to the University when she reaches her goal

O’Hearn said she thinks the accident could have been prevented if there were a stoplight there.

            “I was biking to my apartment and had stopped at the crosswalk,” O’Hearn said. “The road has two lanes in each direction, and a car in the far lane had honked his horn for me to pass. I hadn’t noticed as I started to pedal that there was a car in the near lane, and when the driver and I realized what was about to happen, I pedaled faster and he hit the brakes, but the car still hit my bike.

            “I was thrown off the road, but thankfully, my injuries are minor and I walked away with only bruises and cuts on my legs and sides.”

            O’Hearn said she believes a stoplight at the intersection would remove these communication issues between drivers and pedestrians.

            “If there were a stoplight, it would provide an opportunity for pedestrians and bikers like myself to cross safely, as well as clear doubt in drivers’ minds about whether stopping was necessary,” she said.

            Senior Mary Jeanne Brenholts, one of the 163 signers of the petition, said the current situation at the intersection is not safe for pedestrians. The intersection, near the student housing at Irish Row and Clover Ridge, currently has a crosswalk light that alerts oncoming cars when people are crossing.

            “When you’re crossing the street, you push a button and the yellow flashing lights come on,” Brenholts said. “Sometimes the lights are on and the drivers still don’t slow down, so every time you cross the street you’re not sure whether they’ll slow down this time or not.”

            Brenholts said the problem is partially because drivers are unfamiliar with the meaning of the yellow lights.

            “The lights come on right away when you push the buttons because the pedestrians do have the right of way, but drivers don’t always slow down for us,” she said.

            Kevin Condit said he signed the petition because he thinks the area is at a “high risk” for pedestrian-automobile accidents, and he has seen too many close calls.

            “I ride my bike through that intersection every day, so I’m familiar with it, and I see people go pretty fast through there,” Condit said. “I think a stop sign would be a good addition because it’s a high-traffic intersection.”

            Both Brenholts and Condit said that they became aware of the petition through Facebook, and signed because of their personal connection to the area.

            “I live off-campus in Clover Ridge, and I bike to campus because I don’t have a car,” Brenholts said. “Sometimes, it just doesn’t feel safe, and I know [O'Hearn's accident] is the kind of thing that could have happened to anyone.”

            Condit said he thinks that installing a stoplight is the best way to make students feel safer when passing through the area.

            “The importance of this cause is definitely highlighted by the fact that someone got hit there,” Condit said. “Sometimes, it unfortunately takes an accident like that to show you just how important it is.”

            O’Hearn said Allen contacted the Department of University Affairs in student government to see what can be done within the university, and the two are hoping to get the city of South Bend involved as well.

            “We are looking into possibilities in South Bend, and hoping to use the petition as an indicator of student concerns.”

            Students interested in accessing the petition can find it at http://www.change.org/petitions/university-of-notre-dame-put-a-stoplight-at-the-crosswalk-at-vaness-and-twyckenham.