Pedestrians, drivers still getting into accidents despite reduced campus attendance


Accidents between pedestrians and drivers are still happening on Pitt’s Oakland campus, despite the fact that most of the usual pedestrians have been living, working and learning off campus, Pitt Police officers told the latest meeting of Staff Council on Feb. 17.

Officer Guy Johnson, pedestrian safety coordinator for the police (who announced he is retiring after 37 years on April 30), said: “The numbers are low right now but people are still getting hit. People are still having accidents … and we want that to get down to zero.”

Sgt. Brooke Riley, chief community programs unit supervisor, noted that “these issues are going to return as people return to work” on campus, both with the recent change of COVID-19 status that relaxed building access restrictions and once the pandemic allows more normal activity.

The vast majority of pedestrian/vehicle accidents take place between noon and 5 p.m., the officers reported. From 2013 through 2018, yearly accidents hovered between 20 and 30, peaking at 38 in 2018 and falling steadily to one, so far, in 2021, at Forbes and Atwood.

But Fifth Avenue intersections continue to be the most dangerous, with single accidents in 2020 at Fifth and Meyran, DeSoto, Bouquet, Craft and Dithridge, and two at Fifth and Bellefield, despite the 2019 improvements aimed at curbing such common occurrences. Forbes was the second-most dangerous thoroughfare last year, with accidents at Oakland, Semple and Meyran.

Bates Street at both McKee and Atwood saw accidents as well, and there was one accident each at Terrace and Buffalo streets and at Pier and Oakland streets.

Riley noted that even the tiny Starship food delivery robots “are going to be a concern eventually because they are considered pedestrians.”

PennDOT says a personal delivery device is a "ground-based delivery device that is manufactured for transporting cargo or goods and is operated by a driving system that allows for autonomous and/or remote operations.” And as of Jan. 30, 2021, Pennsylvania vehicle code classifies personal delivery devices, like the Starship robots, as pedestrians and affords them the same rights. 

The Bus Rapid Transit system, when and if it arrives with its passage through campus, will be “another concern,” Johnson said.

“When you see something,” he said — any dangerous vehicular behavior — “we need you to let us know … and we’ll address these issues.”

“We’re the third most populated area in Pennsylvania,” after the downtowns of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, he added. “Expect to see a pedestrian in your path when you’re in Oakland.”

In other Staff Council news, the organization is headed for another round of elections for officers and committee chairs. Members will be hearing from candidates at their May 19 general meeting as the group moves toward voting in June.

Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-758-4859.


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