Educating College-age Pedestrians

College-age students represent unique pedestrian education opportunities and challenges. On one hand, many college-age students are more likely to walk and bike. This is due to restricted campus parking, the expense of car-ownership, and the fact that students are young, able, and generally more physically fit than other age groups. They are an ideal target for pedestrian safety and promotion campaigns. However, college-age students tend to take more risks than other age groups, such as older pedestrians. They have a stronger perception of "invincibility," and may be apathetic to safety outreach initiatives.

Key messages for college-age pedestrians

Several universities have developed educational programs and campaigns in partnership with their Parking and Transportation Services Office or Department of Public Safety. The College of New Jersey and the University of Kentucky (both with the assistance of Toole Design Group) distribute a student-oriented pamphlet of "tips, guidelines, and resources" for getting around the campus "quickly, conveniently, and safely." Key messages include:

  • Reasons to walk or bike:
    • Save money
    • Stay healthy (avoid the "Freshman 15")
    • Sleep in
    • Avoid vehicle parking hassles
  • Tips for crossing campus safely on foot:
    • Cross the street at marked crosswalks or at intersections, and observe traffic-control signals.
    • Yield to motor vehicles and bicyclists when you are not in a crosswalk or are not crossing at an intersection.
    • Stay to the right on shared pathways and avoid walking in "bike only" lanes.
    • While walking or jogging alongside a road without sidewalks, always walk or jog facing traffic.
    • Make eye contact with oncoming motorists and cyclists, and indicate your intention to cross.
    • Be observant — be seen — be safe: avoid cell phone use when walking in congested areas or crossing busy streets; wear bright colors and walk in well-lighted areas at night; don't step into the street from behind an obstruction.

Strategies for educating college-age pedestrians

  • Tailor a program to relate to specific student population needs and interests — this helps engage students in understanding why pedestrian safety is important and how it affects them directly. Teach them what they can do, both personally and as part of the college/university, to improve pedestrian safety and increase walking on campus and beyond.
  • Develop partnerships for education programs — with the Parking and Transportation Services Office, the Department of Public Safety, campus health organizations, public health/injury prevention alliances or student associations, or other student groups such as walking/bicycling clubs or environmental groups to gather buy-in and support from the campus community.
  • Take advantage of campus life and university events — distribute pamphlets or other materials at new student orientations, large student assemblies (such as sporting events), or through campus housing.
  • Give incentives — students love free stuff. While distributing safety messages, garner student interest by giving away wristbands, reflective gear, posters, coupons for local restaurants, or other freebies.

Helpful links

The University of North Carolina's "Yield to Heels" campaign
This is an ongoing pedestrian safety awareness campaign implemented by the UNC Department of Public Safety and the UNC Highway Safety Research Center. The "Yield to Heels" campaign intends to remove myths about traffic and pedestrians and make helpful information about pedestrian safety available to the University community. The campaign focuses on three main messages for pedestrians, drivers and bicyclists: Be Aware, Be Safe, and Be Considerate. See the campaign web site for the event flier, a description of student-oriented pedestrian safety messages, and other helpful links.