Student Christina Dunn crosses Medford's Riverside Ave. in route to the Higher Education Center. pennell photo - Bob Pennell

Crossing Riverside

Heading to the Higher Education Center in downtown Medford to study for a test, Christina Dunn strode across Riverside Avenue during a lull in the streaming traffic.

"People don't stop at the crosswalk," she said, pulling a rolling backpack onto the safety of the sidewalk at the corner of Ninth and Riverside, just south of a marked crosswalk. "You can stand there for 10 minutes and cars just don't stop.

"I can't tell you how many times we hear brakes squealing from out here," said Dunn, who is studying respiratory therapy in an Oregon Institute of Technology program offered in partnership with Rogue Community College.

Increased concerns about pedestrian safety since the Higher Education Center opened this fall have prompted RCC officials to ask the city to consider possible improvements.

"We are trying to point out that there is a safety issue not just for college staff and students, but the general public," said Grant Lagoria, RCC's facilities director.

On behalf of the college, Lagoria submitted a citizen-request form to the Medford traffic-engineering division.

He suggested that the crosswalk across Riverside, now on the north side of Ninth Street, be moved to the south side of the intersection so pedestrians can avoid traffic turning onto Riverside from Ninth.

Other suggestions included posting signs alerting drivers to the crosswalk ahead or painting such a warning on the pavement, and installing a blinking light, which possibly could be activated by people waiting to cross.

Southern Oregon University, which is a partner in the Higher Education Center, worked with Ashland officials to install signs, rumble strips and flashing beacons activated by pedestrians along Siskiyou Boulevard near its Ashland campus. A student was struck and killed by a university employee there in February.

Linda Renfro, RCC's associate dean of instruction, said officials from both RCC and Southern Oregon University have expressed concerns about pedestrian safety in downtown Medford.

"We don't want to have a fatality before they do something here," she said.

The city's traffic coordinating committee is set to review RCC's request at its noon meeting on Dec. 17.

Public Works Director Cory Crebbin said the city will collect data on the intersection, then the committee will offer recommendations.

"Some things there's not an engineering solution to," he said. "It's the people in the cars."

He said signs, lights and other traffic control devices are most effective when they are used rarely and appropriately.

Crebbin suggested that the most effective safety improvement might be a "robust education campaign" about pedestrians always having the right of way and the illegality of passing a vehicle stopped at a crosswalk.

Medford police have done pedestrian safety operations downtown in recent years to drive home that point, Detective Sgt. Mike Budreau said.

However, Ninth and Riverside and other downtown intersections don't stand out as particularly dangerous, he said.

Medford police report that the intersection of Riverside and Ninth saw one crash in 2007 and no pedestrians were involved. In the first three quarters of this year, two crashes were reported there and neither involved a pedestrian. In October, a woman crossing Ninth Street suffered minor injuries when her foot was run over, Budreau said.

RCC student Tommie Laws has read student newspaper coverage of the pedestrian safety issue and faces it each time she heads to or from her car parked in all-day parking across Bear Creek.

"There are cars parked so drivers don't see you," she said. "When one car stops, then others don't, so you have to wait and wait or just dash across when there's a break, even if you're not in a crosswalk."

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail

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