Speaking of Stupid Walls

Cameron Soltys - 3B Mechanical
Posted on: October 7, 2016

By my memory, it has been about a year since the metal fence on the outside of Ring Road went up. I’m sure you’ve seen it; it stretches from CPH to DC, with the occasional gap and corresponding crosswalk to let people cross the road. When the fence went up, I complained to my friends and peers, but refrained from writing this article; I had hoped the fence would grow on me. But now, one year later, I still reflect on the good ol’ days before the fence was installed.

I understand why the fence went up in the first place. As the more-cynical of you (that is to say, the upper years) will remember, crossing Ring Road used to be a bit of a mess. With the exception of the two stop signs at the north and south entrances, it was a free-for-all. Students would cross as they chose, sometimes without even looking up from their phones. It was driving hell, motorists anxiously looking out for the student who seemed ready to charge into harm’s way. But this isn’t a nostalgic article, thinking back to when evolution was selecting against the stupid people and yargle-bargle potentially-racist eugenics advocacy. This is an argument that Ring Road is less safe and more difficult to navigate than before; this is an argument that the fence makes me feel uncomfortable using Ring Road, to the point that I try to take the E5 Bridge or a circuitous route to the fence-free sections of campus.

Firstly, it really wasn’t dangerous to cross Ring Road without the fence, provided you had some sense. Whenever I needed to get to the other side, I would just wait until there were no cars. It wasn’t even a waste of time; I’d walk on the wrong side of the road waiting for a break in the traffic, then cross when it was safe. Not “I can dash it” safe. More like “I can meander across, trip and fall, dust myself off, and continue meandering” safe. Those gaps were pretty common. I never felt unsafe doing it. I never was unsafe doing it. Contrast that with what we have now: students all congregate in one area, stampeding across in huge packs, trusting the weird not-actually-a-stop-sign stop signs. I don’t trust cars to stop. You never should. So when I want to cross, I have to wait for the cars coming both ways to stop before starting to cross. By the time the second car has stopped, the first car has sometimes gotten fed up with my lollygagging and moved.

Long story short, the safest crossing is the one when there are no cars close to you. That used to be an easy situation to achieve, but now it is essentially impossible.

My second argument was alluded to in my first; the “huge packs” that roam the crosswalks. There are not enough crosswalks to accommodate everyone. Obviously I don’t mean that there isn’t physically enough area. I mean that there are so few crosswalks that, for most of the day, the crosswalks are entirely locked down by students passing through. Cars can’t get anywhere. Anecdotally, my housemate recounted a story where he watched a GO bus waiting at a crosswalk for the entire 4 minutes it took him to walk from CPH to DC. And how do drivers behave when they’ve been stopped behind a never-ending stream of students? Aggressively. See point one for how I don’t ever trust a driver to stop until they do. The fences make it much harder for vehicles to navigate. What’s more, they still have to worry about someone launching themselves gleefully onto the road, assuming the car will stop at the crosswalk. Just last week, I saw it happen in front of a fire truck, lights flashing and siren blaring. (In the crosser’s defence, I believe the siren started after the students began walking out in front of the speeding vehicle.)

One year later, people haven’t adjusted. They still cross in huge streams that hold up traffic forever. They still cross blindly, now protected by the magic power of a reflective green sign. And one year later, I’ve taken to waiting for a gap and then hopping the fence. I think it’s safer to hop the fence with a heavy backpack on my back, then wade through dense brush—containing, for all I know, poison ivy and stinging nettles—than to use one of the accursed crosswalks.