UNL aims toward a pedestrian-friendly campus with traffic flow changes
If you’re a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln or often drive through campus, you probably have noticed some big changes in traffic this fall.
Making UNL more pedestrian friendly has been part of a 20-year plan, starting with the creation of Antelope Valley Parkway. This roadway was the first step taken to move traffic outside of campus. The project decreased traffic, but not enough.
In May, UNL received the go-ahead to make some major changes to the roads on campus. And on Aug. 17, the changes included four-way stops, two-way streets and added bike lanes.
“One of the goals of converting 16th Street to two-ways and then eventually closing 17th Street is to slow down traffic and get through traffic to go around campus and create a more pedestrian-friendly environment,” said Jennifer Dam Shewchuk, UNL’s director of Campus Planning and Space Management.
With 25,000 students on campus on a daily basis, the university wants to minimize any conflicts between bikes, pedestrians and vehicles.
“Campus is really unlike any other intersection in the city when classes let out, you have more pedestrians go through those intersections than anywhere else, so its unique,” she said.
UNL senior Sarah Carlson likes the traffic flow changes.
“I like how pedestrians have the right of way at all times now. I think I definitely get to class faster than I did before.”
Senior Lee Marion agrees, but says he thinks it depends on the time of year.
“Non-football season, they seem to work. When students are let out of class it’s hard. Also, not fun during Husker Football season because of the crowd. But right now, they’re nice and make traffic routing easier.”
Bike lanes in each direction were added on 16th Street between Q and X streets and outside driving lanes on 16th and Vine to Antelope Valley Parkway were converted to bike lanes.
“Vine Street bike lanes were very important to us,” Dam Shwechuk said. “We have a large international population that lives East of campus, and a lot of those student’s bike in and we wanted to make sure when you bike into campus there was a safe place to bike.”
There have been some challenges with the new plan, she noted, including slowdowns for buses between city and East Campus on 16th Street.
She says UNL is still exploring options.
The city will re-evaluate four-way stops at 16th and Vine for whether to determine whether they are working or if a stop light is needed.
Junior Katie McCaig would like to see stop lights put in place.
“I don’t like the new changes because I feel like the drivers and people walking never know when to go since there are constantly people walking and people stopped at the four-way stops. The drivers get frustrated with waiting and just go so people almost get hit.”
As someone who commutes to class, senior Brian Schwetschenau also is not a fan of the changes.
“I think part of that has to do with me being a senior and being so used to how things were before they were changed,” he said. “I’ve also had too many encounters with students coming out in front of my car.”
The master plan calls for a pedestrian mall on 17th Street. UNL officials envision 17th Street being more pedestrian-bike oriented, but the actual design is still up in the air. The university has presented to the city a request to vacate the street, which it has been on hold as of now due to negotiating costs.