The traffic in Niles West parking lots is unsafe. On the morning of Tues. August 27, a student cyclist was hit as a driver exited the Oakton St. visitor lot. Less than 36 hours later, a driver turning left into the Oakton entrance hit a motorcyclist. Our question has now undoubtedly become, what do we need to change to make our parking lots safer?
While the reactions of students at West may be to talk about the accident, post a photo on Snapchat, or hope that everyone involved was not hurt, this does not solve anything. We need administration and the city to take clear action to protect us. Sometimes, from ourselves.
Although students haven’t been at the wheel in these accidents, students aren’t driving like angels either; in fact, it’s remarkable that accidents involving students in the parking lots aren’t reported more frequently. At 3:30 p.m., student drivers speed and swerve in the narrow “streets” in the parking lot, paying little attention to pedestrians and other cars.
During drop-off and pick up, parents block traffic and trap people in parking spots. Some parents stay parked in inconvenient places, preventing the flow of traffic until their kid comes out of the building. People have to drive around them, taking up all lanes of traffic and causing general chaos.
We can’t leave the parking lots unattended. Here are our suggested solutions:
1. Direct traffic
We can take after the store ABT. On weekends, since that store gets incredible business, police officers help direct traffic in and out of the parking lot. Police could assist with blocking the streets at the Oakton and Gross Point intersections, while increased security guard presence could help with traffic direction on school grounds, efficiently moving cars in and out of parking lots.
2. Create a new parking lot layout
Although it may be a mission, an expensive sum, and a multi-year endeavor, the benefits undoubtedly outnumber the drawbacks. A plan prioritizing pedestrian walkways over the vehicles’ ease of access might help traffic become more controlled. We could also convert some two-way areas to one-way areas, and designate one specific place for parent pick-up and drop-off.
3. Add crossing guards for pedestrians
Similar to the previous options, one simple, realistic solution is to add crossing guards at all parking lot entrances. There need to be people at the major intersections waiting for and directing kids across the street once school property ends at Oakton St. Crossing guards also have the ability to stop traffic, making the trip across the street much safer.
Students, parents, faculty, administrations, and the broader community have allowed broken traffic safety procedures to stay in place, resulting in two accidents in the first month of school. Who’s next? It has become crystal clear that changes need to be made in order to keep students and staff safe while entering and exiting school property.