Johns Hopkins University sophomore Ely Manstein wasn't sure what to make of the flier that Charlotte Zarzar handed him as he was walking along North Charles Street between classes Sept. 3.
Manstein, a biophysics major from Philadelphia, studied the card-shaped flier from the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, which is trying to raise public awareness of pedestrian and bicyclist safety as part of its annual Street Smart campaign. In bold letters and numbers, the card told a cautionary story of 32 pedestrians killed and 2,187 injured in traffic accidents in Baltimore from 2009 to 2011, according to three-year crash data by the city Department of Transportation and the Maryland Highway Safety Office.
Among the most accident-prone areas of the city, said Zarzar, a Street Smart representative, was in the vicinity of St. Paul and 33rd streets in Charles Village, within walking distance of Hopkins' Homewood campus.
"It's probably got a strong message," Manstein said, stuffing the card in his pants pocket. "But it doesn't really affect me."
What if he was hit by a car?
"Then it would affect me," he said.
Being hit by a car isn't all that Manstein and thousands of other Hopkins students have to worry about these days. They are also walking past temporary floodlights and generators that Hopkins has installed along the middle of North Charles, after four Hopkins students, all women, were robbed at gunpoint while walking on the street during move-in day at the university Aug. 28. Police believe the students were targeted for their cellphones.
The lights and generators sit in the middle of what is currently a construction zone, part of the North Charles Street Reconstruction project.
In a Sept. 4 email, Hopkins officials said temporary light towers and generators were placed on North Charles at University Parkway, 34th Street and 33rd Street, and floodlights were mounted on the construction fencing north of 34th Street. The lights are running continuously each day from 4 p.m. to 7 a.m.
"We are discussing more permanent solutions with Baltimore City in lieu of the temporary towers and generators," the email said. "Discussions include potential activation of new lighting and installation of supplemental fixtures on the existing temporary poles and increased wattages on temporary poles. The temporary towers and generators will be maintained until an adequate alternate solution is determined.
"In addition, we are asking that all JHU-associated properties along the Charles Street construction zone turn on any porch and outdoor lighting overnight in order to provide additional illumination to deter crime," the email said.
The email also addressed pedestrian safety concerns and new precautionary measures due to construction, including shifting, relocating and better delineating several crosswalks in the area.
Pedestrian safety has long been an issue at Hopkins, where student Nathan Kransnopoler was fatally struck by an 83-year-old motorist while bicycling on University Parkway in 2011 and student Miriam Frankl was killed by a drunk driver in the service drive in the 3300 block of St. Paul Street in 2009.
Almost exactly a year ago, Hopkins staged a display of 3,000 yellow shoes wedged in a chain-link fence at St. Paul and 33rd streets, to raise public awareness about pedestrian and cycling safety. Even as that campaign was under way, a car struck a pedestrian at Charles and 33rd, according to published reports.
Last week, it was the Baltimore Metropolitan Council spotlighting the issue in its annual traffic safety education campaign.
"I think it has an important message, especially as the school year starts for so many children and college students," Laura Van Wert, a council spokeswoman, said in an email.
"At some point in the day, everybody is a pedestrian, whether it's walking to school or from the car to the office," Larry Klimovitz, executive director of the council, said in a press release. "There needs to be an expectation of safety when we travel. Not just on highways, but the second we step outside, whether it's our front door or our car door."
The Street Smart campaign, launched in 2009 and funded by a grant from the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration's Highway Safety Office, is deploying "street teams" at 15 locations around the region in coming weeks, to distribute pedestrian and driver tips. Zarzar, who works for ITA Promotions, was one of four people who spent the day in Charles Village and worked St. Paul and Charles streets, wearing double-sided signs and handing out fliers, as well as reflectors commonly used by cyclists to make them visible to motorists at night.
Reaction, Zarzar said, has been mixed.
"Some people don't want to be bothered," she said. "Others read the card and say, 'Oh, wow.' Overall, it's positive."
According to the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, safety tips for drivers include stopping for pedestrians at crosswalks, not speeding, yielding to pedestrians and cyclists when turning, giving bicyclists a wide berth when passing them, and looking for children and other pedestrians when backing up.
The council recommends that pedestrians cross the street at marked crosswalks and intersections, look left and right before stepping into the street, obey traffic signals, make sure they can be seen after dark and in bad weather and look out for vehicles backing out of parking spaces and driveways.
Bicyclists also should obey all traffic signs and signals, never ride against traffic, use hand signals, ride to the right of traffic, wear helmets, and use front and rear lights when visibility is poor.
For more information on the Street Smart campaign, go to http://www.BmoreStreetSmart.com.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun