Overton Park Launches Pedestrian Safety Campaign

Students Baleigh Kuhar, Oziel Juarez, and Esme Perkins Cross Safely with Director of Student Life and MCA Alumnus Nick Darmstaedter

Overton Park is getting serious about pedestrian safety. The first phase of a new pedestrian safety campaign launched this week.

A large banner at the corner of Poplar and Tucker—an intersection where Memphis College of Art students and park patrons regularly cross six lanes of traffic—carries the “Be Aware” messaging launched by the Memphis Medical District Collaborative (MMDC) earlier this year. Sandwich board signs with campaign messaging have been placed at all four corners of the intersection, as well as on interior park roads, reminding drivers to yield to pedestrians and advising pedestrians to be aware of their surroundings.

All six park institutions—Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Levitt Shell, Memphis College of Art, The Links at Overton Park, Memphis Zoo, and Overton Park Conservancy—have signed on to a campaign to increase pedestrian safety in and around Overton Park.

And Memphis College of Art students will have a bigger part to play in the coming months. Animation student Esme Perkins is creating a pedestrian safety video that will be shown throughout the park, including on the Levitt Shell screens. Graphic Design student Oziel Juarez will be creating new signage for the second phase of Overton Park’s Pedestrian Safety Campaign. His designs will be seen throughout the park and along Poplar Avenue.

“We are excited to partner with the Conservancy for this important campaign,” says Laura Hine, Interim President at Memphis College of Art. “As a college located in the heart of Overton Park, we are committed to the safety of our students. Raising awareness to ensure greater safety for our MCA community is a top priority for us, and we look forward to supporting this campaign’s endeavors.”

“Since we began managing the park in 2012, the Conservancy has been focusing on improving access to the park for people on foot, on bikes, and in wheelchairs,” says Tina Sullivan, Executive Director of Overton Park Conservancy. “The goal of this campaign is to remind everyone that the streets surrounding Overton Park have heavy pedestrian traffic and should be considered a safety zone, where extra care is warranted.”

Mayor Jim Strickland also supports the campaign: “The safety of every single person who uses our streets is important to me and my administration. I encourage every driver to increase their awareness of pedestrians in this important part of our city.”

The Be Aware messages are an application of the global Vision Zero campaign, which seeks to eliminate 100% of pedestrian fatalities while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all. The Medical District launched Memphis’ first Vision Zero campaign earlier this year, inviting drivers and pedestrians to sign a pledge at mdbeaware.com. MMDC generously agreed to share campaign materials with the Overton Park institutions, helping carry forward the awareness of pedestrian safety to another area of the city where pedestrians and automobiles interact heavily.

Overton Park’s Be Aware campaign follows improvements to the Poplar and Tucker intersection made earlier this year by the City of Memphis. Countdown clocks for pedestrians were installed, and crosswalks were re-striped with high-visibility paint. Pedestrians who use the push-button feature at the crosswalks also get a protected period to cross Poplar before traffic lights turn green.

Support for the enhancements to pedestrian safety at this intersection came from an ioby campaign created by Overton Park Conservancy last summer. With matching support by ioby and Transit Center, a New York City-based foundation focusing on improved mobility in cities, the Conservancy raised funds to make this high-traffic intersection safer for pedestrians.

The park institutions encourage drivers and pedestrians to sign the awareness pledge at mdbeaware.com.

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