A smiling VCU Police officer monitors pedestrians in the crosswalk as they cross the street.
VCU Police Officer Jay Malone keeps watch as pedestrians cross Leigh Street. (Kevin Morley, Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

VCU completes pedestrian safety study

VCU and the City of Richmond have been working together to identify and prioritize pedestrian safety improvements across VCU.

Share this story

Virginia Commonwealth University and the City of Richmond today released the findings and recommendations of a new study aimed at improving pedestrian and traffic safety on VCU's campuses in downtown Richmond.

VCU contracted with Kimley-Horn, engineering planning and design consultants with experience in the Richmond area, and worked with the city to identify and prioritize improvements to enhance existing infrastructure within city-owned right-of-way, encourage collaborative enforcement and community outreach, and ultimately support a safer campus community.

The recommendations include:

  • Evaluation and implementation of “no turn on red” signs.
  • Corner clearance markings that eliminate parking near crosswalks.
  • Curb extensions and speed tables (i.e., speed humps) that reduce crossing distance and vehicular speed.
  • Upgrades to crosswalks, signals and signage.
  • Additional gateway features that define campus boundaries.
  • Continued traffic signal retiming.
  • Speed feedback signage on campus.
  • Collaborative enforcement and outreach plans.

Installation for several of the recommended infrastructure improvements – either by the city or by VCU – began prior to the start of this fall’s classes, while others will be implemented or evaluated by the city as part of future city development or other planned projects. The full report can be found here.

“The safety and well-being of our community is vitally important. It is clear that significant change is needed to slow traffic and enhance pedestrian safety in Richmond,” said Meredith Weiss, Ph.D., vice president for the VCU Division of Administration. “Through our partnership with the city, we are enacting meaningful change. This study provides a clear roadmap for safety improvements, and we have begun implementing the recommendations.”

Kimley-Horn’s team began the study while VCU’s 2023 spring semester classes were in session, documenting existing conditions of pedestrian infrastructure. The study team focused on pedestrian volumes, travel patterns and behaviors, crossing conditions, infrastructure, vehicular traffic volumes, types of vehicles (passenger cars, trucks, buses, etc.), speeds and operations.

Over the course of field observations, the study team collected more than 150 unique data points and documented concerns related to pedestrian infrastructure and pedestrian and motorist behavior. 

“The city is committed to improving traffic safety measures and continuously making assessments, securing grants to provide new technology for traffic safety upgrades/improvements and traffic calming measures throughout the City of Richmond,” said Bobby Vincent, director of the Richmond Department of Public Works. “That commitment is evident with the city’s Vision Zero pledge to reduce traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries to zero by 2030. Vision Zero is designed to change the traditional mindset that traffic-related deaths and those resulting in severe injuries are inevitable to the mindset that they are preventable. The VCU Pedestrian Safety Study is in alignment with the Vision Zero strategy and an example of how stakeholders play a role in helping the city address best practices for traffic safety.”

By reviewing technology systems at VCU, VCU Police determined that drivers pass through the Monroe Park Campus more than 1 million times in the course of a week. Added to this number are thousands of cyclists and pedestrians, with everyone using the roadways and intersections 24 hours a day.

VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., called for the independent pedestrian safety study in the days following the January traffic-related death of VCU student Mahrokh Khan. The study was underway at the time of a second traffic-related death of VCU student Shawn Soares in May. Since then, the consultant provided early recommendations, and the city implemented speed tables on Main, Franklin and Cary streets as well as additional “no turn on red” signage at various campus intersections.

VCU’s initial speed data indicates that installation of the speed tables has reduced vehicle speed by half, on average. Since January, VCU Police have also increased enforcement of traffic and parking laws as well as engaged in extensive communications, outreach and education.

“We value the concerns and input from our students and employees, many of whom have shared with us their recommendations for improving pedestrian safety,” said Aaron Hart, Ed.D., vice president for student affairs. “Concerns and suggestions raised were shared with Kimley-Horn and addressed in this study.”

VCU Police continue to stress the importance of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians staying alert, understanding and following traffic signals, yielding the right-of-way, avoiding distractions and using defined bike paths and crosswalks. Lists of safety tips for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians are available on VCU News.

“VCU Police remain committed to ensuring that our campuses are safe,” said John Venuti, associate vice president for public safety, VCU and VCU Health, and chief of VCU Police. “We will continue to enforce traffic and parking violations while educating members of the VCU community on all aspects of safety.”

The city invites the public to attend the upcoming Speed Management Symposium to hear from VCU and other community partners about future projects addressing speed management and collectively working together for the safety of everyone. The symposium will be held Wednesday, Nov. 8 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Main Street Station, located at 1500 East Main Street. Learn what actions need to be taken as we move forward and how you can assist.