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ASU hires event security company to monitor walk-only zones

ASU students have mixed reviews about the zones

walk-only zones.jpg

"Are walk-only zones needed around ASU campuses, or are they an inconvenience for bicyclists and skateboarders?" Illustration published on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017. 

ASU has hired an event security company to temporarily monitor the walk-only zones around the Tempe campus in light of staffing challenges for the student employees formerly tasked with the job. 

Walk-only zones are located around the Tempe campus to keep campus safe by closing off certain areas to bike or board traffic, with the biggest zone adjacent to the Memorial Union in the heart of campus.

JC Porter, assistant director for commuter services, said ASU was forced to hire event logistics company PRO EM after half of the student monitors quit in the first two weeks.

"We had an extremely high turnover rate with our student employees, so we had to subsidize our student employees with the temporary employees," he said. 

He said ASU is hiring student walk-only monitors for those who are interested. 

"We've been hiring every three weeks since school started," he said. "We will hire 10 people and five will show up, and then three will stay. It's a difficult job... I feel bad for the student workers, and I think that's why we're having such a high turnover rate. They don't get treated very nicely sometimes."

Tora Crawford, vice president of administration at PRO EM, said that because of PRO EM's relationship with ASU Athletics, the company was able to help with walk-only zones.

Crawford also said PRO EM employees are strictly there for safety. They are not allowed to write tickets to students who ignore the zones. 

On the other hand, ASU workers have the ability to give out three punishments for violating walk-only zones. The first is a written warning. The second is a bicycle safety class, and the third is a referral to the Dean of Students, Dean or Vice President. 

If a PRO EM worker wishes to give a student a ticket, he or she must notify ASU about the student's violation, Crawford said.

Crawford said there are 10 PRO EM employees hired for the walk-only zones job, but the University said there should only be five employees left by Dec. 8.

After employees were hired, they attended a four hour orientation with ASU, Crawford said.

Porter said walk-only zones came after Tempe's Undergraduate Student Government sponsored the “walk your wheels” campaign in 2011, when just about any mode of transportation was allowed on campus. 

At one point, Porter said there were delivery trucks, golf carts, bikes, skateboards and pedestrians all trying to get through campus at the same time.

"(The campaign) worked well for a while, but after looking into it more, the architect's office decided to do a study ... and they found over 75 percent of people using malls were pedestrians," he said. 

The walk-only zones were added in three phases. Phase one was the Memorial Union and the library. Phase two was Palm Walk and Tyler Mall and phase three connected the three locations together, according to Porter. 

To help reduce traffic, ASU also added to its bike infrastructure and has increased bike parking over three years. Along with added bike parking, ASU added three free bike valets on campus, Porter said. 

Overall, students appreciate walk-only zones, Porter said. 

"When we first implemented walk-only zones, (the reaction) wasn't too bad," he said. "But, when we did phase three, it cut the last main area for cyclists and skateboarders."

Porter said that, despite some cuts to the areas biking is allowed, campus is safer with walk-only zones. 

"If you were to go back before walk-only zones, there were so many near-misses and collisions, and how hard it was to get around campus and compared to now -- it's definitely better," he said. 

Brendan Sturm, a junior studying actuarial science, said he noticed the change due to the age of the new workers, and they seem to enforce the rule more than students. 

"Freshman year, a guy chased after me for biking in the zone," he said. "... Earlier this year, it didn't seem like anyone was patrolling the zones, and then now, it seems like ASU has hired people to do that again."

Dena Bergman, a senior studying conservation biology and ecology, said she walks around campus to avoid the chance of hitting anyone with her bike. 

"I think they are good,” she said. “I ride my bike to campus, but I like to leave it on the edges of campus because I feel really uncomfortable when I'm walking and someone's zooming by me on a bike. It feels really dangerous.”

Bergman also said it is common to see bikes zooming past pedestrians, and she thinks it’s because people need to be somewhere on time. 

“Bike safety is important, and pedestrians have the right of way,” she said. “Be careful of pedestrians. You're going fast, and what if they just decide to dart (the other) way? You never know.”

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