Seattle Pacific University's Student Newspaper

The Falcon

Seattle Pacific University's Student Newspaper

The Falcon

Seattle Pacific University's Student Newspaper

The Falcon

Look both ways and pray

Accidents, crashes affect student safety while walking on campus
Rio Giancarlo
Students cross the street as cars wait to turn left on to Nickerson street from 3rd Ave. west on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in Seattle.

Nearly every Seattle Pacific University student knows the stomach-dropping feeling of looking up at a pair of headlights. Whether crossing Nickerson Street to Otto Miller Hall or the Bertona Classrooms or just home to a dormitory, it is not rare for almost-accidents and actual crashes to happen right before one’s eyes.

“It’s a universal experience,” said senior exercise science major Charisma Smith. “There have been times when it’s felt close.”

Most students know this closeness, while a few are victims or witnesses to actual life-threatening incidents. Smith herself witnessed a collision at the intersection leading to Otto Miller Hall on Nickerson Street. A student was injured on Feb. 29 while walking the crosswalk as a vehicle ran a red light. 

This incident and others like it occur over multiple crossing areas on campus. What about SPU’s campus makes it such a hotbed for pedestrian-driver conflict?


On the west side of campus, the problem begins with Bertona Street — the street runs by the Office of Safety and Security, Emerson Hall dormitory and other class and service buildings

Bertona Street begins its run through campus with a huge hill, meaning drivers heading East towards McKenna and Emerson Halls often rocket down the hill, making the already narrow roads even more treacherous.

At a table in Gwinn Commons Dining Hall, three SPU sophomores ranted and reflected on pedestrian realities on campus: business administration major Lily Copeland, computer science major Dorothy Prosser and political science major Nathaniel Gale.

“That hill by Arnett and OSS –,” started Copeland. 

“Uh-uh,” Prosser said, shaking their head.

“People go so f—— fast,” Gale added. “They like to because it’s —”

“It’s fun,” Copeland finished.

They all agree: something needs to change to prioritize the safety of students crossing the street from OSS to Arnett Hall — a frequently used area devoid of any crosswalk or stop sign. Gale thinks a pedestrian-specific crosswalk with signs that flash could help the situation.

“Or they should have it be a school zone,” Gale said. “Why can’t cars slow down?”

Unfortunately, crosswalks and yield signs do not ensure safety. For students who live in Emerson Hall, the first danger is just out the front door. Despite crosswalks and signs, drivers still speed down the Bertona Street hill, making crossers extra cautious.

David Diepersloot, a second-year music production major, remembers seeing students almost hit by a speeding van.

“Because it was raining, these two girls had hoods and headphones on. There’s this van coming, hauling a–, but they slammed on their brakes and barely stopped,” Diepersloot said. “[The students] didn’t even know.”


Copeland had a similar experience on the other end of campus. While jaywalking from the Bertona classrooms toward Tiffany Loop, a car barely avoided hitting Copeland and another student.

“We just walked across the road, and a car slammed on its brakes right in front of us,” Copeland said. “They did not see us.”

Copeland is aware of how dangerous jaywalking can be as she is not only a pedestrian, but a driver too.

“I’ve almost hit people,” Copeland said. “Driving back through Queen Anne at night, there’s so many people walking on the roads I breeze through. People walk out from behind cars and assume that people are going to stop, and it’s an accident waiting to happen.”

In between classes, drivers pile up at intersections while students cut across unmarked roads. According to Copeland, it’s “literally the worst.”

“You’re so on edge because people speed, parking there can be really dangerous, and there’s students walking everywhere,” Copeland said.

Street parking

Cars whipping down Bertona Street pose a danger to pedestrians and vehicles. Street parking is extremely popular for members of the SPU community—partly because garage parking costs $600 annually for students.

“It’s way too expensive to park here, and I think that means that so many people are street parking, which makes it so much more dangerous to drive through that area,” Copeland said. “It’s horrible.”

On the afternoon of April 1, a car rammed into and up the side of a parked car outside McKenna Hall. According to Gale, who witnessed the crash and its aftermath, it was not an April Fool’s joke.

“I was just walking, and boom, right there, a car is on top of another car in front of McKenna Hall,” Gale said. “I saw the bottom of the car that was driven up there. It was smoking and started to shift, then went back down onto the street. It was bad.”

The car hit was extensively damaged. A few hours later, on walking back, Gale saw police officers and building traffic on Bertona Street.

Main street traffic

Further down Bertona, students turning left — to Otto Miller Hall, the Royal Brougham Pavilion or the Fremont Canal — cross Nickerson Street in what is known as the worst intersection on campus. Packs of students cross between classes in the blinking red seconds. 

When the light turns green for drivers leaving SPU’s campus, those turning left are often delayed by crossing students — while crossing students are faced with anxious cars, inching closer and closer.

According to Prosser, a solution would be a protected left turn input to Nickerson Street’s light rotation. A guaranteed green arrow for cars turning left would ensure pedestrians’ crossing at a separate time.

“It’s terrifying out there at night,” Prosser said. “At that intersection, there are so many people, and there’s not enough time. The left turn is what builds up.”

While crossing near Otto Miller Hall on Feb. 29, Smith witnessed the injured student be hit by a driver who ran a red light.

“I heard this really loud noise and looked to my right,” Smith said. “They rolled up on the hood, flew up in the air, and landed facedown. We rushed over to them and just sat with her until EMTs and all that arrived.”

Students like Smith who use Royal Brougham, have class in Otto Miller Hall or walk on the canal, use the intersection often.

“There needs to be some change, something that gives more lighting,” Smith said. “Something that would show there’s an effort to ensure students’ safety because I feel like there isn’t much of that considering that several accidents have happened at that intersection now.”

Students concerned with traffic safety should reach out to the Seattle Department of Transportation. According to their website, they “work with and respond to resident concerns and requests regarding traffic safety, signs, and other issues related to improving safety on all streets.”

The student and vehicle-riddled roads of SPU are made dangerous by speeding, jaywalking, street parking and students’ necessary crossing of busy streets. After reaching out to the SDT, all students can really do is look both ways and pray.

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About the Contributors
Ella Beth Sessions
Ella Beth Sessions, News Editor
Ella Beth is a second year english literature and honors liberal arts double major with a minor in journalism. She occasionally finds time to pursue her hobbies, which include reading, biking and crafting.
Rio Giancarlo
Rio Giancarlo, Chief Photographer
Rio is a sophomore visual communication major with a minor in photography. Rio manages a team of photographers and illustrators to supply content for the greater SPU media groups. Before he took his current position he worked as a staff photographer, mostly covering sports. When not working for The Falcon he works for the SPU athletic department and as a freelance photographer. In his free time you can find him skiing, or wishing he was skiing. 
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