One group of faculty and students are taking steps to change the way pedestrians around UCF get from point A to point B. They are constructing ideas to bridge the gap to safety — literally.
The group is UCF's Advanced Design Lab (ADLab), and on Dec. 1 students completed their final project of the semester: designing aesthetically sound, functional pedestrian bridges that will be proposed to be built over the intersection of Alafaya Trail and University Boulevard.
"Our whole purpose behind this was to create a community awareness to try to lobby and facilitate efforts by the university, and indeed the community, to maybe one day build Memorial Bridge at several locations across our campus," said professor Rob Reedy, director of ADLab and a tenured professor in the School of Visual Arts and Design. "Hopefully we can build some momentum, and maybe get somebody to come in here and build us a couple of bridges."
According to the Florida Highway Patrol database, there have been 10 pedestrian fatalities in the past seven years around the UCF campus. Those fatalities stemmed from people crossing the street via crosswalk or jaywalk.
Last February, UCF student and Kappa Delta member Brooke Dawkins was struck by a pickup truck while crossing Alafya Trail near the Gemini Boulevard intersection, according to a release from FHP. Left in critical condition, Dawkins died days after the incident.
At a university with 60,000 strong, some think a pedestrian overpass is long overdue.
"It's interesting that a university this size does not have something like this. It doesn't cost that much to put something like this together," said Ken Tuebner, a sophomore studio art major and member of the group "Light the Way," whose bridge design earned third place out of 28 concepts. "I'm not sure why they don't do it."
The winning bridge concept went to a group called "Concept 5" whose project name fit the bill with the title of Project Uknighted. The budget for the undertaking came in at a little more than $3 million per pedestrian overpass. In comparison, UCF recently broke ground on the new $6.5 million Wayne Densch Center for Student-Athlete Leadership, a state-of-the-art multi-purpose athletic center, on Nov. 21.
"What I'd like to see is some donors [for the pedestrian bridge]," said Melissa Bush, an adjunct professor in the School of Visual Arts and Design.
Students constructed pedestrian overpasses from the mundane to the futuristic, the improbable to the plausible.
From the Pegasus on the overpass to the black and gold in the paint, Projected Uknighted stuck out to judges because it was functional. Though, the members seemed less interested in the victory at hand because there is a larger battle brewing — receiving funding and actually putting the plan into action by building the pedestrian overpasses.
"[This] shouldn't just be an art assignment. This should seriously be something that they take into consideration, because you shouldn't lose anybody," said Ashley Loonam, a sophomore graphic design major and member of the winning group.
Another Project Uknighted member was also thinking about ways to put the plan into action because of the seven off-campus student housing complexes within a half mile of campus.
"It would be great if they actually build this. It would save a lot of lives," said Matthew Nagle, a freshman graphic design major and member of the winning group. "It would really show that the school cared about the people."
Cristina Chirino, a junior biology and psychology major, stood on the corner of University Boulevard and Alafaya Trail with a group of friends in the dark of the night waiting for the orange hand on the crosswalk signal to change into a familiar sign.
"I feel like it would definitely help, especially because it's so busy," Chirino said a few minutes after a gentleman talking on the phone walked across University Boulevard staring directly into the orange hand that infers a person wait to cross. "If you have a bridge, why would you jaywalk?"