LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY)– Nureaka Ross is a concerned citizen hoping that a trip to Washington D.C. will help her learn how to make Lafayette a more pedestrian-friendly city.

One of Ross’s main concerns is that unsuitable pedestrian infrastructure affects businesses.

“There’s hotels, there’s businesses. There’s grocery stores, and you can not walk from Super One to the nearest hotel or the shopping center, the plaza. You can’t visit Lafayette and say hey, this place is accessible for pedestrians. You can’t,” Ross said. 

Ross says that the lack of infrastructure may also spoil Festival de International. Because it is one of the largest festivals, Lafayette could use it as an inspiration to make the city more walkable.

“You can’t even cross Johnston Street safely,” Ross said, “so I don’t believe Lafayette is growing to its full potential because not everyone has a vehicle so.”

Ross hopes the city can become more accessible for those who are unable to drive. This population, “people with autism, physical limitations, and people that just was to commute via foot or bicycle.”

Ross remembers growing up in Lafayette when the city lacked reliable transportation, and from that period of time, she has seen little change and growth when it comes to pedestrian infrastructure.

“Evangeline Thruway is one of the most deadly roadways in the entire state of Louisiana,” she said. “At the intersection of Evangeline Thruway and Willow, there’s a pedestrian beg button that is currently missing, and that button is the one you have to press to give the pedestrians the right a way to cross, and it’s currently missing. It’s been missing since January.”

Ross says this is the second time this specific pedestrian button has gone missing. She suggests an automated pedestrian system that is already included in the light cycle instead.

Ross says she has been raising awareness through social media accounts and talking to city leaders for the past two years. However, she said talking with Councilman Glenn Lazard is only a fraction of the entire system. The department with the power to improve infrastructure is the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. Ross feels that with the influence of the Mayor, DOTD would immediately work to improve pedestrian infrastructure. 

Ross has also started a petition, in an attempt to raise awareness and bring the problem on the corner of Evangeline Thruway and Willow to officials’ attention.

“My petition is about having an automatic pedestrian crossing implemented during peak hours in the light cycle and prohibiting drivers from turning right on red during peak hours,” she said. 

Ross says that pedestrian infrastructure is suffering across the city. However, she feels those in underserved communities are disproportionately affected. 

“The root cause is the way these roads are designed and the lack of adequate pedestrian infrastructure,” Ross said. “How these infrastructures are being funded and managed? Some of these curb cuts are inadequate; they need to be refixed and updated, and you also have to look at accountability and education.”

Ross said there are many factors when it comes to pedestrian incidents. In many cases, the pedestrian may be blamed for the accident, but accidents are often due to poor streets, distracted driving and excessive speeding on the roadways.

“Adequate pedestrian infrastructure is needed for community integration, so by identifying these barriers in our current infrastructure, we can start to seek the change that is needed,” Ross said. 

Ross said everyone is encouraged to learn more about pedestrian infrastructure and sign the petition if you would like to support this cause.