University Ave. accidents continue amid upgrades

Pedestrian safety remains an issue on West University Avenue despite changes over the past year.

Earlier this month, Daniel Weldon, a UF student studying law and a former Gators linebacker, was hit by a vehicle as he used the crosswalk where University Avenue splits with SW Second Avenue.

On a Facebook post, Weldon said he was walking home from Midtown after watching the Gators game against South Carolina. After the crosswalk signal changed, he started across University Avenue and checked his phone.

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That’s when a vehicle making a left onto the avenue hit him.

In a police report obtained by Mainstreet Daily News, the Gainesville Police Department (GPD) said the driver failed to yield to the right-of-way.

The accident sent Weldon to UF Shands where staff discovered he had internal bleeding in his thoracic cavity. The police report says ER staff advised his condition as serious but with a good prognosis.

The Florida Department of Transportation implemented new speed tables in the spring on University Avenue where it borders the UF campus, and the section of road now has a reduced speed limit.

In the spring, GPD performed 508 traffic stops and issued 322 citations in one month along West University, where it borders the UF campus, as part of an increased enforcement program, far outpacing the month before.

City officials along with UF staff and students have held numerous meetings this year to find a way forward.

In October, the Gainesville City Commission authorized staff to find $500,000 to start design plans for the changes, which include possible reduction of lanes and added roundabouts. The commission also included a $20 million fund request from the state to its list of legislative priorities.

You can read about the potential changes to University Avenue at our article from the commission meeting.

Back in July, Mainstreet Daily News reported a pedestrian accident that also occurred on West University Avenue. At the time, GPD didn’t release specifics because of an active investigation.

In the report, obtained after the investigation, GPD reports that a 57-year-old man in a wheelchair began to cross 13th Street where it intersects with University Avenue after the crosswalk signal switched to the “white crosswalk man.”

A Ryder semi-truck turning right from University Avenue onto northbound NW 13th Street hit the man with its back tires.

The pedestrian was taken to UF Shands as a trauma alert with severe injuries to both legs.

According to the report, the driver said he checked his mirrors and saw no one. He denied hitting the man.

Five witnesses gave statements to GPD testifying that the truck hit the man in the wheelchair with the back tires.

The GPD report says the driver operated the vehicle in a “careless/negligent manner” and failed to yield to the right-of-way.

A city study shows that University Avenue just east of 13th Street sees 24,500 vehicles per day while roughly 29,500 vehicles travel just west of 13th Street daily.

An outside study of the area recommended removing on-street parking, narrowing lanes, widening medians and adding bus-only lanes. Commissioners also spoke about the possibility of roundabouts where SW Second Avenue and University Avenue meet.

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