Mary Frances Braslow, program administrator for the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, had no idea who was escorting her across Madison Avenue in the crosswalk in front of the College of Pharmacy Building this morning. Not surprising, because her escort was wearing a black-and-white-striped zebra suit and dancing as he guided her across the busy street.
It was all fun with a very serious message. The person in the zebra suit was UTHSC Campus Police Chief Anthony Berryhill, and he was the centerpiece of a collaboration between the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and the Memphis Medical District Collaborative (MMDC) designed to increase awareness of pedestrian safety in Memphis.
Called Crosswalk Zebras Memphis, the campaign is an MMDC event inspired by Bolivia’s Cebritas program, which deploys citizens dressed in zebra suits representative of the stripes of a crosswalk, to busy streets to draw attention to pedestrians crossing the streets. MMDC has hosted two Crosswalk Zebras events in 2023, reaching more than 150 pedestrians and 23,000 people via social media and videos from the events.
“I’m having a ball,” Chief Berryhill said between strolls across Madison. “I think this is real effective.” Though many, like Braslow, did not recognize him initially, he said they told him it was great to be creating awareness for safety on the busy street that is crossed by so many members of the UTHSC community every day.
UTHSC Campus Police hold pedestrian safety as a high priority and monitor the crosswalks daily during busy hours.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Mona Kazemi, a PhD student in the College of Pharmacy. “I think sometimes people are busy and not aware of the crosswalk and that they have to stop.”
According to Smart Growth America’s Dangerous by Design report, Memphis is the third most-dangerous metropolitan area for pedestrians, the MMDC said. Last year, there were 83 pedestrian fatalities in Memphis, up from 61 pedestrian deaths in 2021.
The MMDC and Campus Police will partner for a second Crosswalk Zebras event Friday, September 1, from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the intersection of Union and Dunlap.
“A lot of commuters and neighbors driving through the district are not familiar with the heavy foot traffic that is within the district on a daily basis, particularly, during school months,” UTHSC Campus Police Department Captain Joanne Morrow said. “UTHSC is proud to partner with the MMDC and deploy this additional resource with the Crosswalk Zebras. This fun and unique approach will hopefully help to increase pedestrian awareness within the campus and the entire Medical District area.”
While the event brought smiles to members of the campus community, Chief Berryhill’s message is serious, pedestrian safety in the Medical District is a priority.