By anyone’s standards, the lemons that life gave Taylor Chitty after her junior year of high school were exceptionally sour.

But the lemonade inspired by the daughter of Columbus East head basketball coach Brent Chitty and Kristen Chitty is still benefiting young people five years later.

During a surprise presentation at East, Mayor Jim Lienhoop read a proclamation declaring Tuesday as “Taylor Chitty Pedestrian Safety Improvement Day” in Columbus.

Efforts of Taylor Chitty, now 22, are largely responsible for a rectangular rapid flashing beacon (RRFB) being installed on Marr Road, between Columbus East and the school’s athletic facilities, Lienhoop said.

She was injured at that intersection five years ago after being struck by a vehicle that ran over both her legs.

Unlike flashing stobe lights found at most other crossings, RRFBs utilize an irregular flash pattern similar to what is used on emergency vehicles.

When these devices are installed on both sides of a road or street, federal studies show an 88 percent compliance rate of drivers yielding to pedestrians, compared to 18 percent when standard crossing signs are installed.

Besides Marr Road, similar installations are taking place at three other pedestrian crossings that will be completed around the time classes resume for the new school year Aug. 3, said Dave Hayward, the city’s executive director of public works and city engineer:

  • River Road near Royal Street
  • 27th and California streets
  • Home Avenue near Columbus North High School

Although the East basketball coach once predicted his daughter’s ordeal and efforts would help the community for years to come, even Brent Chitty was surprised how accurate his prediction became four years after he made it.

The ordeal began one year after the Chitty family moved to Bartholomew County from Evansville.

As their daughter, an avid soccer player, was attempting to cross Marr Road to get to the athletic facilities at Clifty Park in June 2011, Taylor Chitty was struck by a vehicle that ran over both her legs, leaving her with severe tire and road burns.

Due to her injuries, the teen was bedridden for more than a month. Even when she was finally able to start getting around, Chitty couldn’t take a shower without feeling her skin was burning.

She also admitted experiencing a degree of emotional trauma. During a 2012 interview when she was a senior at East, Taylor Chitty said just standing near the crosswalk “took her breath away,” leaving her feeling anxious and nervous.

As her wounds healed, Chitty slowly regained full mobility through therapy that included an early morning exercise regimen.

Having missed out on social and athletic events, Chitty became determined not only to prevent her injuries from defeating her, but to also take action to keep others from experiencing similar suffering.

After learning crosswalks near schools had been a major concern for several years, Chitty spent much of her final year of high school working on a senior project with Hayward to make such environments safer for student pedestrians.

Securing state or federal funding to address such issues normally takes several years.  But while Chitty and Hayward were engaged in efforts that included participating in a video titled “Safety Srsly?”, the Reach Healthy Communities’ Safe Routes to School Initiative was launched.

Due to her persistence, as well as good timing, Taylor Chitty became an effective advocate and symbol for the initiative’s cause.

Word was received in 2012 that Columbus would receive a $487,500 Federal Highway Administration grant to be used to install flashing yellow strobe lights at various locations.

But due to factors mostly involving bureaucratic red tape, the installation of the RRFBs was delayed until this year, Hayward said.

After graduating from East, Taylor Chitty spent one year at Indiana University-Fort Wayne, but then utilized a soccer scholarship to complete her undergraduate work at Florida State University last spring, she said.

With her recently obtained bachelor’s degree in advertising and public relations, Chitty is moving this weekend to Atlanta, Georgia, to work for a firm that provides charity auction, mobile bidding and event management services for nonprofits, she said.

Although pleased by the city’s recognition, Kristen Chitty said her daughter always sets her mind to ensure each challenge she assumes in life is brought satisfactorily to full fruition.

“Taylor has always had to work really hard for what she’s earned,” Kristen Chitty said. “With the hard work she’s put into this project, I’m just glad it’s almost finished.”

What's next

A rectangular rapid flashing beacon crossing is being installed on Marr Road, between Columbus East and the school’s athletic facilities, a project pushed by former East student Taylor Chitty. Thanks to a $487,500 Federal Highway Administration grant, similar installations are also taking place over the next few weeks at:

  • River Road near Royal Street
  • 27th and California streets
  • Home Avenue near Columbus North High School

On the Web

Taylor Chitty was part of a pedestrian, bike and car safety video — “Safety SRSLY?” — by Columbus Regional Hospital that is posted on the city of Columbus website, columbus.in.gov/bike/bike-safety-and-education/

Chitty’s segment starts at the 2:57 mark, about halfway through the video.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.