Student pedestrians and cyclists brave campus

Bicyclists and pedestrians compete for space on the sidewalks lining Wright Street in Champaign. Erica Magda

Bicyclists and pedestrians compete for space on the sidewalks lining Wright Street in Champaign. Erica Magda

By Sarah Small

Olivia Snarski, junior in LAS, uses her bicycle to get around campus.

Last year, she was riding north in the bicycle lane on Wright Street when someone walked across her path.

“I swerved to get out of his way,” Snarski said, “And I didn’t hit him, but I rode off the path and knocked over two girls instead. It turns out it was a birthday party and I knocked over the birthday girl.”

Two of the most common means of transportation for students on this campus are bicycling and walking. However, during high-traffic periods of the day, tension can brew between the two groups.

Jessica Carnate, sophomore in FAA, said she sometimes gets nervous walking around bicyclists because they don’t always look out for everybody. She said she has never been “Schwinned,” a common term students use on campus to refer to being hit by a cyclist, but she said there have been many close calls.

Pedestrians are as much of a concern to bikers as bikers are to pedestrians. Erin Durfey, senior in FAA, said she has modified the routes she takes to class to avoid the Quad and other busy areas with lots of pedestrians.

“I’m still careful,” Durfey said. “In busy areas I ride with my hands on my brakes and look out for people.”

The congestion of the Quad and other high-traffic areas makes it dangerous for people who are not aware of their surroundings.

“It’s important for people to be aware of each other,” said Lt. Tony Brown of the University Police Department, “There’s a huge population of people all in the same area competing for limited space.”

Since the beginning of the semester, the University Police Department has been working with the University to educate bicyclists to promote safety on campus.

Brown said they have employed an “engineer, educate and enforce” method to make getting around campus safer for everyone.

They have worked to re-engineer many of the bike paths on campus to provide campus cyclists a place to ride.

During the early weeks of this school year, Brown said, campus police made a big effort to educate bicyclists and pedestrians. Officers gave out written warnings instead of tickets.

Bicyclists can receive $75 tickets that are considered traffic violations.

“There are so many rules that people aren’t aware of,” said Becky Roach, an avid biker and teaching associate in ACES.

Brown said state law provides cyclists with two options when riding. They can either ride in the street with traffic, or they can ride on the sidewalk.

For those who opt to ride in the street, they must abide by the same rules that vehicles follow. This includes stopping at red lights and stop signs, and signaling to turn. Bikers must also ride with the flow of traffic.

“Bikes are supposed to follow the same laws that drivers follow,” Roach said.

Those who opt to ride on the sidewalk must give pedestrians the right-of-way, Brown said.

He also said bikers are required to have lights and reflectors on their bikes when riding at night.

“People should not be allowed on bikes if they do not have lights,” Roach said.

Brown hopes the police department’s movement to inform people about safety will lead to a safer campus environment.

“Always be defensive, be alert, be patient and be courteous to other people, and it will make everyone safer.” Brown said.