Companies caution against unsafe transport

By Olivia Welshans, Staff Writer

Community transportation companies and safety organizations are preparing for Unofficial weekend and potential safety hazards related to the festivities.

Amy Snyder, customer service director at the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, said they always send out a bulletin to bus operators and supervisors to remind them what Unofficial is and the dates it takes place.

During Unofficial, Snyder said there is an increase of visitors to the community who might not be as familiar with MTD’s services. She said operators are reminded that visitors might need extra assistance.

She said operators are encouraged to be extra attentive since visitors and local ridership may be partaking in daytime activities that might make them a safety risk, such as by not observing traffic rules or darting into traffic. 

“Sometimes people see the bus as its own crosswalk,” Snyder said. “They think, there’s the bus. Now I can walk across the street.”

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    Unlike MTD, which has been around for many Unofficial weekends, VeoRide is a recent addition to University transportation, and this weekend marks the first time the bikes have been on campus for the holiday.

    Linda Jackson, director of communications for VeoRide, said she was unaware that Unofficial existed at the University, but she would remind riders not to ride their bikes if they have been drinking.

    It is part of VeoRide’s user agreement that riders “must not operate a Bike while under the influence of any alcohol, drugs, medication, or other substance that may impair (the rider’s) ability to safely operate a Bike.”

    Riders cannot get a DUI for operating a bicycle while intoxicated in Illinois because bicycles are not legally defined as vehicles, unless they are motorized and traveling over 20 mph, according to Neutral Cycle, a cycling blog.

    Although riders cannot get a DUI, they can be ticketed for public intoxication, disorderly conduct or any traffic offense. Jackson said VeoRide has “the option to suspend the rider’s services depending on the seriousness or impact of the situation.”

    Jackson said the company does not plan on issuing warnings to riders on the day of Unofficial.

    MTD also operates SafeRides, which offers safe travel to individuals traveling alone when no other safe transportation is available. Snyder said SafeRides operators will be driving in more of the “nooks and crannies” of the SafeRides boundaries.

    SafeRides operators are trained like all other MTD operators to recognize and report unsafe and concerning behaviors, Snyder said.

    “When people partake in Unofficial festivities it can increase the likelihood that people won’t be safe,” Snyder said. “We caution our drivers to maintain their vigilance and patience when they are operating on campus.”

    Through their research, Snyder said Unofficial has had a trend of having less police calls and less activity. She said their buses have also followed that trend line.

    Patrick Wade, communication director for Division of Public Safety, said student patrol officers will have a change in normal operating hours. They usually begin operating at 9 p.m., but this weekend they will patrol from 10 a.m. on Friday to 3 a.m. on Saturday.

    Student patrol officers conduct SafeWalks, a service that allows students to request student patrol officers to walk with them to a location. Wade said there are usually more SafeWalks on Unofficial.

    Wade said these officers are also responsible for building checks and are trained in CPR. They can also contact police dispatchers immediately from their radios in an emergency situation.

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