New University bike code to be enforced after spring break

By Brittney Nadler

For the first time since 1989, the University bike code has been updated to comply with the increase in bicyclists, said University Police Department Deputy Chief Skip Frost.

“It was sorely in need of updates,” Frost said, adding that the University has a bicycle-friendly designation, which can be difficult to maintain when the number of bicyclists increases by so many each year.

He said there have been a number of issues with bicyclists causing bicycle-bicycle accidents as well as bicycle-pedestrian accidents. Many bicyclists also operate where they shouldn’t and park in prohibited areas, which led police to rewrite the policy so that students are aware that they will be taking a closer look at this public safety issue. 

“It’s been in the works for some time,” Frost said. “A lot of feedback that comes in ranges from, ‘Hey, this is great, it’s about time’ to, ‘This is ridiculous. Why are you even worried about bicycles on campus? Aren’t you worried about real crime?’”

The code will start being enforced March 22, the first day after spring break, when students generally start to bike again. 

“I think the new code is fair,” said Lily Katz, freshman in LAS, who rides a bike around campus. “I don’t think it asks too much of the bikers.”

Some of the changes in the new policy include banning pedestrians from bike lanes, giving the right-of-way to pedestrians, instructions for passing pedestrians or bicyclists, prohibiting riding inside University buildings, a bicycle education requirement for violators and booting, according to the code. 

“Right now, it’s like the wild west out there,” Frost said. “People are riding on pathways that are designed strictly for pedestrians and not taking into account the density of people that are there is very dangerous. People are getting dinged up out there.”

Katz has noticed similar issues. 

“My biggest pet peeve would be when everyone reacts like it’s the other person’s fault,” she said. “I’m guilty of this too, but it just doesn’t help anyone to continually blame others and not realize that you, as an individual, are part of the problem too.”

A majority of the policies have stayed the same, including the requirement of bikes to use lighting equipment when it gets dark, but Katz doesn’t believe students will follow the code to its entirety. 

“I think people will follow (the code) for the most part, but I don’t think that everyone will get a light on their bike. Also, I rarely see people use turn signals,” she said. “Other than that, I don’t think there will be much of a problem with the new code.”

John Bryniarski, service manager of Champaign Cycle Co., estimated that the shop repairs two to three bikes a month during the busy season. Frost said the new code should improve bicycle safety, preventing potential damage.

“From our end, what kills a bicycle isn’t a bent or broken derailleur, a bent wheel or anything like that. It’s a bent frame or fork,” Bryniarski said. “If you damage either of those, it’s very expensive to replace.”

The fork — the part that holds the front wheel and allows riders to steer and balance — is easily damaged when riders crash into curbs, he said. The company sees five to six incidents per year and about three bikes that have been in car accidents.  

“It starts with the rider,” he said. “Be visible, get lights both front and rear and have them on flashing, just so that you’re more noticeable, and always wear a helmet. Keep your bike in good repair and air in the tires.”  

Security officials who work in places such as housing and libraries will now be on the lookout for bike code violators, Frost said. 

For code violators, a new University citation will be given that is similar to a notice to appear, although the penalties are “substantially less.”

If a citation is given, students will have the opportunity to take an online course that, if passed, will allow them to be forgiven for their first citation. The course is a primary tool to educate students on the new policy, Frost said. 

For students who continually receive citations, they will be fined between $25 and $35. The money will be used for bicycle infrastructure and training, among other uses. 

“That’s kind of a win-win for everybody,” Frost said. “You get cited and that money is going into a fund that is going to help make bicycling on campus better and safer.”

An appeals process will be available through the Parking Department if students believe they were wrongly cited.  

“If you’re wrong and you know you’re wrong, what we hope is people voluntarily comply with the policy,” Frost said. “If they don’t and they continue to get citations, there is a possibility your bike could be ‘booted’ or bounded, and that’s something we’d like to avoid.”

Brittney can be reached at [email protected]