Bike safety awareness benefits all

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By Matt Pasquini

Rising temperatures, leaves on trees and blossoming flowers can only mean one thing — it’s biking season!

Students’ bikes were stored during the winter seasons and are now being removed from storage. Now many new bikers are hitting the roads after realizing that biking is one of the quickest and most efficient ways to get around campus.

Since my freshman year, and certainly years prior, pedestrians and drivers alike have pursued a vendetta against bikers. From riding their bikes through mounds of people on the Quad during passing periods and blowing stop signs while on the road, many have claimed that bikers’ careless and reckless ways are more of a physical threat to those around them than to the bikers themselves.

I speak from experience, having had close encounters with bikers myself as a pedestrian walking to class.

But since my purchase of a bike earlier this month, I have come to realize that the conflict among bikers, drivers and pedestrians is rooted much deeper than simple carelessness and recklessness. It’s a range of issues — mainly a poorly enforced and outdated bike code and an embarrassing bike infrastructure.

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    To ease tensions and create a safer environment among the three types of campus travelers, our University’s administration and the Champaign, Urbana and University police departments need to educate people about the updated bicycle code and work to improve the biking infrastructure around campus.

    Last fall, the University took the initiative and created a draft of an updated bicycle code, something that hasn’t been touched since 1989. The new code is more comprehensive and detailed and is the handbook that outlines every responsibility of bikers on campus. It was slated to begin enforcement this spring but has been delayed until the beginning of the Fall 2014 semester.

    But even updating the code isn’t enough if there is nothing done to educate bikers about the changes. With the old code still in place, there has been little done to ensure that people know what the new code will entail to promote safety.

    This is problematic because many of the measures in the bike code seem to be very common-sense precautions that keep everyone on campus safe, but, still, not everyone is aware of these precautions in the first place.

    According to the current bike code and updated bike code, bikes are required to be equipped with lamps that emit light that can be seen up to 500 feet away on both the front and back ends of the bike. Bikers benefit from this because then they can actually see the road they’re riding on at night and prevent themselves from potentially hitting potholes, which can damage their bikes. 

    Furthermore, whether on the sidewalk or on the road, bikes are required to follow the rules of the road as if they were a car and should always give pedestrians the right of way. Pedestrians then know bikes are supposed to yield to them at stop signs and drivers don’t need to worry about bikers flying through the middle of an intersection without any regard for those around them. 

    Once people become more educated about the various safety measures in the current and new bike codes, it should then be the prerogative of the Champaign, Urbana and University police departments to strongly enforce what’s on the code.

    Currently, according to Lt. Jim Clark of the Champaign Police Department, the violator of the bike code “has the option to go online and complete a safety quiz. If they do that, they don’t have to pay a fine and that’s the end of it.” 

    Instead of it being an option, bikers should be required to complete an online safety quiz because that will guarantee bikers become aware of what’s written in the code. In addition, the biker should be fined and the money levied from code violations should be directed toward the improvement of our campus’ biking infrastructure.

    There are large potholes on the bike paths that discourage bikers from using their designated riding areas, and even cause damage to bikes. Even more, the bike paths are poorly outlined so pedestrians and bikers are unable to distinguish between the sidewalk and the designated path for bikers. This is one of the contributing factors as to why there are so many biker-pedestrian collisions.

    The levied money from the violations should be put into a trust that improves all of the bike paths around campus. Making these improvements will greatly enhance the safety of everyone on campus.

    Considering the portion of the campus population that rides their bikes, there is very little done to support them. Enforcing and educating people about an updated code and directing levied money from code violations to improve infrastructure are all common-sense solutions to enhance the safety of all bikers, drivers and pedestrians on campus.

    Matt is a sophomore in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewPasquini.