Bikes offer cost-efficient transportation

Anyone walking down Green Street on a busy day may find him or herself passed up by students utilizing all kinds of transportation — from cars to bicycles to rollerblades to skateboards.

Of all the alternatives to walking, cycling appears to be the most popular — it’s a rarity to find anything resembling a bike rack without at least one bike attached.

Mohit Kumbhat, graduate student, gave multiple reasons why he likes to ride a bike to get around on campus.

“It’s an inexpensive and fast way of transporting around campus, and it’s environmentally friendly. It saves time for me, and I feel good when I bike, it keeps you healthy as well,” he said.

However, Kumbhat doesn’t own a bike of his own.

“I don’t have one yet, but I’m trying to buy it soon,” he added.

Recent graduate Xaren Espacha listed one reason above all else for riding a bike on campus.

“Convenience,” he said. “There’s nowhere to really put (a car) … I’d have to pay, so I ride my bike.”

For Espacha, riding a bike presents an experience unlike other, faster methods of transportation.

“I get to view things in a little more detail as I’m progressing through the more designated routes,” Espacha said. “Not just the roads, but there are bike paths as well.”

While many students enjoy alternative methods of transportation, that adds to congestion on campus, said Lt. Skip Frost of the University Police.

According to Frost, most students are “blissfully unaware” of any rules surrounding bikes.

“The simplest rule I can talk about, especially with bicycles, is if you’re on the street … you are to abide by the same motor vehicle laws as a vehicle,” said Frost, who pointed to things like stopping at stop signs and signaling when turning as just some of the rules that few students follow.

“There aren’t many people who abide by that,” Frost said. “It’s extremely congested in Campustown. A lot of activity, a lot of pedestrian activity, a lot of bicycles, skateboards, rollerblades. You name it, we got it.”

But students aren’t the only ones utilizing alternative transportation on campus. For about 20 years, a number of UI police officers have been patrolling campus on bicycles, according to Frost.

“We’ve had officers on bikes for many, many years,” he said. “It’s a great way to patrol the campus — it’s a lot more officer-friendly type activity. The bikes can get into a lot of nooks and crannies that we just can’t. If you’re going to go after someone on a bicycle, being on a bicycle is the way to do it.”

Frost pointed to the recent death of 29-year-old Urbana resident George Weisiger as a reason why bike safety is so important for those students returning to campus this fall.

“That’s just the absolute worst-case scenario, but it just goes to show you that a moment of inattention can have permanent consequence,” Frost said.

Frost stressed that awareness — both of the law and a student’s surroundings — is of utmost importance.

“We’re not interested in going out and writing 1,000 tickets to people who don’t abide by the law,” he said. “The biggest key to your safety, no matter what it’s in regards to is ‘be aware’.”