Tighter regulations needed for safe cycling

Please, fine me.

Many bikers complain that the bike lanes are too few and poorly spread out. They also note that sharing the road with bicycle-loathing automobile drivers and transit buses is a one-sided game. Both of these points have their legitimacies. But I’ve biked in places where the phrase “bike lane” was only met with confusion and/or laughter, and in large cities, drivers almost seemed to take pride in “love tapping” their cycling counterparts. (I’m looking at you, Manhattan.)

I still felt safer, however, because on the whole, the bikers maintained a sense of order together. They obeyed all necessary laws any driver would: stopping at red lights, riding on the road and not on the sidewalk and using appropriate hand signals when turning.

In reality, the greatest danger to student cyclers on campus is other student cyclers.

All my friends have their own run-in story. Sophomore year, my roommate came back to our dorm carrying her gold-painted bike, the entire back wheel bent to form at a 90-degree angle.

“I got in an accident,” she said, head down.

Another guy I know once knocked his two front teeth out colliding into a skateboarder, catapulting himself face first into the pavement.

As for my own record, I once hit two pedestrians in one week. (I promise there were no injuries, just sharp looks.)

I’ve biked down Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago at 4 o’clock in the morning, cycled across the Brooklyn Bridge in 100-degree August heat, and swerved through double-decker buses while cycling down Regent Street in London.

But biking on campus is one of the most dangerous biking decisions I’ve ever made (and I’ve biked along cobblestone streets in the midst of Parisian traffic).

Living in a college campus utopia has its upsides. But its downsides include reckless cyclers, from freshman to upperclassmen, who enjoy accelerating down the Quad in between classes, riding on the sidewalks when the bike lanes look too full and cutting across the streets, disobeying all traffic signals. I admit, at times I am no exception to this norm.

If I’m being honest, if I can continue to get away with it, I may continue to use the sidewalk when the bike lanes look too crowded.

Which is why I’m asking for tighter enforced regulations toward biking on campus. Suggestions only go so far with students. A $75 fine for not using a bike light at night, on the other hand, is likely to get any broke student listening.

Students need to be made aware of the necessary safety precautions when using their bicycles and of the consequences for disobeying those rules.

Hearing students blame outside problems for the high number of bike accidents on campus loses its legitimacy when I see fellow bikers cruising down Green Street with headphones plugged in and cell phone in hand.

But on the whole, cyclers aren’t going to maintain order amongst themselves unless they’re forced to. So please, Champaign-Urbana police, fine me when you see me on my phone while riding along Illinois Street, just as you would a vehicle.

On a last note to bikers, for your own sake, please wear a helmet. If you’re afraid of helmets looking unsexy, modern design has come a long way.

My own helmet has a skull on the back, which I use purely to intimidate other bikers (also it was 50 percent off at the cycle center).

But helmet intimidation can only go so far to force cyclers to remain in tune. A hefty cash fee, on the other hand, that’s the kind of intimidation that will force cyclers to ride more safely.

_Rebecca is a senior in LAS._