Bronze-level bicycle friendliness distinction reflects need for bike improvements

In rolls a new semester, and in rolls new student pedestrians and bicyclists. These two groups have continually battled it out, and the woes of campus travel have graced the pages of this paper many a year.

Following an application process, the University was recognized as a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly University by The League of American Bicyclists. This distinction was based on efforts to promote bicycling in five areas: engineering, encouragement, education, enforcement and evaluation/planning. Though respectable, this specific award comes with a subtle undertone: We can do better.  

And the University’s Facilities and Services department understands that. Last semester, the department produced a campus bike plan with plans for immediate and future improvements to the campus bicycle network. The plan includes updating cracked sidewalks, eliminating intersecting pedestrian and bicycle paths and making bike lanes and paths more visible.

Seasoned bicyclists have probably noticed certain bike paths have updated yellow striping, plus bike pictures and arrows indicating the travel direction. Additionally, some routes have small stop signs specifically meant for bikes. And pedestrians, if you have not noticed these lanes, I suggest you start looking at your feet when you walk, or a fed-up bicyclist may just run you over.

These much-needed improvements took place over the summer with funds used from Facilities and Services. The department is now requesting more money to continue with the immediate improvements.

But improvements can only go so far. The campus bike plan is merely a plan, which means that its content is not set in stone. According to Amelia Neptune, the campus bicycle coordinator, Facilities and Services is currently applying for federal and state grants that will fund certain projects. Until funds are received, the plan is stagnant. Facilities and Services is also looking to private donors and student groups such as the Student Sustainability Committee and the Student Senate for help. The plan states that it hopes to have 50 percent of the bicycle network completed by 2020, and 100 percent by 2030. 

So, the majority of the improvements (like a bike lane on Green Street) will be made after current students have already graduated. That being said, it’s up to pedestrians, as well as bicyclists, to be smart about traveling on campus. And this first month or so of school is a huge adjustment to the ins and outs of campus travel.

The other day I witnessed a poor bicyclist on an off-road dedicated bike path (bike plan lingo that essentially means a path separate from the road meant exclusively for bicyclists) that had to swerve off the path, almost toppling over, to avoid hitting three pedestrians casually walking in the bike path. After they stopped gawking at the biker who almost crashed because of them, they continued on their merry way on the bike path.

Always be observant of where you are walking or biking. If there are yellow lines running down the sidewalk you are walking on, you are walking on a bike path. If you’re weaving in and out of people on a sidewalk, check to see if there are any bike paths around that you could use as an alternative. Look both ways before you cross a sidewalk. That sounds ridiculous, but it prevents a lot of close calls.

There are many other nuances of campus travel to learn, but simply being alert will help pedestrians and bicyclists get along.

Safe travels!

Kirsten is a junior in Media. She can be reached at [email protected]