UA encourages safe biking habits

UA+encourages+safe+biking+habits

Jennie Kushner

With student enrollment topping 30,000, the University is trying to make campus more biker-friendly, said Dan Wolfe, university planner and designer.

Wolfe said that bike lanes didn’t exist when he began working for the University in 2004.

With the elevated number of students on campus, Wolfe said biking is a reasonable form of transportation.

“If everyone tried to drive to class at the same time, it would be gridlock and then there is no parking when you get there,” he said.

The University is working to move parking areas to the perimeter of campus to make biking and walking a central form of transportation, he said.

Bike lanes are now on both sides of Campus Drive and University Boulevard from The Strip to 6th Avenue. Wolfe said there are plans to add bike lanes all the way to the new nursing school.

Chris Gaskill, assistant professor in the department of communicative disorders, said he has recently become concerned about biker safety after witnessing multiple instances of students biking on campus without following any traffic or biking safety rules.

“I came close to hitting someone in front of the Ferguson Center who sped through a four-way stop where cars were stopped waiting for their turn,” Gaskill said. “He didn’t even look or attempt to slow down in the intersection.”

Gaskill said drivers are unaccustomed to sharing the road with bikers, which creates even more of a hazard.

“Campus is not really any more or less biker-friendly than Tuscaloosa as a whole,” he said. “There are places that are conducive to biking more easily with less concern for automobile traffic, but nowhere in Tuscaloosa or on campus are the roads well-equipped to handle bicycle traffic.”

He said he would like to see more people biking and feeling safe enough to do so.

“The bikers and motorists both have to cooperate for this to happen,” he said.

Bikers in town and on campus need to be educated on rules that govern biking and sharing the roads with car traffic, he said.

“These rules need to be enforced just as they would be for motorists,” Gaskill said. “Motorists need to be alert and aware of bikers on the road and show them courtesy. It would be great if campus safety or police could sponsor some type of event to encourage biking on campus, but in a safe way.”

Lance Haynie, program coordinator for the UA Outdoor Recreation Office, said in 2008, BamaBikes, a bicycle renter program that launched in 2006, logged 232 checkouts to registered users.

So far in 2010, the program has logged 767 checkouts.

Haynie said statistics and anecdotal evidence show BamaBikes’ success.

“BamaBikes serves a very unique population of students, faculty and staff,” he said. “A majority of our users do not have other means of transportation and highly depend on BamaBikes for an economical solution to that problem.”

Haynie said he thinks campus transportation is becoming more bike-friendly.

“I feel that the University is sending this message by moving more parking areas to the perimeter of campus and discouraging vehicular traffic within the core of the campus,” he said.

Most students know some of the basic rules of biking, Haynie said, but there are many rules that students are unaware of.

“For example, most do not realize that they can receive a citation for talking on their mobile phone while riding a bike,” he said.

Jimmy Smith, a senior majoring in urban planning, said he thinks bikers present another element to the already congested streets.

“Bicycling is an efficient way to travel across campus and should be encouraged; however, cyclists should have to follow a set of laws governed by the University to set forth a ‘rules of the road,’ to protect themselves, pedestrians and people driving,” he said.

“If you can get a ticket for running a stop light in a car or jaywalking in a major city, then bikers should be held to a standard that keeps them from riding into flowing traffic,” Smith said. “A set of rules would make them more aware of their surroundings just as traffic laws do for automobile drivers.”

In the original version of this story, the information about bicycle lanes being added all the way to the nursing school was attributed to Chris Gaskill instead of  Dan Wolfe. The CW regrets the error and is happy to set the record straight.