OPINION: Biking dangers on campus
On the University of Arizona campus, there are many different modes of transportation: driving a car, walking, riding a scooter, skateboarding and, the most efficient of these, riding a bike.
Riding a bike can get you across campus in five minutes and gives the rider a little breeze, which can be very helpful in the Tucson heat.
Riding a bike on the street is inherently dangerous for a cyclist, since you are riding next to something about twenty times your weight. However, riding a bike can be extremely dangerous even here on campus, where there are very few cars. The danger of hitting a pedestrian makes riding a bike on campus very scary and forces every commuting cyclist to be on edge with every pedal.
I have been on all three sides of this debacle: a driver, a rider and a pedestrian. I moved to Tucson from Flagstaff, which has a large cycling and commuter-cyclist community. As a driver, I sometimes encountered people on bikes that I thought to be a nuisance, and even annoying at times. Getting stuck behind someone on a bike may feel like it slows you down immensely, but I have always kept one thing in mind: Cyclists are moving with their own power and have little to no protection between their bodies and the pavement. From my personal experience, drivers get angry and impatient very quickly and try to intimidate/pass riders. It is very scary to experience this as a cyclist.
What is equally as scary is having a pedestrian ignorantly walk in front of you while you are on a bike. On campus, I have experienced so many pedestrians walking in front of me without looking, with earbuds in, completely unaware that I almost ran a bike into them. Pedestrians blindly walking in and out of bike lanes, or simply walking in a bike lane to avoid foot traffic, makes traveling on a bike immensely more dangerous for both the pedestrian and the rider.
There are simple solutions to all of this madness.
First, if you are a driver in a car, please keep your cool and patience. Remember, even if a cyclist is breaking traffic laws and being a nuisance that you are a lot bigger and heavier than they are on the road, as well as more protected. Safely pass if possible and legal without putting the cyclist’s life on the line. Please also remember to always be aware of your blind spots while driving near campus, as bikes can sneak up on you.
Next, pedestrians, just because you “have the right of way” does not mean you can make cars and bikes bend to your will. If you blindly step into busy intersections, someday, a rider or driver will not act quickly enough and you will be the one injured. Cross intersections quickly, walking in straight lines. Do not walk in the road, and especially do not walk in narrow bike paths, leaving cyclists with no where to go. Please do not randomly stop while walking. If you are in the path of a bike, chances are they have planned how they are going to go around you, and stopping could throw them off and cause an accident. Same with vehicles: If you walk in front of a stopped car, please move as quickly as possible and do not randomly stop. If you choose to walk with earbuds in, it is your responsibility to be aware of your surroundings. If you almost run into people, it is your fault, despite your right of way by being the pedestrian.
Finally, cyclists, do not be rude. Cyclists are obligated to follow traffic laws exactly like a car. Be aware of stop signs, pedestrians and cars. Do not put yourself in a dangerous situation just to get to class quickly. Be careful when passing other cyclists, and do not ride anywhere but where you are supposed to. If cyclists expect pedestrians and cars to respect them, they have to return it and follow their rules.
Kayleigh Cook is a freshman majoring in Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law (PPEL)