Bike lanes: Are we better off?

The Observer

Last year, CWRU established new bike lanes. Following that, the Observer published an editorial on Sept. 21, 2012, which argued that the lanes were not working as well as their planners intended. Looking back, with roughly a year between then and now, it seems reasonable to expect some improvement. But has it happened?

Currently, walking across campus inevitably involves dodging cyclists passing by at ridiculously high speed. Even worse, the binary walkway instructs cyclists to “dismount for pedestrian safety.” We have yet to see a solitary soul comply. Near the University Center construction site, cyclists often zoom by despite signs instructing them to walk their bikes, blatantly ignoring simple sanity. There are bike lanes meandering across the main quad but most are impossible to follow, with unclear beginnings and destinations. Some lanes that are almost never used, while others are congested. The current situation is a combination of disregard, misinformation and just plain confusion.

While it is admirable that CWRU and its surrounding areas are encouraging cycling as a means of transportation, both cyclists and pedestrians must follow the rules. Otherwise the bike lanes are useless, and more importantly, someone could get hurt – which, in fact, has continued under the revised bicycle policy. Sadly, it turns out that the problems pointed out by editorials past are still largely unsolved.

The biggest problem undoubtedly centers on the binary walkway. During peak hours, the walkway is swamped with students, and most cyclists seem to disregard the signs telling them to dismount. However, the signs are not conspicuous enough, either. Nor are they stern enough to make cyclists comply. Forcing cyclists to cut through the Crawford Hall parking lot is not a better option, either. In fact, it puts cyclists in greater danger of being involved in a vehicular accident.

Luckily, the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) is in the process of addressing the issue, forming a committee expressly for that purpose. The objective of the committee is simple: deal with congestion on the walkways, safety problems and unclear signage.

The committee is also planning to create suggested bike trails for cyclists on Mather quad, where bicycling is currently dangerously out of control. Unfortunately, the space on Mather quad is extremely limited, especially with the ongoing construction, and it is doubtful that a suggested bike route will actually work – especially considering that the current bike routes are not working as well as the university intended. Perhaps bicyclists should avoid Mather quad altogether for the safety of themselves and their peers.

It is definitely a step in the right direction that there is a plan to fix these issues. However, the committee must make sure that it does not suffer the same fate as the organizers of the university posting policy, which took years to finally be implemented.

The bike lane committee has hopes to start working within a month’s time. They must ensure that this will indeed happen, as our safety is already compromised. Moreover, the new rules about where cycling is allowed must be established before both cyclists and pedestrians get used to wandering around campus without any idea where the bike lanes start and where they end.

No matter how large USG’s ideas are, they will not work without input and participation from us, the student body. Neither pedestrians or cyclists follow the current guidelines. Cyclists ride their bikes straight through the binary walkway while pedestrians disregard the bike lanes painted on the ground on the main quad, thus forcing cyclists to ride through areas that are off-limits for them. Vicious cycle? You bet.

The campus is not as safe as it could be with clear, strict rules and mutual respect between pedestrians and cyclists. Somebody has to make changes now, or we’ll be right back where we started, writing the same editorial year after year.