Campus must implement, follow bicycle safety for everyone’s sake

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I was hit by a car on campus on Tuesday. I was headed home on my bike, as usual. Instead of riding on the sidewalk, I was riding on the right side of the one-lane alley between Seaton Court and the Power Plant and English/Counseling Services buildings.

This is what I was supposed to do. Bikes are considered vehicles and they don’t have any business on pedestrian sidewalks, such as those on campus. Bicyclists often don’t obey these rules, due to inconvenience, lack of knowledge of the rules or both. This puts pedestrians at risk for collisions. There has been a rash of bicycle-pedestrian collisions on campus this year.

At the same time, bicycles have a hard time fitting in on roads as well. The police might consider them vehicles, but they are not treated that way by many motorists and are often difficult to see.

This was the problem for me Tuesday. While it was easy for me to see the oncoming motorist, she did not see me until she ran into me by making a sudden turn toward the single available parking space in the area. After flying through the air, I landed on my left shoulder and my head. My cracked helmet is evidence that it surely saved me from significant head injury. I’m writing this with a sling to ease the strain on my fractured left shoulder blade and a broken finger.

Ironically, I was asked by K-State administrators two weeks ago to work with other campus officials to develop and implement a plan for increased bicycle safety on campus. We came up with a reasonable plan to update campus maps, install pavement markings about where bikes should and should not go and educate students, faculty and staff about safe riding principles. These efforts can and will make a difference, but only if our bicycling, car riding and pedestrian communities take active interest.

As I sit here and look from my office at the bicyclists regularly blowing through a stop sign at the intersection of Mid-Campus Drive and Old Claflin Road, I realize we have a long way to go. I would love to work and live in a campus culture more concerned about the safety of bicyclists. At the same time, the responsibilities fall equally with bicyclists to follow the rules of the road and ride reasonably alongside vehicles that can easily cause harm to themselves as well as others. In a compact campus with over 20,000 people roaming around in all manner of vehicles and directions, we owe it to each other as members of the K-State family to always do so with respect and care.

Ben Champion

Director of Sustainability at K-State

Member of City of Manhattan Bicycle Advisory Committee

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