Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Bikes, pedestrians clash on campus

Celine Valentine '14 shows the proper right turn signal. Photo Credit: Marin Axtell

“I’ve been the pedestrian who had bikes zoom past without warning,” said sophomore Tom Vogt, the cycling team treasurer. “But I’ve also been the biker who’s late for class and stuck behind the gaggle of people not being aware.”

Such situations involving conflict between bikes and pedestrians are common. Both Whitman staff and cyclists themselves recognize the situation warrants concern.

“[This is] a significant issue on campus and definitely warrants some kind of attention before a bicyclist and/or pedestrian becomes seriously hurt,” IT Support Services Consultant Robert Fricke expressed in an e-mail. One of his main concerns is the “lack of courtesy when riding on the sidewalks [not giving verbal warning of their approach from behind a walker.]”

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, the law for bikes states that “when riding on a roadway, a cyclist has all the rights and responsibilities of a vehicle driver,” with the exception that cyclists can ride on the far right of the road when slower than car traffic. In Walla Walla, cyclists are also allowed to ride on sidewalks except in downtown, which the city has an ordinance against. The rule for biking on the sidewalk states: “A bicycle must yield to a pedestrian on a sidewalk or crosswalk.”

Though it can be embarrassing, Vogt recommends that cyclists yell “on your left/right” to pedestrians they approach from behind. Vogt mentioned that he sometimes likes to whistle while biking, which pedestrians can hear from far away. First-year Phoebe Horvath employs her jangly bike lock as a warning to walkers.

“I think people don’t realize that, just because they’re not on streets, they shouldn’t give pedestrians the right of way,” says senior Roxy Pierson, president of the Whitman Cycling Team.

Another issue is the speed at which cyclists zoom through campus. According to Craig McKinnon, the associate director of security, the speed limit for bikes and cars on campus is 10 miles per hour. However, McKinnon has seen bikers go 20mph on campus, which, depending on the situation, could be dangerous.

For McKinnon, the big issue with bikes is not so much how they move, but where they’re parked. Bikes are not allowed to be locked to handrails, but it often happens on campus, because of a lack of bike racks. Having handle bars, or sometimes the entire bike, in the way of the path creates injurious situations.

Campus security used to stick notices on bikes in violation of this, but this practice stopped over five years ago. Now, notices are posted only in very extreme cases, such as when an entire bike blocks a pathway.

Often, bikes parked this way are only meant to stay there a little while. Sometimes, they aren’t even locked.

According to McKinnon, 75 percent of bikes that are stolen on campus aren’t even locked. The rest of them are secured only with cable locks.

“I think it’s a crime to sell these ten dollar cable locks to protect expensive bikes, when they can be cut through in 10 seconds,” McKinnon said.

One way to protect against bike theft is to license your bike with the city of Walla Walla. It is required by law, but there is no penalty for not being licensed. If a bike is licensed, however, it is put in a national database and its owner can be easily found through its tracking number. Licensing costs five dollars and can be done at the Walla Walla Police Department, located at 15 N. 3rd Street inside City Hall.

When riding at night, both Pierson and Vogt recommend using lights to stay visible to pedestrians and cars. These can be purchased at Allegro Cyclery at 200 E Main St; Bicycle Barn at 1503 E Isaacs Ave; or in the OP bike shop in the back of North Hall.

Being aware, alert and visible is essential for bike transportation and etiquette.

“One bad encounter can stick with people,” said Vogt. “And can give bikers a bad reputation.”

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