BY BENJAMIN CARROLL
Whether it is a car, scooter, pair of legs or bicycle, students are always in need of a means of traveling from one place to another on campus. Students who bike travel in a particularly perilous space, as they must deal with cars and pedestrians when there are few lanes specifically for bicyclists.
The addition of a concrete-separated biking lane to East Delaware Avenue this past fall has provided bicyclists with a safer and more convenient route through central campus. The new bike lane has led some students to consider what else the city and university could do to make campus more navigable for bikers.
“I feel like it’s a step in the right direction,” junior Stephen Sayers, a university studies major, said in regards to the East Delaware Avenue bike lane. “I just don’t feel like they’re in the main places where you’d want them.”
Sayers said that heavy-traffic places like Main Street and the Green could benefit from having separate paths for bikers.
“The main problem is that, sure, there’s a dedicated bike path on the next street over, but it makes it pretty hard to go to the actual shops you want to go to just because you can’t see where you’re going, you’re on the other street,” Sayers said. “In places like the Green, when there’s a lot of pedestrians, I feel like having a dedicated bike path would be for the best because it would limit the amount of people you would have to dodge. It would limit the chances of you hitting someone.”
Sophomore Ethan Lettieri, a mechanical engineering major, offered a similar perspective to Sayers.
“I know they added a bike lane that goes straight to campus here, like to Trabant,” Lettier said. “But it doesn’t continue going perpendicular the other way towards north campus. It’s only on the left side.”
Fewer bike-only paths means bicyclists must interact with pedestrians more often. Bicyclists and pedestrians are typically able to travel alongside each other without much concern, but accidents sometimes occur.
Senior Lonnie Parsons, a biology major, said she had been in a collision with a pedestrian on campus before, as the pedestrian had been distracted and failed to acknowledge Parsons’ presence.
“She just wasn’t paying attention,” Parsons said. “She cut right across the street as she saw cars weren’t coming but she didn’t think to look backwards, more than likely.”
While bicyclists make up a minority of people on the road, their numbers are not insignificant – Statista found that over 51 million Americans reported that they biked in 2021. The CDC estimates that approximately 130,000 biking injuries occur yearly, or a rate of about one out of every 400.
In order to help stay safe when traveling from place to place, there are a number of precautions that bicyclists and pedestrians can take.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, wearing a bike helmet can reduce the chance of getting a serious head injury by 60% and diminishes the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured per year by 34%. As for pedestrians, double-checking crosswalks before crossing roads can help prevent accidents.
The city of Newark was recently named a recipient of the silver-level Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) award. Previously, Newark had been at bronze-level, but after its advancement, it stands alone as the only silver city in the state.
Sayers, Lettieri and Parsons gave their own advice on how bicyclists and pedestrians can stay safe.
“Follow all traffic rules like a car would when you’re on Main Street,” Parsons said. “Tell them what direction you’re going in, don’t try to go between cars. Sometimes I feel like you just try to be trickier, faster when you’re on a bike but in the end, you probably end up getting hurt.”
“When I’m biking, I know I always just keep the same speed and direction that I’m going and then they’ll move out of the way, I stop for them, or whatever happens,” Lettieri said. “If you try to move out of their way, sometimes you could bump into somebody.”
Sayers emphasized the importance of staying aware of one’s surroundings while biking or walking. Distractions such as listening to music with headphones or looking at something on a phone inhibit an individual’s ability to respond to their surroundings.
“An important thing is that I feel like bikes are fairly audible,” Sayers said. “Usually you can hear them, so not having earphones in is a good way to know if a bike is coming. And I feel like that’s the most important thing you can do. Just be alert.”