Awareness of bicyclists is critical for drivers on and around campus

As a competitive cyclist, I spend my weekends racing bicycles on a track with up to nine other riders, traveling 30 to 40 miles an hour, without brakes.  Bicycle crashes are an inescapable part of my reality.  My campus commute however, shouldn’t be the most dangerous cycling tour I complete.

In December, I had my first, but probably not my last, accident on the streets surrounding our campus.  Leaving the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Building and crossing through Bowers Blvd. on Ave J, I proceeded through the intersection during a green light.  A car traveling the other way on Ave J took a left turn without yielding to oncoming traffic – me. Before I knew it, I was sidelined on the pavement with my bike two feet to my left.  Fortunately I only suffered scrapes and bruises, but the fact that I could be struck so directly at an intersection in the middle of campus left me shaken.

Written in 1968, international law (1) mandates that cyclists are vehicles like their motorized cousins and are not only allowed on the road, but are required to use motorways and not sidewalks.  They are also subject to all rules of the road that cars must follow.  That day, I followed the rule of law. The driver who hit me did not.  Unfortunately due to our choice of vehicles, I still lost the fight.

Bicycles are an economic, healthy and environmentally responsible choice of transportation for college students in a small town like Huntsville. Whether you choose to take advantage of bicycle transportation or not, it’s important to be aware and alert of their presence.

The Texas Department of Transportation’s Share the Road campaign (2) aims to inform drivers and cyclists of their individual duties to safety when navigating the roads of Texas.  The campaign’s website notes that between 2007 and 2012 accidents between cars and bicycles resulted in 297 deaths in the state.

Unfortunately SHSU hasn’t done its cyclists, pedestrians or motorists the due diligence of bringing education and safety to the forefront of discussion about safety.  The school’s Master Plan notes that biking should be encouraged on campus, and plans for the addition of bike lanes, but doesn’t mention any educational campaigns to inform students and faculty of their rights and responsibilities.  The Master Plan also won’t be fully implemented until 2020.

Safety on campus is an issue today, not something to be looked into down the line. Even if the Master Plan is followed to the letter and bike lanes are added around campus, the school will need a plan to inform people on the rules that govern the new paths.  As a community we need to be better informed and more alert so that we can all share the roads of Huntsville and feel safe.

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