Bike safety concerns

Bicyclists must obey the rules of the road to avoid accidents

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IT’S THERE FOR A REASON: University Police say not obeying the speed limit on the Garfield Avenue hill has been a factor in most bike crashes.

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In the past nine months, University Police has responded to five accidents on the Garfield Avenue hill. Four of the recent accidents were due to speed, and braking issues were to blame for one accident. Three of the accidents were so serious, hospital transport was necessary.

University Police is fighting on multiple fronts. Students are speeding down the Garfield Avenue hill, bicycles are not properly maintained or equipped with proper lights, pedestrian traffic isn’t stopping at the stop sign at the Garfield Avenue end of the footbridge and bicyclists are not using proper hand signals.

To help educate bicyclists on campus, Sergeant Joel Field said officers are out on bicycles themselves. Officers are reminding students that bicyclists must abide by the laws of the road, including stopping at all stop signs and obeying posted speed limits.

The speed limit on the Garfield Avenue hill is 15 mph and there are multiple signs warning of a dangerous intersection ahead. In the future, those signs will get a boost from solar powered, amber flashing lights.

“If you feel that you are going too fast, slow down,” Field said. “Fifteen miles per hour is not that fast, that is why it is selected for that hill. The slower the better.”

The second barricade was put in place after the hill closed to public vehicles. Field said the double barricade is in place partially to keep vehicles off the road but also to slow bicyclers down.

“Either brakes are failing or they are just going simply too fast that their bike cannot physically stop in time to make the maneuver around those barricades,” Field said. “Speed is the main issue.”

Along with obeying the posted speed limit, Field said students should also be sure bicycles are properly maintained. He said students should ensure brake maintenance and should not tamper with brake systems. Wisconsin state statute requires a white front headlight visible 500 feet away and a red rear reflector visible 50 feet away on any bicycle.

University Police encourages cyclists to lock their bikes up with a U-style lock through the frame. Field said there are several bait bikes on campus that have tracking abilities, immediately alerting University Police when the bicycle has been moved.

Officers on bicycle patrol are also keeping an eye on the stop sign at the end of the footbridge. Field said there is a misunderstanding of who the stop sign  is targeting. The stop sign is intended for bicycles and pedestrians, not for motor vehicles.

“That is a legal stop sign that we can enforce,” Field said.

This stop sign isn’t the only one bicyclists are required to stop at. Bicyclists must obey all stop signs and red traffic lights. According to Wisconsin state statute, a bicyclist may travel through a red traffic signal only after stopping and waiting a minimum of 45 seconds.

Jill Klopp, a senior, bikes to class from Broadway Street. When she hits the end of the footbridge, she checks for cars but doesn’t always stop.

“If there are no cars I just go,” Klopp said. “If there is a car coming, I would stop.”

Klopp said her biggest concern biking on campus is that she is going to hit people.

Walking through the campus mall can be a maze with people rushing to get to their next class and bicyclists cutting between people, often with little regard to their surroundings, Field said.

“Be courteous,” Field said. “Slow down.”