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Section Header
Bike riders dodge some road rules

Photo
KRISTIN ELVES/ Arizona Daily Wildcat
Journalism junior Chris Guelpa rides his bike through the non-bike riding zone in front of the Center for Creative Photography Wednesday. Many students don't obey these or other similar signs around campus.
By Nate Buchik
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday December 6, 2002

Bicyclists cringe when they see signs along the Olive underpass south of East Helen Street by McClelland Hall warning them to dismount and walk their bikes.

Taking the route means making a sudden stop at East Helen Street and a long walk under East Speedway Boulevard unless they break the rules and ride through, weaving in and out of the human traffic, hoping to avoid an accident and risking a fine.

"(I don't walk my bike) because it's a pain in the ass to walk through here. So if it's not too crowded, I'll ride," said economics senior Bear Scharbarth after riding to class through the underpass.

But riding in this pedestrian-only area is only one of the many rules broken by bicyclists daily around the UA.

"(The biggest problem) is probably running stop-signs," said Charles Franz, Program Coordinator for Parking and Transportation Services. "The next thing on campus is going against one-way traffic. On North Campus Drive, between Park and the Student Union, students will always ride their bike the wrong way."

Certain areas are patrolled more frequently than others.

The area between the Administration and Modern Languages buildings, the Joseph Wood Krutch Garden by the Student Union Memorial Center and East Fourth Street by Yavapai Residence Hall are problem areas being watched by Parking and Transportation Services and the University of Arizona Police Department, Franz said.

When there are officers patrolling, students said they are more likely to respect the rules.

"I usually walk it but I have rode it several times. I'll ride it through in the afternoon. Those little guys in the carts, they'll yell at you, so that's a deterrent, but the signs aren't much of a deterrent," said Derek Merchant, a graduate student in public administration.

It is difficult to control all the problem areas 24-hours a day, Franz said.

"At any one time there could be close to 10,000 bikes on campus. We get a lot of recreational bicyclists riding through and then people going to class."

But considering the number of bikes on campus and the number of rules broken, there are few accidents reported to UAPD.

This year, there has been one bike accident involving a pedestrian, one bike accident involving another bike, 12 accidents involving cars and one accident involving a collision with a permanent object (a gate), reported to UAPD, Cmdr. Kevin Haywood stated in an e-mail.

Yet many accidents may have gone unreported because there were no serious injuries.

"I would think the more minor ones go unreported and probably the ones that involve injury or property damage are reported," Haywood said. "Just based on the numbers, thousands of bikes with only so many accidents reported, and you could probably stipulate from that that most of them go unreported."

Many pedestrian-only areas such as the Olive underpass were created to avoid accidents.

"At one time there were some severe accidents (at the Olive underpass). That's a unique situation because you have north-south and east-west traffic, and there's a huge amount of pedestrians," Franz said. "And bicyclists and pedestrians need to know that when there are signs up there, they need to obey those signs."

Franz said lack of education about bicycling rules and safety is the leading cause of accidents. But there are other factors that lead to collisions.

"Everyone wants to get somewhere in a hurry and they consider bicycling to be an easy way to get around campus if you're late for class are you going to take the wrong way down a one way street?" Haywood said.

Haywood and Franz both said their officers work more toward educating people who break the rules, rather than always fining or ticketing them.

One student said that he used to ride his bike through the Olive underpass, but as he got older and heard from complaining pedestrians, he had a change of heart.

"Respect that they put up the signs for a reason. Especially since most of the people around here don't wear helmets," said architecture junior Rene Fresquez. "The biggest problem is people who aren't aware of their surroundings when they're walking or riding."

Franz hopes to educate more people on bicycle safety but thinks people need to realize that there are many ways of getting from here to there.

"Everyone has to be aware that this is a congested campus. It's a small city within a city," Franz said. "Bicyclists and pedestrians and automobiles have to mix together and that's a challenge."

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