I believe the campus bicycle patrol needs a broader mission. I regularly travel on one of Tucson's main east-west bicycle routes which runs through campus. Despite numerous signs along this route that say no parking, there are cars and buses routinely parked in the middle of designated bicycle lanes. This is particularly true on the east end of campus near the Visitors Center and the Ina Gittings Building. This becomes a problem for two safety reasons: it forces bicyclists into the road with vehicular traffic (defeating the purpose of bicycle lanes), and it adds an extra hazard since an estimated 11 percent of serious bicycle accidents involve bicyclists crashing into opening car doors.
The other day I stopped and talked with a bicycle patrol officer and suggested he give parking tickets to the numerous cars and buses that were obviously illegally parked. He said that enforcing parking regulations was not his duty; apparently he only gives bicyclists tickets. And they seem out to get bicyclists.
One example of this misplaced enforcement happened during Spring Fling week when the main road into campus was blocked. Cars were diverted with signs, and pedestrians were allowed to travel on the lawn area. Bicyclists, on the other hand, were not instructed where to travel (despite the fact that this was a "bicycle route") and were ticketed by the bicycle patrol if they cut through the lawn area where pedestrians were traveling. The bike patrol had a perfect trap.
The long and short of it is that the bicycle patrol is having an overall effect of discouraging people from bicycling. This is unfortunate since bicycling offers the community many benefits: reducing air pollution and energy consumption while increasing public health by encouraging exercise.
Since the bicycle patrol purports to promote safety, it should re-evaluate its focus. The vast majority of serious/fatal accidents involving bicyclists (96 percent) involve bicycle collisions with automobiles. The remaining 4 percent typically involve the bicyclist losing control and causing injury only to themselves. The real safety problem is not between bicyclists and pedestrians, but between automobiles and bicyclists.
Although restricting bicycles in some areas on campus makes perfect sense, and should be enforced, the emphasis of the bicycle patrol (if there needs to be one at all) should be to make the campus safer for both pedestrians and bicyclists.
Ph.D. Candidate, Renewable Natural Resources Read Next Article