Opinion

Thoughts from a biker

By Scott Milne ’14

April 25, 2013

I love my bright yellow Schwinn more than I rightly should. The bike’s brakes tend to stick to the wheels and the old, cracked tires always threaten to pop, telling me that the senior I bought it from during my freshman year probably swindled me out of my $50. Yet the tires haven’t popped yet, and every year I can’t wait until the snow melts so I can finally bust out my bright yellow bike of sunshine and ride around in the warm spring air.

This spring I was surprised to see the “no bike” signs pop up on Martin’s way. I had missed much of last semester’s discussion about bikes in Student Assembly while I was off-campus and hadn’t realized that the signs were part of a larger plan to also designate an alternate bike route that avoided Martin’s Way. However, the path had obviously not materialized and here were the signs. I’m all for increasing pedestrian safety on Martin’s Way and personally do not use the path during busy hours using my common sense: dip-dive-duck-dodging throngs of distracted pedestrians is no fun and takes longer than Green Apple Way. But I do have multiple problems with how this plan has been implemented.

1. The bike path should have been established in conjunction with the signs. It would have presented a more coherent plan that offered bikers an opportunity to be part of the solution to the problem of congestion on Martin’s Way. The signs, as they stand, instead only offer a sudden impediment to bikers.

2. The no-bike signs on the ramp from McEwen to KJ circle should instead read: “Please walk bike.” Having the “no-bike” signs next to three always-full bike racks is confusing and inspires disrespect. Although I don’t like walking my bike, I could get used to it there and understand the safety issue of bikers speeding down a ramp at an angle into a crowd of pedestrians.

3. I can live with the signs, and think they are sufficient (in conjunction with a path) to create enough social pressure on bikers to use the path by next fall without a penalty system. Without the path, peeved pedestrians have less of a legitimate recourse against bikers (“Why use Martin’s Way when the path is right there...”).

Not all bikers are comfortable biking on Green Apple Way or College Hill Road with distracted student drivers and speeding locals, especially at night when Green Apple Way isn’t well lit and Martin’s Way is nearly empty. An official path would give a heads up to drivers and a guide to bikers who aren’t familiar with the road. Also, a penalty system would be impossible to enforce and would feel draconian, as it would rely on students reporting on other students. Penalties, perhaps in the form of points, should only be given if a reckless biker actually runs into a pedestrian.

4. Now that the biking community is all riled up, Physical Plant and Student Assembly must work with bikers to determine where the path should go, perhaps with a survey or one-time meeting. Both organizations have solicited suggestions from students regarding bikes in past years, but I presume that these suggestions could use an update. I greatly respect the work that Physical Plant and Student Assembly have put in toward increasing pedestrian safety, but they should also respect the needs and habits of our many campus bikers.

As Student Assembly’s current Director of Public Communications, I sit in on every meeting and know that the representatives work hard to sincerely address everyone’s concerns on a host of issues. Much of the problem lies in students becoming annoyed at something but not speaking up in a constructive manner. If you feel passionately about the signs and lack of bike path, send a brief but productive suggestion to Student Assembly through our website or to our Facilities committee. Additionally, a petition against the signs making its way across Facebook has already garnered 55 signatures and features many constructive criticisms. This is the type of feedback that helps your representatives respond effectively.

On a final note about involvement and making one’s voice heard at Hamilton: Student Assembly will be addressing proposed housing changes, including making Rogers Estate sub-free, ending downtown housing and converting Minor Theatre into apartments, at its next meeting. As always, all students are welcome to attend and voice their opinions.

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