Sidewalk Bicycling vs. Bike lanes – the debate rages on

Joy ride on the newly updated MSU S. River path
Joy ride on the newly updated MSU S. River path. Click pic for video.

There’s been considerable press in the State News and discussion this fall (2014) about bike safety and rules after some pretty serious accidents earlier in the semester and the subsequent launch of the MSU Police bike/ pedestrian safety campaign.  Was even included in an Impact 89FM radio show with a MSU Police officer (Randy Holton) who coordinated the aforementioned campaign earlier this week (our part of the show starts at 18:45 (have to download the show and open w/ Windows Media Player or other player to see the time).

All of this has caused me to reflect on where we’re at as a university in terms of improving bike and pedestrian safety; are we becoming a more ‘Bike Friendly University‘? MSU received a bronze BFU award in 2011, but what has changed over the past 4 years?

 

S. River Path near Erickson Kiva, summer 2012
Photo of the chaos during class change on S. River Path near Erickson Kiva, summer 2012.  Click pic to watch a video of bike/ped chaos from 2012 at Shaw and Farm Ln.

Well, on the visibly obvious front, we’re up from approx. 50% of our campus roads having bike lanes in 2010 to over 70% today which is phenomenal progress considering we had NO on-road bike lanes in the year 2000 when the university made the decision to adopt what has become known as a “Complete Streets” policy for campus roads (CS is now fully incorporated into our current Campus Master Plan).  MSU opened its first “complete street” at the end of the summer: W. Circle Dr.  After a massive construction project over last summer it’s now completely safe and designed for ALL legal road users!

Casual observations along the corridors where the bike lane network is almost complete (Wilson Rd. for example) and wherever bike lanes exist, make it clear that if we build them bicyclists will start to use them.  We’ve also started adding “Sharrow” markings (aka ‘shared lane bicycle marking’) on roads where there’s not currently enough width for bike lanes (see this video that was produced fall of 2013 to inform the community of these new markings).

The most recent example of physical progress: there was a hugely successful safety improvement to our campus transportation system benefiting both pedestrians and bicyclists completed in late summer 2014.   A video I created, MSU Bicycling on Unmarked Sidewalk vs Newly Redesigned River Path” shows off the benefits and real life on the newly updated S. River path; you’ll quickly see the difference between riding on a crowded sidewalk vs. the new path.  With this segment of the S. river pathway completed only one more large segment is left needing the updating to this new, safer design; the path between Farm Ln. and Bogue St.  (More photos, including before and after construction, can be viewed here)

Bicycling in the road vs. sidewalk
Like riding slow and stopping all the time?  Sidewalks are for YOU!  Want to get somewhere faster than walking?  Ride in the road!  Click pic for video.

A companion video features the readily and quickly obvious benefits to riding in a bike lane on the road vs. riding on crowded, disorganized and chaotic sidewalks: Riding in a Bike Lane vs. Sidewalk Bicycling at MSU”.

Bear in mind that the benefits & advantages of riding in the road continue even on roads without bike lane markings.  Bicyclists also have a legal right to ride in the road and a legal responsibility to ride in the road (WITH the direction of traffic, AND obeying the same traffic rules as other legal road users) NOT on the sidewalks on campus.

Yes, we’ve still got plenty of work to do on campus (as this video of pedestrians and bikes mixing it up at Farm Ln. and S. Shaw Ln. shows).  There are some critical roads on campus without bike lanes remaining which abruptly start and stop; they’ll be getting bike lanes, or in some cases, closed to motor vehicle traffic altogether assuming the university’s 20/20 Vision continues to be the guiding document for the coming years.

Read our “Bike Safety Tips” post for a lot more information about this important topic to help greatly reduce your chances of being involved in a crash.

Stay tuned for more progress reports on our ‘Bike Friendliness’.

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Author: Tim Potter

Sustainable Transportation Manager, MSU Bikes Service Center; member of the All University Traffic & Transportation Committee (http://auttc.msu.edu); founding member of MSU Bike Advisory Committee (https://msubikes.wordpress.com/volunteer-donate/msu-bac/); advocate for local & regional non-motorized transportation issues thru the Tri-Co. Bike Assn. Advocacy Committee (http://groups.google.com/group/tcatc); board member of the Ride of Silence (http://www.rideofsilence.org); year-round bicyclist of all sorts; photographer; soccer player; father of 3; married 30 yrs. to Hiromi, Japanese national (daughter of former Natl. Keirin Champion, Seiichi Nishiji); Christ follower.

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