There are two types of people on campus: walkers and bikers. The Montagues and Capulets of on-campus transportation. Rivals by nature.
I realized quickly in my first year at Penn State that the hatred runs deep. I remember overhearing a couple of girls in my class complaining one day about how rude bikers are. A biker overheard them as well, and he tried to politely defend himself before the two walkers nearly snapped on him for the crimes of his peers.
Back then, I was a walker, and part of me felt like bikers were simply misunderstood. Now, I am a sophomore and a converted biker. Ever since I started biking, I’ve had my own near misses with walkers who I’m sure would have called me rude, among other things. I’ve also experienced the pains of trying to bike carefully through a minefield of sheep in between classes. With these experiences, I’ve come to the conclusion that both groups have an equal share of the blame when it comes to this divide.
In an effort to help ease the tension and create dialogue between the two groups, I consulted my friend Sydney, who claims to be an expert on the heinous actions of bikers. I compiled her input with my own experiences as both a walker and a biker to create two guides to getting around campus. One by walkers, for bikers. The other by bikers, for walkers.
A Walker’s Guide To Biking
The cardinal sin of two-wheeled transportation? Biking on sidewalks. Simple enough. If bikes were meant to be ridden on sidewalks, they would be called sidebikes, but they’re not. They’re called sidewalks. Furthermore, biking on sidewalks is high-risk behavior, considering the speed of the bike and the congestion of traffic during peak hours.
For the safety of everyone involved, it is paramount that bikers cease doing “that crazy thing where they swerve their front tires through masses of people and nearly hit everyone,” as Sydney put in technical terms. An easy solution might be biking on roads instead. Conveniently, most sidewalks have a road right next to them. One might even think this is by design, so that bikers can avoid having to weave through crowds of people at all times. On occasion, the sidewalk may be unavoidable. In these instances, try slowing the hell down.
Another serious concern is visibility. When bikers “zip down the road…you don’t always see them coming,” said Sydney. In order to be more visible on two wheels, bikers should make bold fashion statements with bright colors whenever possible. If safety is not your style, then get a bell (or a functional, non-ironic clown horn) for your bike. A simple ring (or honk) will go a long way to make your presence known to pedestrians.
A Biker’s Guide To Walking
Please. Look. Up. From. Your. Freaking. Phone. I understand that visibility is an issue when it comes to bikers, but in some cases, I doubt that people would see me even if I was wearing a neon sign that said, “Hey! Look at me! I’m on a bike, so please do not try to cross the street right in front of me. Thank you!” Granted, that sign might be difficult to read quickly, but it should at least catch your attention. That is, unless you are staring at your phone while blindly stepping into crosswalks.
Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that, even when walkers aren’t looking at their phones, they do not actively look for bikes before crossing. They may take a quick glance for cars before stepping out onto the road, but they are certainly not looking for bikes. While I agree it is necessary for us bikers to increase our own visibility, I think it is only fair that pedestrians take the necessary precautions on their end and carefully look both ways.
Plus, on the off chance that you are looking for “free” tuition, it would be best to know of what you’re stepping in front. It would suck to expect to get hit by an Audi (big money) and instead get hit by me on my crappy, old bike (no money).
Regarding sidewalks, there are some areas on campus where bikers and walkers must share the path. Keeping this in mind: Walkers should stay as far right as possible. This would leave an open passing lane which would benefit both walkers and bikers. It would allow slow traffic to stay right and putz along happily, while faster traffic on foot or bike can pass easily. This is a pretty intuitive solution. It’s just like driving. Furthermore, it would help prevent bikers from dangerously weaving in and out of pedestrians.
Lastly and most specifically, do not walk down the bike ramp at the bottom of the Pattee Mall on the intersection of Allen Street and College Ave. It is too narrow to handle both foot and bike traffic, and it is essential for bikers to get up onto that absurdly high curb.
Hopefully, if both walkers and bikers follow these respective guides, then together we can eliminate the divide between two feet and two wheels. One day, we may even look back at our old feuds and laugh, as we chat about how much we cannot STAND drivers.