Fitten: Walk Your Wheels

Khayree Fitten

Nearly getting run over by one of my fraternity brothers who was riding his bike while I was crossing the street remains one of my most vivid memories from my sophomore year of college. 

When I approached him about it later that day, he replied that he didn’t see a problem because while he came close, he didn’t actually hit me.

On all fair-weather days, many across campus share the same frustrations I had at that moment. As a traveling cohort who wants to be treated with the decency and respect of an acceptable mode of transportation, cyclists on campus and throughout Ames do a poor job of being considerate of their fellow travelers.

Bicycles are considered vehicles, and we often see the riding community demand the respect and acknowledgement that comes with this designation. We too often hear of accidents involving a car running over a rider while attempting to pass in a no-passing zone.

While these accidents are unacceptable, they are frequently unintentional because of the attitudes surrounding bikes elsewhere in our everyday lives. The inconsistent practices of the biking community, or a number of its members, leaves a bad taste in the mouths of us who share the road or sidewalks with them.

Like many students, I own a car and drive regularly around Ames. More often than not I will see a bike doing things that actual vehicles would never consider doing.

“Bicyclists are responsible for knowing and obeying all traffic laws,” according to the city of Ames website.

Bikes are not motorized vehicles, but that does not mean they are above the laws of the road, or the etiquette that comes along with being a patron of the road.

I have trouble envisioning and treating bikes as cars when I see them riding along the street with other vehicles, but ignoring stop signs and lights as if they were above them. The city of Ames also has rules on what cyclists are and are not allowed to do. Specifically, bicyclists must yield the right of way to pedestrians on sidewalks.

While this behavior is obviously not exclusive to cyclists, which can be well noted by the humored phrase, “No cop, no stop,” bikes have effectively received amnesty from this practice altogether. But if a car were to run a light, it’s not uncommon for the driver to get reported to the police department and thus receive some form of punishment.

Like my fraternity brother during sophomore year, the riders I see and interact with struggle to yield and respect pedestrians’ rights-of-way. Anyone who has been to the crosswalks between the Memorial Union and Carver or between the Memorial Union and Gerdin know that passing times between classes can be incredibly hectic for both traffic on foot and on bikes and boards.

While cars often wait for dozens of pedestrians to cross before driving through the intersection, I can personally guarantee you will see at least one biker weave in between those who are walking once every day.

For all their faults, these offenses aren’t the worst of it. The guiltiest are the bicyclists who take their route down campus sidewalks. I think I can speak for most students when I say I haven’t driven my car across the sidewalk from Curtiss to Beardshear or the Library to Music Hall, so why should they be extended that courtesy? 

The growth of Iowa State in recent years has meant there is hardly any truth to the phrase, “sidewalks are built for pedestrians,” but it is certain that they aren’t built for walkers and riders simultaneously.

If you want to ride your bike to campus, by all means go ahead, but walk your wheels when you enter paths on Central Campus. It isn’t commonly known but it’s a written rule that students cannot operate a bike on campus sidewalks.

Student’s are often unaware of this rule because it isn’t enforced. But what will it take for someone to take notice the risk this poses? We shouldn’t have to wait for a student to be seriously injured before someone takes action.

There is inherently more responsibility that comes with being a vehicle of the road and whether it’s two, three or four wheels, drivers and riders need to be considerate of the traffic and conditions around them; especially on a campus with a student body that is rapidly approaching 36,000 people.

To receive the respect they desire, cyclists need to start acting like they are the vehicles they wish to be treated like.