On bicycle angst
Strap on your helmet, look both ways and pass on the left because Washington University has a transportation problem that’s not going away anytime soon.
Too long have we felt the rush of wind and the clip of handlebars. Too long have we called out to a pair of headphones in vain. Too long have we rounded a corner, afraid of what the sidewalk might bring. People of Wash. U., we cannot live like this.
Bikers and pedestrians will always be mortal enemies. Like bikers and cars, or bikers and skateboards or bikers and bikers. But the current relationship is particularly sour. Long-term construction on campus has created traffic chokepoints. While much of this will be alleviated when the Olin Library construction is completed, there’s no addressing the sheer density of students and buildings that Wash. U.’s expansion has fostered.
For eight months, we’ve called upon this administration to construct bike lanes, or, at the very least, widen the walkways. And they’ve done nothing. Meanwhile, they’ve continued to push cars off-campus, contributing to the proliferation of bicycles. For every Honda Accord stuck at the Greenway Apartments, there’s a Trek making hairpin turns past the Danforth University Center.
Bikes aren’t going away. Cycling is often the only speedy option to get to and from campus. And for those with back-to-back classes in Green Hall and Seigle Hall, it’s a necessity. So, we must learn to coexist. Below is a code of conduct for both bikers and pedestrians. These rules will foster an amicable and safer environment for all. There will be no help from the administration. Only we can save ourselves.
The Arm Rule
Every pedestrian knows the familiar whoosh of air as a bike passes so close that it gives the innocent walker a haircut. This is reckless and unnecessary.
To the bikers, if the walkway is so crowded that you need to weave like a mountain highway, maybe you should get off your bike and walk. If you’re ever about to pass someone and are unsure about the distance, imagine sticking your arm out to the side. If your hand would smack them in the back of the head, you’re too close.
The Drift Rule
Pedestrians, you can do better too. When you drift blindly across the middle of a walkway, you make it very hard not to hit you. On more than one occasion, we’ve seen bikes funneled off the pavement entirely by pedestrians who don’t realize they’re cutting anyone off.
The walkway is like a highway. If you were driving, would you change lanes without looking? Of course not. All it takes is a peripheral glance before you move. If no one is coming up behind you, you’re clear.
With clear maintained lanes, it’s much easier for bikers to employ the aforementioned arm rule.
The Rudolph Rule
We’re all really excited about the newly paved hill by Rudolph Hall, but bikers, you need to chill. This isn’t the X Games and you shouldn’t be riding down the thing like you’re Mat Hoffman. Squeeze your brakes and take it slow. Your mother will thank you. This goes double for the Overpass.
The Frogger Rule
This is for all the people who look down at their phones while crossing a perpendicular walkway. Would you cross a street without looking? Then don’t blindly step in front of a moving bike.
The Cartesian Coordinate Rule
Bikers, it’s hard for pedestrians to know where you’re going if you don’t say it. We can feel you (both your presence and your increasing irritation levels) as you hover at the backs of our ankles, waiting to squeeze past on your way to class. If you want to move to the left or the right, just ask. A simple “on your [insert left or right here]” will suffice.
And for all you shy bikers with the small chime of a handlebar bell, that’s OK. Pedestrians: Which side of the street do you drive on in the U.S.? Correct! The right side. So, if you hear a bell, move to the right. That’s a pretty safe bet to ensure your safety when a two-wheeled speedster comes careening by.
So, there you have it Wash. U.: The Five Commandments for Safe Transportation. Until all of this construction business ends, let’s all agree to shake hands and agree to a peaceful coexistence.