Students who are attempting to navigate the Washington Avenue Bridge while riding their bicycles may want to think again.
In a Sept. 11 editorial in the Minnesota Daily, University police Chief Greg Hestness announced that UMPD will begin giving out $80 fines to bicyclists who don’t walk their bikes across the bridge connecting the West and East Bank campuses.
University Services has been working directly with UMPD to minimize heavy congestion on the bridge after finding many cyclists weren’t dismounting their bicycles, and a bicyclist injured himself in an accident on the bridge late Tuesday night , Hestness wrote.
University Services Communications Director Tim Busse said fining students isn’t something the University or UMPD wants to do, but it’s an issue of safety.
There is only a 14-foot-wide space for pedestrians, Busse said, “which is not a lot at all.”
Access to parts of the bridge, which is owned not by the University but by Hennepin County, was restricted starting Aug. 21, when an engineering report voiced concerns about the bridge’s structural safety.
Vice President for University Services Kathleen O’Brien said Hennepin County has hired an engineering design firm to work on making the bridge safer for pedestrian use. She said the University hasn’t received a timetable for construction yet, but expects to receive one next week.
“We know it's not an ideal situation, but we wish there was more access,” O’Brien said. “This is what the engineers believe is most safe.”
Student response to the heavy traffic levels on the bridge has been mixed.
Accounting senior Jeff Macenthum said it was annoying to have the bridge’s availability restricted, and that bikers were slowing down traffic.
Mike Bryan , a University first-year who biked across the bridge Thursday, said it was inconvenient to have to walk his bike.
“I don’t understand why [the bridge] needs to be closed for so long,” he said.
On the other hand, graduate student Chris Pulley chose to walk his bike across the bridge in compliance with the University’s requests.
“It’s not a hassle for me to have to walk my bike,” Pulley said. “Because of the confined spaces, it’s up to the bikers to show their respect to other pedestrians and show how we are as people.”