Cyclists: Please don’t tread on us

Today’s other perspective on cycling: Be polite, obey the law and cool heads will prevail.

by Mike Munzenrider

The New York Times recently published an op-ed piece featuring various graduate students giving advice and other tips to incoming first-year students. Yes, they were fashionably late to the first-year-advice-column party, but after all, they are New Yorkers.
This column will also attempt to offer some bits of advice, some things that the Times missed. Indeed, the graduate students covered many bases in their musings. Had I known that I should have dumped my high school girlfriend from the get go, well, my first few months as a freshman could have been way more cool, and she wouldnâÄôt have dumped me first. There is one thing that the Times failed to touch on, though, one thing that is very near and dear to my heart, and the hearts of many others. It is as much advice as it is a plea to first-years and anyone else on a bicycle: please donâÄôt tread on us.
Yes, campus is packed. Yes, the buses can be a drag and the parking will bankrupt you, if it doesnâÄôt drive you crazy first. I feel your pain, and for those very reasons, I ride my bike to school every day. However, the fact that IâÄôve escaped the first month of school without a bike-on-bike collision is a mathematical fluke, and just having typed that IâÄôll bloody my knuckles knocking on wood. Thanks for the jinx.
The simple truth that biking is one hell of a way to get around Minneapolis and campus, as previously stated, is not lost on me. As far as the national cycling media is concerned, they agree; Minneapolis is a great place to bike. Last June, in a Minnesota Daily column, Jenna Beyer noted that âÄúMinneapolis was recently named AmericaâÄôs No. 1 city for cycling.âÄù This honor was bestowed on our fair city by none other than Bicycling Magazine, which sounds pretty legit. Beyer cited, among other things, new bike-friendly laws regarding red lights and the construction of a new bike boulevard, that push our city over the top, above other two wheeling powerhouses, like Portland, Ore.
In an ironic twist, Beyer paraphrases Loren Mooney, editor-in-chief of Bicycling Magazine, writing, âÄú… cyclists are an indicator species for a community. The more cyclists there are, posits Mooney, the safer and more active people are likely to be …âÄù While I do not dispute the active factor, I do dispute the safety factor. Biking on the University of Minnesota campus is horrendously dangerous, though it doesnâÄôt have to be that way.
Carl Blair-Broeker, a Recreational Resource Management major, shares my sentiments. Blair-Broeker is a year-round cyclist. Catch him on campus on an early February morning riding his bike, and heâÄôll have icicles in his utilitarian beard. Even before I contacted him, Blair-Broeker was prepared to write a letter to the editor of this paper, regarding the subject at hand.
Blair-Broeker states, âÄúI just wish people would understand and follow the [biking] rules that are in place to protect others as much as yourself.âÄù His wishes hinge on a shared responsibility that need not be lost when one finds themselves a couple of minutes behind schedule.
He continues: âÄúItâÄôs one thing if I, or anyone, makes a decision to run a stop sign or red light on a bike if no one is around, because thatâÄôs all on me. I may get a ticket, but IâÄôm not going to get myself hurt, or more importantly, get someone else hurt.âÄù He adds, âÄúItâÄôs another thing to blow through stop signs or lights in busy intersections.âÄù
The rampant disregard for traffic signals around campus is one thing. Blair-Broeker cites other dangers as well, such as bikers dropping off curbs with no regard for what might greet them in the street, and those that have a penchant for appearing out of nowhere from in between parked cars.
All these actions seem obviously dangerous, but as both Blair-Broeker and I will attest, it doesnâÄôt stop many from acting recklessly.
Perhaps the most galling habit of University cyclists is their utilization of the wrong way on a one-way street. Blair-Broeker wonders why someone would, âÄú… force another biker into traffic and put their life in danger, because IâÄôm going against traffic on a one-way street.âÄù
Beyond his frustration, Blair-Broeker finds a way to be conciliatory. âÄúI understand that itâÄôs still early in the fall semester, and there are a lot of students trying to get assimilated to school and Minneapolis,âÄù he said. âÄúThatâÄôs fine and welcome. But how some of the common sense practices that got people here in the first place go straight out the door once they are here is beyond me.âÄù He goes on: âÄúObviously there is going to be a huge range of bike skill and comfort with the enormous population the U has,âÄù he added. âÄúBut for the sake of everyone, I think people just need to be a little more realistic with their own abilities.âÄù
Blair-BroekerâÄôs disposition instills hope in all. Cool heads do prevail. Yet, he still wonders, âÄúDonâÄôt people care theyâÄôre putting themselves and others in harmâÄôs way?âÄù I hope everyone does.
Dumping a high school sweetheart, to be sure, is far more difficult than biking safely with an awareness of others, so letâÄôs all break one bad habit before breaking up with another.