Washington Ave. Bridge restrictions cause congestion

A bicyclist rides around a crowd of people in the Washington Ave Bridge on Thursday.  The UMPD will start handing out $80 fines for people who do not dismount their bicycles.

Jennifer Whalen

A bicyclist rides around a crowd of people in the Washington Ave Bridge on Thursday. The UMPD will start handing out $80 fines for people who do not dismount their bicycles.

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 donâÄôt 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 werenâÄôt 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 isnâÄôt something the University or UMPD wants to do, but itâÄôs an issue of safety. There is only a 14-foot-wide space for pedestrians, Busse said, âÄúwhich is not a lot at all.âÄù 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 bridgeâÄôs structural safety. Vice President for University Services Kathleen OâÄôBrien said Hennepin County has hired an engineering design firm to work on making the bridge safer for pedestrian use. She said the University hasnâÄôt received a timetable for construction yet, but expects to receive one next week. âÄúWe know it’s not an ideal situation, but we wish there was more access,âÄù OâÄôBrien said. âÄúThis is what the engineers believe is most safe.âÄù Student response to the heavy traffic levels on the bridge has been mixed. Accounting senior Jeff Macenthum said it was annoying to have the bridgeâÄôs 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. âÄúI donâÄôt understand why [the bridge] needs to be closed for so long,âÄù he said. On the other hand, graduate student Chris Pulley chose to walk his bike across the bridge in compliance with the UniversityâÄôs requests. âÄúItâÄôs not a hassle for me to have to walk my bike,âÄù Pulley said. âÄúBecause of the confined spaces, itâÄôs up to the bikers to show their respect to other pedestrians and show how we are as people.âÄù