Two-wheeled tension

Do we need to change cyclists’ behavior or change the rules?

Last week, The Minnesota Daily reported that the University of Minnesota Police Department has been cracking down on student cyclists. The vibrant response from our readership shows that the role of bikes on campus deserves more public discussion.

Clearly, cyclists who flout established traffic laws can be ticketed. But it is worth asking the bigger question: How can the University more constructively manage bike traffic to balance safety with efficiency?

Enforceability and consistency are important. We were surprised to learn that on the East Bank, all of Northrop Mall and the ScholarâÄôs Walk âÄî both rife with bikes âÄî are officially designated “dismount zones.” Obscure and difficult-to-implement policies like these send mixed signals, as does a crackdown on bikes where thereâÄôs no clearly established safety hazard.

The best solution is to have realistic policies and infrastructure that reflect the natural flow of bikes âÄî without punishing reasonable behavior. Which is to say: If cyclists need to cross Northrop Mall without dismounting or clashing with pedestrians, then put a bike lane there. If cyclists habitually run a particular stop sign without endangering anyone, then change the sign to “yield.”

Although bikes get only a two-page footnote in the 2009 Campus Master Plan, Parking and Transportation Services is drafting a Master Plan just for bikes. As Minnesota Public Interest Research GroupâÄôs Anastasiya Lavell says, the University “is finally realizing that [cyclists] are not walkers, and theyâÄôre not drivers.” The UniversityâÄôs official stance is that pedestrians have right-of-way on campus, and that shouldnâÄôt change. But for everyoneâÄôs sake, bikes need a well-considered system of rules and spaces in order to coexist with pedestrians.