Point/Counterpoint: Campus bike riders

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Point: Cyclists need to be more considerate

Kelly Cahill

I’m a catastrophe in the morning. As I walk to class, I’m typically saddled with a laptop, a school bag sagging under the weight of $400 worth of textbooks, and a large cup of coffee. I’m probably running a few minutes late. I’m probably thinking about lots of super-intellectual things, like the subjectivity of morals or the affirmative action debate. I’m probably struggling not to spill coffee all over myself. Suddenly, a reckless bike rider speeds by, mere millimeters away from sideswiping me. I freak out. Coffee’s down the front of my shirt, I’ve completely forgotten the thesis statement I was working through, and I’m in a thoroughly disgusting mood.

It’s high time for bike riders to stop terrorizing the campus walkways. Bikers seem to think that it’s okay for them to weave through dense pedestrian traffic at ridiculously high speeds. It’s not okay. It is, in fact, extremely dangerous to pedestrians and bike riders alike. Getting to class should not be a treacherous game of dodge-the-bikers or dodge-the-pedestrians. In walkers’ attempts not to get hit by bikers and bikers’ attempts not to hit walkers, things inevitably go awry. The biker ends up running into another pedestrian that he didn’t see or the pedestrian trips or drops what she’s carrying. Bikers are a distracting and destructive force on the sidewalks.

The recent blitz of winter weather makes getting around on campus über-difficult for all of us as we struggle to remain upright on the sidewalks-turned-ice-skating rinks. To add bikes to the mix is just a death wish. Speeding bikers are falling all over the place and taking pedestrians down with them.

I get it that bike riders are saving the earth by biking to campus instead of driving, and I totally support that. But we pedestrians are doing our part, too. We’ve also chosen to get around sans fossil fuel. Bikers and pedestrians should be friends, not enemies.

I have a bike and I don’t ever feel the need to ride it on campus walkways. Our main campus is miniscule! Who needs to zoom around on a bike when anyone can walk from Donner to Scaife in less than 10 minutes?

So lock your 10-speeds up when you get to campus, bike riders. The University Center has plenty of bike racks where you can secure your Schwinns during the day while you traverse campus on foot. If you find it necessary to ride your bike at 20 miles per hour to Baker Hall, wake up earlier. If leaving your precious bike locked up at the UC while you’re in CFA gives you separation anxiety, then at least walk your bike along pathways instead of slaloming around those of us who walk to class. And if you are so in love with your bike that you’re unable to dislodge your bike seat from your buttocks, then at least stay off of the sidewalks that are most heavily used by pedestrians, like the diagonal route from the UC to Doherty Hall. Take Tech Street and then go through the parking lot to get to Porter/Baker and the library.

We’re all in a hurry to get to class, but bike riders need to be more courteous about how they do it. My un-coffee-stained shirts will thank you kindly.

Counterpoint: Pedestrians need to be less oblivious

Bradford L. Yankiver

A relaxing bicycle ride to class is usually just what I need to keep me sane as I prepare to sit through hours of classes. The bit of exercise and the fresh air clear my head and wake me up. That is, until Joe Oblivious steps into my path just a few yards ahead without looking, forcing me to take evasive action. But as I adjust my course, the wandering pedestrian rejoins the land of the living, realizes what he’s done, and tries to lunge out of the way. Instead, he moves directly back into my path. Cycling on campus is a gauntlet. Pedestrians need to wake up and realize that they don’t own every square inch of cement on campus.

To be fair, there are plenty of pedestrians who are considerate and largely conscious of their surroundings. I offer my thanks to those of you who are awake and aware. But there are also a lot of people who fumble around like they want me to crash and burn.

Every day, the many racks across campus are packed with locked-up bicycles. There are hundreds of people who ride miles and miles to and from campus every day, as we try to contribute to an environmentally friendly world, get some exercise, and save time and money. And Carnegie Mellon policy affirms our right to use campus walkways to get to the bicycle racks where we park our bikes. That’s right. The paths across the Cut are ours too. So quit calling for some fascist bicycle ban.

In spite of what some alarmists claim, most cyclists ride carefully. We have to be especially careful, just to compensate for the erratic behavior of pedestrians.

The pathways are available for all of us to use, yet too many pedestrians pay no attention to their surroundings. As a result, we cyclists are constantly on the lookout for spastic pedestrians, prone to unpredictably changing direction or stepping out directly into a cyclist’s path. Is it really that hard to walk in a straight line and look where you’re going? That’s all I ask.

Let me try to give two pointers on how to be a savvy walker. The first suggestion is simple: look up. Pedestrians on campus have a habit of fixing their gaze on the ground in front of them. I promise, nothing is going to emerge from the sidewalk and drag you under. But there’s a good chance that another pedestrian or a cyclist is coming towards you as you walk along the path across the cut at 10:25 a.m.

Second, keep in mind that bicycles work in such a way that when cyclists turn, they have to turn along an arc. So, for a moment, they may face in your direction. In that situation, whatever you do, don’t freak out and start trying to avoid the cyclist like a kid playing dodgeball. You’ll inevitably jump right into the bike. Instead, just walk straight. It’s that easy.

Believe me, cyclists want to avoid you just as much as you want to avoid us.

I’ll concede that there are some inconsiderate cyclists, and when I’m not on my bike and speed racer zooms past I give a holler, too. They need to chill out. But that’s a rare occurrence.

It shouldn’t be too hard for walkers and cyclists to share the pathways. We try to do our part. We only ask that pedestrians show a modicum of courtesy by paying attention to where they’re walking.