USF is not as bike or pedestrian friendly as some school officials may want students to believe.
Since 2008, there have been 15 crashes involving pedestrians and eight involving bicycles on campus, Lt. Meg Ross, University Police spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. This poses questions, and the University needs to continue doing more to initiate safety.
With more and more students staying green by deciding to ditch the four-wheel gas-guzzler and opt for a bicycle, school officials should place more emphasis on the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists.
USF English professor Jeff Strabone said the root to fixing the problem lies with poor urban planning. “If there were a revolution in urban planning in the area, allowing for more bike lanes and paths for bikes in high-pedestrian areas, there would be a decrease in problems involving bikes.”
Granted, students need to be more attentive as well. Those walking or riding a bike need to respect motorists and pedestrians, Strabone said. It’s important to remember this Florida statute: “Every person propelling a vehicle by human power has all of the rights and all of the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle …”
The University has heard complaints from local bicyclists and has taken the initiative to better inform of biking dangers. A bicycle commuting skills class held last month provided an overview of riding in traffic, including maintenance of equipment, traffic laws and how to change lanes and maneuver through intersections.
The executive director of New North Transportation Alliance, Julie Bond, said at an event: “We are encouraging people of all ages and abilities to ride bicycles to their destinations instead of driving. Bicycle safety is a top priority, and through education, bicyclists and motorists can share the roads more safely and enjoyably.”
USF students have banded together and formed the “Bicycle Club @ USF.” Members created a map of the USF campus to develop an inventory of all bicycle parking. Other local universities, such as the University of Central Florida, are taking an interest in the safety of the bike community by clearly posting all rules and regulations for bicyclists.
These are all necessary steps in the right direction, but it should not stop there. With the widening of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and a major light rail project being proposed, bicycle and pedestrian safety should remain at the forefront of importance.
A better understanding between bicyclists and drivers, increased numbers of bike lanes and a supportive local community will help make USF streets and sidewalks safer.
Nick Johnston is a junior majoring in creative writing.