Today, a reporter from the Minnesota Daily asked me if I was worried about the recent drop off in bicycling commuting according to the latest Census estimates. I told him that I’m more worried about what is happening right now at the U of M.
The U of M is where I learned to bicycle for utility. And I’m not alone. It is a huge generator of present and future bicyclists. If we make it harder to bike at the U, we lose bicyclists now and in the future.
A few weeks back, Lesley posted a blog here about the challenges of east-west biking through the heart of the U of M campus after new signs made clear what has actually long been true–you can’t bike on most of the main paths in the heart of campus.
Well, things have gotten worse. $115 worse to be precise. Police are now ticketing bicyclists who bike 4 mph through the dismount zone rather than walk it or go 4 blocks out of their way. I believe that’s a bigger punishment than the last 6 drivers who killed bicyclists in Minneapolis received.
I think that something is wrong with that picture.
Bill Lindeke offers an amazing satirical, but too-true assessment of the situations in two parts on his blog (part 1 and part 2).
I think that the U needs to immediately figure out a legal way for bicyclists to get through the heart of campus. I know campus is a mess with LRT construction. But they put in new roads last year to make sure that everyone can still drive to campus. I think they should make this a priority too. They have made some good bicycle improvements this year (green lanes on Pleasant), but this overshadows those good things in many ways for me. Even some signage to nearby legal routes on Church Street would help a lot.
Oh, and too much of their “safety is easy, the pavement is hard” campaign seems to be saying “it is really not very safe to bike. It’s mostly really safe to bike, especially at the U. It can and should be made safer, for bikes and peds. But we shouldn’t be working to convince students that they should really be driving to campus because biking isn’t safe.
Don’t get me wrong, I do think we need to do more to get bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists to be safer and more aware as they get around the U. I just would rather the focus be a little more balanced and a little less focused on bicyclists on the Scholars Walk. And if you are going to crack down there, why not a $30 ticket that is more in line with the relative size of the crime? I would like to see a crack down on drivers failing to yield to peds/bikes or passing too closely or speeding on University Ave. Maybe that’s happening. Anyone know?
Am I too sensitive? Is this bicycle access enough through campus? Are students made of thicker skin (and wallets) than I imagine? Let me have it in the comments!
(Note: the Bicycle Coalition has not yet taken a position on this issue; these comments are my own.)