Public Safety addresses reckless riding

By The Beacon | October 27, 2010 9:00pm

Bicycles and skateboards on campus raise safety concerns

Freshman Nick Mannen skateboards through the academic quad on his way to a class in Shiley Hall. Public Safety has heard several complaints about skateboarders this year. (Alissa White -- The Beacon)

By Sarah Hansell, Staff Writer --

Imagine you're walking to your first class of the day. It's 8:05 a.m. and you have five minutes to get there.

You're rushing through the quad toward Shiley Hall. The quad is crowded with other walkers like you, bikers and skateboarders.

You're carrying a couple of textbooks that wouldn't fit in your bag. You're almost to the doors when WHAM!

A skateboarder flies into you. You're knocked backward and your books go flying.

Several people have been run into by skateboarders at UP, which is one of the reasons skateboarding has become a safety issue on campus, along with bicycles.

"I just think we have so many people that are (biking and skateboarding), which is a good thing, but at the same time all of them don't take into consideration the safety implications of biking and skateboarding around campus," Director of Public Safety Harold Burke-Sivers said.

Students at UP who walk rather than bike or skateboard have also voiced their concerns.

"Sometimes pedestrians are worried they're going to get hit when they're taking a turn to go a different direction because bicyclists tend to just do whatever they want to get where they're going, without warning," freshman Katrina Welborn said.

According to the Office of Public Safety, 300 are bikes registered every year.

However, Public Safety doesn't register skateboards or longboards, so it's not clear how many are on campus. Burke-Sivers says that although he hasn't heard many complaints about bikers this year, he has heard several complaints about skateboarders.

"What we've been hearing just recently is that they've been a little reckless," Burke-Sivers said.

"I have noticed some crazy skateboarders out there," freshman and longboarder Joe O'Sullivan said. "I have a lot of friends who have run into people."

Freshman skateboarder Chad Perkins has run into two people this year. Perkins believes both the pedestrian and skateboarder or biker are at fault.

"A lot of the time, it's the people who aren't really paying attention and are on their phones a lot," Perkins said. "Skateboarders should go slower, stuff like that. It could be a collective effort, you know, to make it safer."

There are also two double-tier bikes on campus this year, which could potentially be more dangerous to rider.

"If they're going to ride those, they really need to be careful and take some extra precautions," Burke-Sivers said. "You definitely should be wearing a helmet on something like that."

However, senior Alex Wentz, who rides a double-tier bike, or as he calls it, a "two-tall," is not concerned. "If it comes down to which one is more dangerous, my bike has a brake and a skateboard doesn't," Wentz said. "In my opinion it's essentially a normal bike, it's just a little taller."

According to both Burke-Sivers and senior and ASUP Vice President Katie Scally, safety concerns about bikers and skateboarders are often more about courtesy than anything else.

"Sometime they may bump someone or be a little rude in that way," Burke-Sivers said. "That's what I've heard this year."

Scally wrote a policy change for biking and skateboarding in the spring of 2009, which was implemented by fall of the same year. The policy change was, in part, a response to complaints that ASUP was hearing.

"Concerns were coming in from both professors and students," Scally said.

However, like Burke-Sivers, Scally also sees this issue as more about courtesy.

"A policy's not going to be a solution," Scally said. "No matter how much you fine someone, it comes down to common courtesy."

Pedestrians have also noticed the lack of courtesy in bikers and skateboarders.

"Some bikers don't even ask to pass you," freshman Stephanie Petrie said. "I see accidents happening more frequently if people don't use common courtesy."

However, getting around by bike and skateboard is not discouraged by Public Safety, despite the safety concerns.

"I think they're wonderful means of sustainable transportation," Burke-Sivers said. "It's a great way for students to get around campus."

Burke-Sivers urges students to look under Transit and Travel on the Public Safety page on UP's website for the rules about biking and skateboarding, which can be found under Parking Information.

"Go there and see what it says," Burke-Sivers said. "Just like anybody who's driving a car, (bikers and skateboarders) need to abide by the rules."