By Alyson Kay
For Unwind magazine
College Park city officials are pushing to make the city more bicycle-friendly. In addition to widening the city’s bike lanes, they’ve launched a bikeshare program that allows people to rent bicycles, both traditional and disability-friendly, for short periods of time.
But as the city becomes more accessible to bicycle riders and more of them share the road with motorists, it becomes more important to make sure that both riders and drivers are safe.
Bicycling is gaining popularity in College Park, as well as in the rest of the country. According to its website, this university’s Department of Transportation Services has registered 825 new personal bikes for on-campus students this year.
Unfortunately, along with the increase in bicycles on campus and in the city, there have also been bicycle accidents. This September, 77-year-old South Washington resident Robert Dickey was struck and killed by a motorist while attempting to cross Paint Branch Parkway on the Trolley Trail.
This hasn’t been the only bicycle accident in that intersection. In 2014, three crashes occurred within a month, according to an article in The Diamondback.
On the campus, cyclists are not allowed to ride bicycles on sidewalks, meaning they must share the road with motorists.
Despite having to ride on the street, cyclist Jason He, a junior computer science and finance major, feels relatively safe around cars.
“I think at least on campus, motorists are generally courteous to bike riders in general,” he said. “They’ll stop for you even if they don’t have to.”
Off campus, however, he said he’s more careful when he’s riding, adding that the off-campus motorists can be aggressive.
Although the state of Maryland leaves the decision of whether to ban sidewalk cycling up to counties — and Prince George’s County hasn’t banned it — off-campus cyclists in College Park still find themselves in the street when they cross it.
Motorists generally feel safe and trust that the cyclists with whom they share the road will act in predictable ways.
Tamara Henry, a journalism professor at this university, feels relatively secure driving behind bicyclists and said cyclists on campus are generally good at signaling when they are about to turn.
Like He, Henry does notice a difference in behavior between on- and off-campus cyclists.
“Sometimes, if you’re not on campus, you’ll run into some cyclists who dart in and out of traffic and that sort of stuff, like in the district,” Henry said. “But I’ve never seen that sort of behavior on campus.”
With winter approaching, factors such as icy roadways and low visibility become more of a safety concern for bicyclists. According to Aaron Goldberg, the bicycle coordinator for DOTS, cyclists need to be careful about when they bike during the winter and consider an alternate form of transportation when the weather gets bad to stay safe.
“It’s important to take your bike periodically to the bike shop in Cole Field House,” Goldberg said. “Get it looked at. Make sure you don’t need to replace your tires if they’re getting worn out. Make sure your chain is not rusting up.”
In the winter, bike maintenance cannot be overlooked, as icy conditions and road salt can be hard on bike tires and chains. This becomes a safety issue if something breaks while you’re riding.