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Ohio State’s Oval to be a ‘Walk Zone’ starting next month

Ally Marotti / Editor-in-chief

Bicyclists and skateboarders will be required to dismount before crossing the Oval and the South Oval when the areas are designated walk zones starting April 17, in a new policy that some students say misses the point.
Ohio State Police will enforce the new “Walk Zone” policy in Fall 2013 and, for those who do not comply, citations will be written at the officer’s discretion, according to a document from the Office of Administration and Planning. Officers will consider multiple factors, including, location, time-of-day, past violations and danger presented by the violation, according to OSU’s “Walk Zone Guide.” Fines for university violations begin at $20, and fines for state and municipal violations begin at $129.
Alex Smith, president of Bike OSU and a graduate student in city and regional planning, said he is unsure of just how effective the new policy will be.
“I don’t think it’s really going to do much,” he said. “And I don’t really understand what the purpose of it is.”
While Smith said he rarely rides his bike through the Oval and therefore likely won’t be impacted, other cyclists might respond differently.
“It may cause less students to ride their bikes because they don’t want to be ticketed for a violation,” he said.
Nick Palmiotto, a first-year in finance and economics, said although he doesn’t ride a bike on campus, he feels OSU should focus more on the safety of the cyclists.
“I saw a kid riding his bike and he hit a bump on the Oval, completely flipped over the handlebars and collapsed,” Palmiotto said. “So I think the sidewalk condition would be the biggest issue here, which means it’s a liability for the university, not necessarily if the students should be able to ride their bikes or not. And they should, given people are respectful when they are looking out for other people walking and such.”
Since enforcement will not begin until the fall, the April 17 date is intended to launch an educational period for people to learn more about the “Walk Zone,” said Lindsay Komlanc, spokeswoman for OSU Administration and Planning, in an email.
“We understand that this is a significant change that will take a lot of education throughout the university community,” Komlanc said. “We wanted to wait until a point in time in the semester when the weather would be nice enough that we would likely see a lot of traffic throughout the Oval, but would still have enough time left in the semester to engage in educational efforts that the university community would have time to adjust their behavior throughout the spring.”
The “Walk Zone” was a recommendation from the Traffic Safety Task Force, Komlanc said, which was created last fall and co-chaired by senior vice president of Administration and Planning Jay Kasey and vice president of Student Life Javaune Adams-Gaston. One of the task force’s main goals was to define how the university expects all modes of transportation to interact with one another.
“When looking at how to start a major cultural change in how pedestrians, motor vehicles and bicyclists interact on campus, the Traffic Safety Task Force felt that the Oval was a good place to start in that almost all members of our community use it to cross campus and that it would be a high-profile way to start to educate the university community on which modes of transportation are safe and suitable for specific areas of campus,” Komlanc said.
Some students such as Laura Burmeister, a third-year in political science and English, voiced approval of the “Walk Zone.”
“I like that idea,” she said. “I just wish they’d enforce riding on the streets instead of the sidewalks.”
John Troisi, a first-year in chemical engineering, also said he is not opposed to the new policy, adding he doesn’t believe it will be a major concern for those traveling on foot.
“I personally haven’t had any encounter with being hit by a bike, but I feel like it’s a big inconvenience to bike riders, not that big of a nuisance for people who walk,” Troisi said.
The Columbus Division of Police began enforcing jaywalking rules and issued citations for law-breaking after a series of accidents in the campus and off-campus area last fall. The Traffic Safety report noted jaywalking as a concern on campus, particularly on 17th Avenue, that could be improved by enforcing rules with and without citations by University Police.
Representatives from University Police were seen reprimanding people crossing the road outside of crosswalks Wednesday near Woodruff and College avenues.
While some people have doubted the effectiveness of the safety task force, OSU President E. Gordon Gee is not one of them.
“I do think the task force has been helpful, and they’re going to be out in full force soon,” he said in a Monday interview with The Lantern.
Gee has attributed to safety issues on campus to the $2 billion worth of construction going on and the differing rhythm of semesters.
“You would think we had twice as many students on this campus now than we did on quarters,” he said, noting it seems like students are spending more time on campus than in previous years.
“As soon as the weather turns, we’re going to have a big safety event across the whole campus,” he said.

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