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OSU must shift gears to live up to ‘bike-friendly’ title

For my birthday this past summer, I got a road bike. I became a tad cycling-obsessed over the summer and have used my new set of wheels to commute to campus this Autumn Quarter. I saw recently that Ohio State is recognized as a bike-friendly university by the League of American Bicyclists, an organization which promotes bicycling for fun, fitness and transportation. Only 26 universities in the U.S. received the honor. I was elated that OSU made the cut.

Then I rode my bike to campus the next day and thought twice about how bike- friendly OSU’s campus really is.

OSU has bike racks to lock your bike by almost all the buildings on campus. Biking to campus is better than driving- it’s quick, you don’t have to pay for parking, you can get to the building you need, and you can ride through the Oval. Considering those aspects, OSU is incredibly bike-friendly.

But anyone who has actually ridden their bike through campus has probably noticed that it may not be so friendly. OSU’s campus is full of skinny sidewalks, narrow streets and never-ending construction. Within these slim pathways, there is limited room for cyclists to move quickly from point A to point B.

Legally, cyclists are supposed to ride in the road and follow all traffic rules motor vehicles follow. Realistically, cyclists do not. In the road, cyclists are dodging cars and CABS and COTA buses, all of which could potentially harm you. So cyclists opt for the sidewalks and pathways, thus opting only to dodge pedestrians.

Just as cyclists annoy pedestrians, pedestrians annoy cyclists. Pathways around campus become quickly congested with pedestrians who do not pay attention to anyone around them. I ride my bike for a quick and efficient way to speed past the slow walkers to get to where I need to be. Yet, karma wins and I must balance my slow-moving bike behind the snail-paced walker, trying desperately not to hit the heels in front of me. Forget about passing by the walker. The on-coming pedestrian traffic flooding the already narrow pathways just leaves me stuck.

I will acknowledge that there is the Olentangy Trail and it is great. It is there to commute north and south, and usually has space for both pedestrians and cyclists. But I can’t say it is always practical. I can’t say I will use the Olentangy Trail when I have a class in the Oval or need to go to the Union. There is just no direct access and I will still have to use the crammed trails through campus.

OSU could do better. After visiting the University of Colorado at Boulder this past September, I noticed how there are specific bike-only lanes through and around campus that all students respect. If only OSU could paint lines and post signs that say “bikes only,” I think it could solve a lot of our problems.

But for now, thanks League of American Bicyclists for the recognition. I will continue to ride my bike for fun and transportation, even if that means I must be friendly to the traffic as well.

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