University: no plans to add bike paths

GVL/ Allison Young
A Grand Valley student manuvers though pedestrians on campus.

Allison Young

GVL/ Allison Young A Grand Valley student manuvers though pedestrians on campus.

Chelsea Lane

Grand Valley State University students fight a constant battle against the clock. In order to get to class and meetings on time, many students use bicycles to whiz across campus.

But navigating walkways filled with both pedestrians and bikers sometimes has catastrophic results. Despite this, GVSU has yet to implement any plans to build bike paths on campus and officials say no such plans are in the works.

GVSU added several new traffic and crosswalk signals this school year in response to the rising number of pedestrian and bicyclist-related crashes. So far this year, the GVSU Department of Public Safety has responded to two pedestrian accidents involving a bicyclist, one of which resulted in both the bicyclist and the pedestrian being transported to the hospital.

“As someone who often needs to get across campus in a hurry, I feel that when I try to do this whilst riding my bike I am very close to injuring a fellow student or myself,” said GVSU junior Caitlin Stoltman. “I recently witnessed a girl get seriously injured when she was hit (by) a bicyclist on campus. I am confident in saying this accident and the one involving the biker hit by a car on Pierce Street last year could have been avoided if we had bike paths on and around campus.”

Capt. Brandon DeHaan, assistant director of the Grand Valley Police Department, said the potential safety benefits of adding bike paths would depend on where the paths were placed. However, DeHaan added most on-campus accidents involving bicyclists occur when bicyclists are crossing the road.

“I think our biggest concern with bicyclists is often they don’t stop when crossing a roadway, be it at an intersection or a crosswalk,” he said. “…If a pedestrian, bicyclist or perhaps a skateboarder is on a sidewalk, that’s when they have to come to a complete stop. If they are on a roadway, then they have to abide by the same rules as any other vehicle operator.”

Brad Newman, project manager for the facilities planning department, said currently there are no designated paths on the Allendale campus that separate bicyclists from pedestrians and that there are no future plans to construct bike paths on the campus.

“I do not believe that any areas on campus have been selected as potential bike paths and there are no current plans to construct bike paths,” Newman said. “Since there are no designated bike paths, GVSU will continue to be simultaneously sensitive to promoting bike use and pedestrian safety.”

DeHaan said the issue of pedestrian safety was brought up to him in an e-mail from a concerned Student Senate representative and he hopes GVPD can help Student Senate spread awareness about traffic regulations and safety.

According to the Uniform Traffic Code, chapter 7 section 28.1702, “When traffic-control signals are not in place or are not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is on the half of the roadway of which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be a danger.”

Bicyclists must also observe all traffic signals and signs and on the GVSU campuses, they are required to follow the direction of campus crossing guards. If a crossing guard or traffic signal is not present, DeHaan offered simple but time-honored advice.

“Look both ways before you cross the street,” he said. “It’s pretty elementary stuff.”

But some students, like Stoltman, still hope GVSU will re-consider adding bike paths to the campus.

“If bike paths are clearly marked on campus then walkers are more likely to be left alone,” she said. “I hate having to bike on the grass in order to avoid smashing into someone especially because our campus is so beautiful.”

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