Collaboration Improving Bicycle Safety on Campus
Thanks to a growing relationship among the Georgia Tech Police Department, Georgia Tech Parking and Transportation Services, and the Bicycle Infrastructure Improvement Committee, bicycling is becoming a safer and more efficient way to travel on campus.
Since spring semester, a number of important infrastructure projects have either been completed or have experienced significant progress.
“There are really positive changes going on for campus cycling,” said Michael Tennenbaum, a Georgia Tech graduate student in physics, president of Starter Bikes and co-chair of the Bicycle Improvement Infrastructure Committee (BIIC). “There have been a lot of infrastructure improvements, and more are coming.”
The Ferst Drive improvements include the restriping of bike lanes, bike boxes and “sharrows.” The new lanes have been painted green in areas to add visual emphasis so that people on bicycles will recognize the lane is there. The painted lanes also increase motorists’ awareness of people biking and discourage illegal parking in the bike lane.
Intersections have been improved with the addition of chevrons and green sections to prevent conflicts with turning motorists. Intersections have been improved with the addition of chevrons and green bike boxes to provide a safer way for cyclists to turn left by increasing the visibility of cyclists and giving them the priority to turn left.
The “sharrows” – or “shared lane arrows” – are on-street markings that indicate a shared lane between bicycles and motorized vehicles. They alert motorists that bikes may be present. While the green bike lane, boxes and sharrows are the most visible changes, they aren’t the only enhancements coming to campus.
“The fundamental of traffic safety is predictability,” said Caroline Appleton, BIIC co-chair. “We don’t want to take over the road; we want to share the road safely.”
Appleton pointed out the improvements are influenced by NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials) standards and are part of the campus Bicycle Master Plan, which was finalized last spring. The NACTO standards are guidelines for roadway design that meet or exceed the federally required standards.
A major component of the master plan is the addition of bike racks. Lisa Safstrom, campus transportation planner, said new racks are added at buildings when construction projects are undertaken. One such example is the new bike racks outside of the Edge Athletic Building. They were added this summer after the sidewalks adjacent to the stadium were rebuilt along Techwood Drive.
New or improved bicycle maintenance stations are also available. The stations consist of tools attached to a stand and a pump. The repair stations are located at the Campus Recreation Center (pump is inside at front desk) and GTPD. Parking and Transportation Services has an outdoor pump, and the Graduate Living Center has a fix-it station and pump in its bike room. Another stand with tools only is located adjacent to Skiles Walkway.
Short-term bike sharing will soon be implemented across campus. Currently, Relay Bikes offers bikes – mostly downtown – for a nominal fee, although they can also be picked up and returned to racks in Tech Square. Relay will soon have additional locations on campus. Longer term rentals are available to students through Parking and Transportation’s BuzzBike program, which rents for the semester for $50 ($35 in summer) with a $50 deposit.
“We want to make biking safer, easier and better for the Tech community,” Safstrom said. “We’re making real progress by working with the city to implement their bike share program on campus and improve bike access to campus through new and improved infrastructure, and working with campus departments to implement our bike master plan.”
A key to continuing that progress is a strong partnership among the Bicycle Infrastructure Improvement Committee (BIIC), Georgia Tech’s Parking and Transportation Services Department and the Georgia Tech Police Department (GTPD).
This fall, BIIC and GTPD are spreading the word to new and returning students on how to be safe with and on their bikes.
In his highly visible chartreuse and black GTPD uniform, Sgt. Gary Cook is one of the most well-known officers on campus. He works with students to help them understand the rules of the road, and is currently focused on education before engaging in aggressive enforcement.
“Bicycle safety works both ways,” Cook said. “The drivers need to be watching out for people on bikes and vice versa. We do a lot of stops on bikes. Some of the stuff we see is amazing. People on bikes running traffic lights and stop signs – that’s against the law. A bicycle is a vehicle, and the law applies to them, too.”
Cook offered the following safety tips to prevent accidents or losing a bike to theft (watch the GTPD Public Service video):
- Register your bike with GTPD.
- Always use the bike racks. Do not lock your bike to a hand rail, sign, tree or any structure that could obstruct an entrance to a building.
- Always lock your bike when placing it on a rack.
- Always use a U-lock to secure your bike rather than a cable lock.
- Lock your bike through the front wheel and the frame.
- Equip your bike with reflectors, reflective tape and front and rear lights, and wear reflective clothing. Be particularly aware of your visibility as daylight savings time ends on Nov. 6 and it gets darker earlier.
- Only ride on sidewalks or paths wider than 5 feet. Otherwise, you must ride in the street as a vehicle.
- Remember that a bicycle is a vehicle and subject to the same traffic laws as other vehicles.
- Wear a helmet that fits and is secure to your head.
With every parking pass, Parking and Transportation Services distributes a flyer with suggestions for drivers and cyclists to co-exist safely in the campus environment. And Cook hands out copies of the “Bicycle Pocket Guide” to help cyclists know the rules of the road.
“There are definitely more bikes on campus now, but Georgia Tech has always been a bike-friendly campus,” Cook said. “We’re also seeing more faculty and staff using bikes to get around campus and even to commute to campus.”
An email listserv is available for those who commute via bicycle. Safstrom encouraged students and employees who ride bikes to participate in the Atlanta Bike Challenge and log their rides. The challenge ends October 23, so any rides until then are eligible. Last year, Georgia Tech won the large employer category of the city-wide competition, but a tighter race is shaping up for this year.
This semester in particular, cyclists should be aware of the ongoing bike counting initiatives. As Parking and Transportation Services installs its bike counter at specific locations around campus, it’s important that cyclists ride over the tubes in the roadway and not try avoid them. The more accurate the counts, the better the environment can be for safe biking on campus. Accurate counts are necessary to evaluate success of infrastructure improvements and to determine where better infrastructure may be needed.
And the project on Tech Parkway will add more bike lanes along that corridor that will connect with the bike hub in Centennial Olympic Park.
Providing new and better ways to get to campus is expected to increase cycling on campus. “If we get more people on bikes,” Tennenbaum said, “it’s safer for everyone.”
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- Created By:Lance Wallace
- Modified By:Lance Wallace