Safety forums, University event raise awareness for Bike Month


Shannon Kintner

A cyclist zooms past a stop sign while riding his bike through campus. The University held a forum Tuesday afternoon to discuss how to maken the campus a safer place for cyclists, including ideas for a bike-share program and an outreach program.

Austin drivers could see some relief from usually hectic traffic throughout May as citizens participate in National Bike Month.

To kick off the month, UT Parking and Transportations Services is hosting Bike to UT Day today, where breakfast will be available at five guard kiosks to encourage participants.

To ensure a smooth month, the Center for Sustainable Development held a forum about bicycling on campus Tuesday afternoon, where six panelists discussed how education, safety and infrastructure improvements can make bicycling on campus a better experience for everyone.

An audience of 30 spoke about problems bicycle riders face when riding on campus. Alan Bush, a graduate student in community and regional planning, said three separate groups have to work together to make UT’s transportation systems run smoothly: bicyclists, pedestrians and automobile drivers.

“A solution can be found [to ease transit problems],” he said. “If we create a study to find out how much of the problem deals with lack of drivers’ education or a poor infrastructure, then we can focus on those issues and see if new laws should be made for bikers.”

Many of the panelists, including Eileen Schaubert, a Mellow Johnny’s community outreach coordinator, said UT should offer cycling education during freshman orientation to familiarize students with accessible routes and following the road rules on campus.

“The UT administration does not take cycling seriously enough because it is not fixed in the campus’s infrastructure,”
Schaubert said.

Tom Wald, executive director of the League of Bicycling Voters, said the University needs to focus more attention on bicyclists to ensure their safety by increasing cycling education.

“Bicycling is not considered a very accepted, core part of how the administration considers students getting to school,” Wald said. “Between students and the University, millions of dollars could be saved if people rode their bikes instead of driving.”

Some universities around the country, including the University of California, Irvine, started using bike-sharing systems, a program similar to car2go, to decrease automobile transportation City Council member Chris Riley said the city is likely to get a bike-sharing system within the next couple of years, which would take more cars off the streets.

Desiree French, a panelist and Orange Bike Project coordinator, said once the city gets the bike-sharing system, UT might also consider such a system. French said students should write a proposal to the UT Green Fund committee to start a bike-sharing program. The Green Fund allots money to members of the University for environmental and sustainability projects.