Pedestrian, cyclist collisions increase during first two weeks of school

Zainab Calcuttawala

Collisions between pedestrians and cyclists increased during the past two weeks because students have been inattentive to their surroundings while walking and biking, according to UTPD.

Four-way intersections on campus are prone to collisions because of the amount and variety of traffic that passes through them, UTPD officer William Pieper said.

“We have seen a lot of collisions and near-collisions at intersections — particularly the busy ones, at 21st and Speedway and 24th and Speedway,” Pieper said. “Those are two areas on campus where we see a lot of traffic come together — cars, buses, pedestrians and cyclists. Whenever you have that much variety of traffic in one area, there is a greater chance for there to be collisions.”

The number of collisions usually increases at the beginning of the academic year as freshmen and returning students get acclimated to living in Austin, according to Pieper.

Pieper said upticks in accidents or collisions usually occur because pedestrians and cyclists are preoccupied and fail to yield the right of way.

“Distracted driving, distracted walking, distracted biking — [they are] a huge problem,” Pieper said.

Scott Zettler, a cyclist and student in the Health IT and Informatics program, said inattentive pedestrians crossing the road without respecting walking signals can be a serious danger to bicyclists.

“If someone steps out in the last moment, and I have 10 or 20 feet, I can either slam on my brakes, or I can swoop left because I don’t want to hit the pedestrian,” Zettler said. “It could be dangerous, especially if there is a car coming up behind me, and they don’t see me anticipating the pedestrian. My hands would be on my handlebars, so I couldn’t even signal to them, which has the potential to start a chain reaction.”

Cellphone use while walking causes pedestrians to remain unaware of nearing bicycles and cars, according to Zettler.

“When you’re on campus, it’s frustrating to see people with their earbuds in and texting while walking across the street without looking both ways,” Zettler said. “That being said, you can talk on thesidewalk just fine, but when you cross the street, make sure the road is clear.”

Pedestrians disregard the danger of bicycle collisions because they think bicycles do not cause as much physical harm as cars do, UT alumnus Kane Wei said.

“If you replaced the bike with the car, then people would definitely look both ways,” Wei said. “It’s a two-way mutual respect thing.”