July 28, 2014
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Walkers, runners, bikers: Share the path! Campus life

In typical Rochester fashion, “summer” struck unexpectedly a couple weeks ago. (I missed it, but where I was at the time—Philadelphia, for the Eastern Communication Association conference—it was even hotter.)

Just as quickly, however, the warm days were replaced by more “seasonal” weather. Even so, RIT walkers, joggers and bicyclists have emerged from winter hibernation and begun circling the campus. And that’s why I want to return to a topic from a blog post of mine of a few months ago.

Last summer, writing about the completion of RIT’s new “multi-use” trail—along the inner side of Andrews Drive from Wiltsie Drive to Gleason Circle (a project championed by Student Government)—I predicted that the trail would save a few lives.

But for those lives to be saved, the multi-use trail needs to be used. (Yes, this means you, bikers.)

Understandably, each fall brings a new crop of students, faculty and staff who might be unfamiliar of RIT’s norms (as evidenced by the number of bicyclists straddling the shoulder this spring). So, for the benefit of those who don’t know, the trail was designed for and intended to accommodate recreational walkers, runners and bikers (see News & Events article, “New stretch of path for pedestrians, bikers,” June 19, 2008).

I can almost hear the response from a few bicyclists—some of whom might not want to be slowed down by pedestrians or place walkers at potential risk. Plus, truth be told, it’s not against the rules for bikers to use the road or shoulder. Common sense suggests, however, that you’re safer on the trail (just remember to be aware of and courteous to pedestrians).

“Courtesy wins the day and bicyclists should warn walkers whenever possible as they approach, saying ‘on the left,’” suggests Chris Denninger, RIT Public Safety director. Denninger adds that bicyclists are encouraged to utilize the multi-purpose trail, particularly on certain areas of campus, and he urges them to follow the National Safety Council’s “Safe Bicycling” guidelines.

For the record, my admonition about using the trail (and keeping out of harm’s way by staying off roadways) comes from the perspective of an occasional campus bicyclist. I’m one of you—and I use the “multi-use” trail.

Have a great weekend!

 
  1. Pete Bella
    May 08

    I too am an avid cyclist. Following the “rules of the road” is important to me. To be honest I can become slightly annoyed when I see other cyclists not following them. There is such a small percentage; although growing, number of cyclists that follow the law that it makes it difficult for others to be aware the laws. Many times while on the road cycling I too find myself breaking the rules. Only because I know that I will be in danger of serious injury or even fatality if I don’t.

    So what happens when only a small percentage of cyclists follow the rules?

    Well, it becomes extremely difficult for people driving other vehicles on the roads to understand the rights on the roadway for both cyclists and motorists. This can lead to disrespect to cyclists from a lack of knowledge, which can then lead to a whole other set of issues on the road. To address this—while using the roadways with whatever means of transportation— be observant, attentive, and courteous.

    So, back to the multi-use trail on campus.

    I too ride my bicycle on the multi-use trail and the roadways here on campus. But before we go much farther I wanted to be clear on one item. From my research a perceived notion about a multi-use trail is that it functions as a recreational amenity. Furthermore to keep it simple for our discussion, the basic range of cyclists are recreational, to the commuter, and the more advanced roadie. Now, keeping this in mind, the speed at which I am traveling determines where I choose ride. Being a commuter cyclist higher speeds are not uncommon and at speeds between 15-25 mph I will definitely be riding on the road. Many “roadie” cyclists also travel at these speeds and with advanced roadies speeds can be at even higher. Alternately while cruising at a speed between 5-15 mph I will bike the multi-use trail for a more relaxed, or dare I say “recreational” ride. So we can’t expect all cyclists to just ride the multi-use trail just because it was built for that purpose. High speeds and pedestrians usually have a bad outcome when brought together. However, I do have a few suggestions that can make the trail a better experience and a more attractive option to cyclists, joggers, and walkers alike.

    Way-Finding Signage.
    A combined way-finding system for all users would create signage explaining to those using the multi-use trail with information on usage as well as trail etiquette. Such signs as how far to a particular location or which side is designated for a pedestrian or cyclist are just a few suggestions.

    Create Campus Awareness
    Why not create a campaign to create some hype about the many multi-use trails on campus. We have a remarkable amount of multi-use trails across campus and even wonderful nature trails in the wooded area around the outer loop. These are great resources for recreational use as well as getting from the east side of campus to the west.

    Connectivity
    It seems that the trails don’t have much connectivity as a completed unit. I like to walk during lunch and have found that many times it is difficult finding ways to get from one trail to another. An area in particular is the Red Barn area. There is no possible way to arrive at the Red Barn without walking on the shoulder of the road. Many of the multi-use trails all end when pedestrian and bicycle traffic gets lighter. Possibly, if the multi-use trails continued and had a complete loop and cross-destinations their usage would increase due to a complete thought of transportation. So many times I’ve heard people say, “It’d be so much easier to just drive there.” And that quote refers to many locations on campus.

    And Finally – Multi-Use
    Define multi-use for me again. Does this mean it’s for motorized vehicles also? Despite a posted sign that motorized vehicles are prohibited there is still plenty of use by commercial sized lawn tractors, motorized golf carts, facilities trucks, and even some very large tractors now and then. These vehicles are (supposedly) marked with appropriate indicators by law to travel on the roadways. WHY, or even HOW, can I enjoy a recreational and/or multi-use trail when I have to keep moving off it to allow room for these motorized vehicles to pass or having walk around them? I have seen too many people on campus giving these vehicles the right of way on a section of multi-use trail. And please if a vehicle is needed for maintenance reasons, don’t park it in the middle of the trail. Us the same etiquette as everyone else should and be sure the trail is useable and accessible.

    Well, that’s only my perspective on the trails being a cyclists and a walker of the many routes on campus. Thanks for letting me rant a little too. I enjoy the trails to their fullest and I would love to see more people out there. IMAGINE a campus community mingling and communicating with one another outside the cubicles and rooms … in nature, with the sun shinning, and talking about their weekend at the In-Laws. Oh what a peaceful place this would be.

    See you on the trail.

  2. Christine
    May 11

    The RIT campus is eminently "bikeable," even more so now that we have the multi-use paths circling campus. To really be both bike and pedestrian friendly, though, we need to extend our campus culture of respect to the pathways. I come from a city where bicyclists nearly outnumber drivers and pedestrians (I exaggerate only slightly), and everyone there knew the rules of the roads/pathways. In Rochester and on the RIT campus, I rarely hear bicyclists give an "on your left" warning as they approach a pedestrian from behind, and I'm regularly disappointed to see bicyclists zipping through heavy pedestrian traffic on the Quarter Mile and the quads. I sincerely hope the current lack of courtesy—not giving fair warning, not riding in a predictable way, not adhering to the official rules of the road—will give way soon to a positive culture shift leading to better behavior by all members of the community whether on foot, or on blades, boards, or bikes.

    Happy biking!

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