Police Enforce Bike Laws; Infrastructure needs repair

Local police recently began stepping up enforcement of discipline for bicyclists committing offenses from riding the wrong way to not being on the proper path. But the University’s Facilities and Services Department isn’t shy about the fact that conditions of the bicycle paths and lanes are poor and in need of repair.

Morgan Johnston, coordinator of Transportation Demand Management at Facilities and Services, said despite a $1.5 million grant given to the department to repave the paths, construction is not scheduled to begin until this summer.

Johnston said she is aware the infrastructure for cyclists is in “dire straights” and said the University plans to use the money to implement changes to the bike paths, specifically on Sixth Street between Gregory Drive and Armory Avenue, Fourth Street to Kirby Avenue and resurfacing pavement between First Street and Peabody Drive.

Capt. Skip Frost of the University Police Department said there were places where the infrastructure could be improved, but that infrastructure did not affect whether people abide by the law. He said the stricter enforcement, which began mid-September, was not due to requests from the University but resulted from several complaints from community members.

“Just because we’re a bicycle-friendly campus doesn’t mean we don’t expect everyone to obey and abide by the law,” Frost said.

Frost said the police department made efforts to educate bike riders about the laws at the beginning of the semester, but even after doing so, the behavior of bicyclists was “extremely problematic and dangerous.” Frost said he has seen a big increase in the number of cyclists over the last two to three years. He said police decided in late September to more strictly enforce bike laws.

Since then, the Champaign, Urbana and University police departments have together issued fewer than 75 tickets but given several hundred warnings to bikers.

Eric Green, graduate student, expressed frustration with the condition of the bike paths and lanes.

“If you go around campus and look at the bicycle paths, they’re either full of potholes or you can’t even see where the bicycles are supposed to be riding,” Green said.

Green pointed out one example at the intersection of Wright Street and Armory Avenue where the bike path crosses through a bus stop. This forces bikers to unlawfully ride on the one-way street against traffic.

“The bike path is in such bad condition that it’s more dangerous than just riding in the road,” he said.

Despite the state of the infrastructure, Johnston said as the number of cyclists have increased, so has the amount of people breaking the laws.

“Bicyclists need to use the same Illinois vehicle code that drivers need to use,” Johnston said. “If you’re riding a bicycle, the safest place for you to be is in the street. It is not safer to be on the sidewalk.”

Kenneth Sutto, shop owner of the Campus Bike Project, said he understood the frustration cyclists had with the infrastructure, and a good solution was to suggest change through the new iCAP portal provided online by the Office of Student Sustainability.

“I highly encourage all students who care on this matter to contact the administrators and Facilities and Services,” Sutto said. “I think the kids often forget that they’re paying a lot of money to this college for a variety of experiences, and they should feel free to voice their opinions on what should be done.”

Claire can be reached at everett5@dailyillini.com.