Students’ safety concerns rewarded with bike lanes

By Jordan Hearne
Staff Writer

Students who asked for better traveling conditions on campus were rewarded with new bike lanes at Fourth, Fifth and Seventh Streets and Dutton Avenue this summer.

Smith Getterman, Baylor’s sustainability coordinator, said students “overwhelmingly” sought the bike lanes, which would increase drivers’ awareness of possible approaching bicyclists.

The new bike lanes are expected to increase the safety of students traveling across, to and from campus. Transportation Alternatives, a New York organization that advocates biking, walking and public transportation, reported in November 2010 that the use of bike lanes throughout New York caused a drop in injuries to pedestrians and bicyclists. Accidents involving bikers decreased by more than 50 percent, and injuries to pedestrians went down by up to 60 percent.

Safety is not the only benefit of on-campus bike lanes. Getterman said from a sustainability standpoint, adding bike lanes has been a “passion project” to him because the lanes encourage bicycle use, which benefits the environment by reducing the carbon emissions from cars.

Matt Penney, director of parking and transportation services, said student focus groups, organized with the help of student government, gave insight to the on-campus safety problem from a student perspective.

“While most Baylor departments were focusing on Baylor property, probably because that is where our responsibility and authority reside, students showed an interest in bike paths on city streets leading into campus,” Penney said.

Penney said the conversation about adding bike lanes to campus came from the planning of multiple Baylor organizations.

“Parking and transportation services, Baylor Police Department, sustainability, design and construction and student government were all involved at some level of the planning,” Penney said.

Last spring, other areas of Waco installed bike lanes into busy streets.

The conversation concerning bike lanes began a few years ago, according to the Advisory Board of the City of Waco’s Public Improvement District No. 1 service delivery plan for 2011-2012. The project to put in new bike lanes on Fourth Street and Fifth Street was completed last June. Penney said Baylor officials felt the need to continue bike lane efforts on campus.

So far, student response to the new bike lanes has been positive.

“People like them, and some students even feel safer walking and running in the bike lanes,” Getterman said. “Students coming to campus during night hours are feeling safer.”

In the future, it is possible more lanes will be added.

“Research is already being made to better understand bicycle use on campus,” Penney said. “Specifically, the question is being asked, how can the university better organize the use of bicycles to make it easier and safer for our students?”