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Thompson: Commuter etiquette is lacking on campus

Having grown up in Fort Collins, bike etiquette is second nature to me and I hate dealing with people who don’t follow the rules. Whether it is the biker himself or the surrounding cars and pedestrians that cause issues, it seems as though coexistence on the roads and sidewalks is becoming more difficult on the north end of town. On campus in particular, bike etiquette is lacking and students should pay more attention to their surroundings when commuting to and from school.

First of all, bikes are considered vehicles just as much as cars in the state of Colorado, and therefore bikers are required to abide by the same traffic rules on the road. This includes stopping at stop signs, obeying the right of way, staying in the bike lane, using hand signals and turning on both front and back lights at night.

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I cannot count the number of times I have almost collided with a biker who thinks these rules don’t apply to them, which happens to be most common in the neighborhoods by Campus West, on South dr. near the dorms, and in the parking lots of Moby Arena and the Morgan Library. While I understand that being hit by a car in these areas is much less of a threat than on Shields, Elizabeth or Laurel, this is not an excuse to ride carelessly or without regard for other bikers, cars and pedestrians. In Colorado, and particularly in Fort Collins, we share the road.

Although they are a main contributor, bikers are not always at fault when it comes to poor commuter etiquette on the roads and sidewalks near campus. In fact, pedestrians can sometimes be even more oblivious and entitled.

For example, one of my biggest pet peeves is having to dodge between pedestrians walking in my half of the bike lane and the oncoming bikers in front of an already-crowded dismount zone by the Morgan Library. This is extremely frustrating because the pedestrians, who are usually looking down at their phones and sometimes even walk two or three-across, seem completely apathetic to the fact that there is a sidewalk designated for foot traffic right next to them. By choosing to ignore this, students who walk in the bike lanes cause unneeded frustration and danger when bikers have to weave into the other lane to avoid hitting them.

What’s worse, it is not unusual for pedestrians to cross the bike lanes without looking up from their phones to make sure it’s clear. Given that it’s common sense to look both ways before crossing a road, I can’t help but wonder what it is about bike lanes that makes pedestrians think they have any less chance of being hit. Seems like optimism bias if you ask me, seeing as bikers don’t have any better reaction time than drivers do if both are going the same speed.

As always, drivers can be better about following traffic laws and sharing the road with bikers. Lately, however, I haven’t noticed as much foul play on their part as there has been among bikers and pedestrians on campus—especially when it comes to bike lanes, dismount zones and parking lots. In a rapidly growing college town like Fort Collins that also happens to be one of the most bike-friendly places in the nation, bike etiquette has never been more important. So please, stop at stop signs, use your hand signals, and don’t try to bike on College between Laurel and Harmony; it is illegal and you will probably die.

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