Sep 292004
Authors: Lila Hickey

A bicyclist ran into the side of a pickup truck at the intersection of City Park Avenue and Elizabeth Street Monday morning, said training officer Al Brown of Fort Collins Police Services.

The accident occurred around 8:40 a.m. when the eastbound cyclist, who was riding in the bike lane, collided with the truck, which was turning right. The cyclist was taken to Poudre Valley Hospital with unspecified injuries.

The accident, which occurred less than two weeks after CSU sophomore Alex Hagn was run over and seriously injured by a CSU Facilities Management truck on campus, and only a month after cyclist Charles Young was struck and killed by a car while riding on Meldrum Street, raises the importance of safe bicycling and driving, especially on campus.

According to the CSU Police Department’s Bike Education and Enforcement Program, an estimated15,000 bicycles are ridden on the CSU campus. The combination of bicycles and cars makes for a difficult situation, said Kristin LeLoup, BEEP supervisor. When skateboards, long boards, rollerblades, scooters and pedestrians are added, the mix gets downright dangerous, LeLoup said.

“I’m in support of a non-driving campus, as long as there’s parking for students who live far away (and have to drive to campus),” LeLoup said.

LeLoup said cyclists are frequently cited for disregarding traffic laws. The most common violation, she said, is running a stop sign. CSUPD officers sometimes wait on either side of Meridian Avenue to ticket bicyclists who ignore the stop sign.

“They’re trying to regulate in that area the most, because of the (heavy) traffic,” LeLoup said.

Keith Bikowski, a public safety officer with CSUPD who regularly issues bicycle citations, agreed that running stop signs is one of the most common cyclist violations

“It’s a tie between stop signs and riding in the dismount zone,” Bikowski said.

Although serious accidents may be rare, most seasoned cyclists can recall at least one close call – sometimes worse.

John Parks, a senior Spanish major who has been riding a bike for 10 years, remembers nearly being run over after he hit the side of a pickup truck when the driver turned left across him on a one-way street.

“Luckily he heard the impact and stopped, because his wheel came within inches of running over my leg,” Parks said. “My wheels were both trashed, so I made him drive me to the shop and buy me a new pair right then.”

LeLoup said cyclists and drivers often disregard each others’ respective rights to the road.

“Bikers are not happy with drivers and drivers are not happy with bikers, because they’re all trying to get to the same place at the same time,” she said.

Cyclists may complain that drivers do not treat them as legitimate vehicles, but experienced riders often see faults in their own kind as well.

Ryan Saunders, a sophomore biochemistry major and veteran cyclist, suggested that riders give themselves plenty of time and room to react to cars, and they should get rid of headphones.

“It drives me nuts to see someone flying through town with subwoofers strapped to their head. You don’t need music to enjoy the ride, and it’s nice to be aware that someone is blowing their horn before they hit you,” Saunders said.

Parks advised bike riders to be predictable.

“Accidents with cars often happen because either the driver didn’t see the cyclist, or the cyclist did something which the driver of the vehicle did not expect,” Parks said.

According to the city of Fort Collins Web site, cyclists must remember that they are treated as vehicles by the law and are responsible for all the same traffic rules as cars.

LeLoup said that students interested in learning more about bicycle safety or the rules that apply to cyclists on campus can visit the BEEP office in the CSU Police Station at Green Hall. LeLoup also said attending traffic education classes can sometimes reduce the amount of a traffic ticket.

“Let’s say they got a $23 ticket for some reason. I can cut that in half if someone comes in and watches a little 45-minute video,” LeLoup said.

She also said students should recognize the safety issues that BEEP and its sister program, the Traffic Education and Enforcing Program, address.

“We’re all just fighting for the same thing,” she said.

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