Following the deaths of two local cyclists last year, CSU and Fort Collins community members gathered for a bicycle safety summit at the CSU Center for Public Deliberation Thursday night to discuss the improvement of city-wide bike safety.
After CSU advisor Rebecca Allen was struck and killed by a drunk driver in July 2008 and 9-year-old Erica Forney was killed in a car-related accident in November 2008, summit attendees expressed a need to increase driver and bicyclist education.
“We’re here to understand and create a culture of safety,” said David “DK” Kemp, the City of Fort Collins Bicycle coordinator, adding that mutual awareness between cyclists and motorists is important to that culture.
CSU Police Department staff represented CSU at the summit but few students were in attendance, a fact that came as a disappointment to Rick Price, owner of Experience Plus, which runs national and international bicycle and walking tours.
“College students are the single biggest group that needs to be educated,” Price said.
Kemp said CSU students are more likely to obey bike laws while on campus because of the strong presence of bicycle enforcement officers but disregard biking laws within the city.
“They obey traffic laws on campus, but once they’re off-campus, they start to disobey,” Kemp said. “We just want them to ride respectively in the rest of the city.”
Joe Dauner, a senior chemical engineering major, wasn’t surprised that students didn’t gather in numbers at the summit. He said he thinks most student cyclists only bike to avoid the hassle of driving a car to campus.
“I think it stems from the fact that there are all kinds of riders, and most students are just riding to commute,” he said.
Dauner, who lives in Wellington, about 14 miles outside of Fort Collins, said he makes the one-hour ride on bike from Wellington to CSU about once a week.
The Bicycle Safety Summit, which drew around 75 concerned community members, was hosted by CSU’s Center for Public Deliberation, a non-partisan public service that facilitates community discussions on specific local issues.
Martin Carcasson, CPD’s director, said that bike safety is a good example of a community problem that can’t be fully addressed through laws and education.
Carcasson said CPD’s role is to take the notes from the discussions and prepare a report for city officials, who then decide if there is a further need for evaluation or policy changes.
“We’re all in support of safety. In that sense, we’re all on the same side,” Carcasson said. “We’ll think through all the ways to improve bike safety, create a report for the city and post it on-line for the community.”
CSU student mediators, trained by the CPD, helped participants make lists of safety concerns together in small groups and then decide which were most important to bring to the large group discussion.
Participants thought that cyclists and motorists both have a responsibility to continually educate themselves on the laws of the road and agreed that bicyclists need to take precautions by wearing helmets and using bike lights.
Dauner said he thinks Fort Collins is a safe place to ride.
“Generally people are looking out for bikers,” he said. “I’ve seen less aggressive tendencies from drivers here.”
According to the CSUPD records department in 2008 there were 14 accidents between a bike and car, seven of which resulted in injury to the biker.
Bicycle Enforcement & Education Program / Traffic Enforcement & Education Program manager Joy Childress said that on campus, the two most common bicycle violations overall include running stop signs and riding dismount zones.
“Bikers just think they’re pedestrians. In the state of Colorado, bikes are treated the same as cars,” Childress said, adding, “If you ride your bike like you drive your car, you’re golden.”
Erin Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.