Fair promotes safe bicycling in city, campus
Considering the traffic jams and limited parking at the University, it is not surprising those with cars have trouble getting around. But as bicycle racks begin to fill up on campus, it seems that some students have found a solution.
A bicycle fair was held outside the Graduate Student Lounge on College Avenue yesterday, with activities ranging from a bike maintenance workshop to a safety information session.
The Rutgers University Student Assembly’s Bicycling Committee teamed up with Walk Bloustein Bike Bloustein (WB3), Bicycle Graduate Student Association and the Teaching Assistant/Graduate Assistant Steering Committee to organize the fair, which was designed to help riders become more acquainted with bicycles as a mode of transportation, said Dorothy Le, co-chair of WB3.
“This was an attempt to provide education on bicycling for people who didn’t even know about bicycling on campus,” Le said. “It’s a good thing to do.”
The city of New Brunswick passed an ordinance banning bicycles from the
sidewalks earlier this year to avoid accidents. The fine is $25 for the first offense, $50 for the second offense and $100 for the third offense, according to the ordinance.
The new legislation has made some riders unhappy. George Ghanim, president of the University Cycling Team, said the ordinance could pose a safety problem for some of the riders.
“I have heard from other people that it does affect them,” said Ghanim, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. “They’re uncomfortable navigating around cars, which can be very dangerous. They used the sidewalk as an alternative, but they don’t have that now.”
But Sam Berman, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, believes many students are turned off to the idea of biking.
“There are probably a lot of people who think of biking and think of when they were kids and they used to bike around on the sidewalk,” Berman said. “Unless you think of biking as a commuting activity first and foremost, you might be less inclined to do it.”
Sonia Szczesna, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said more students should recognize the benefits of bicycles, especially considering the other modes of transportation on campus.
“Rutgers is cursed with the bus system and the parking system. Campuses are sprawled out between three municipalities,” she said. “Everyone is always complaining about transportation, when all they need to do is get a bike and learn to get themselves from one campus to the other.”
Berman said the fair was taking action into its own hands instead of pushing DOTS to make changes.
“Instead of saying ‘let’s improve the busing system,’ we’re looking for an alternative to get around the problem,” said Berman, a RUSA member. “If more students would bike, the buses would get less crowded. It would be a better deal all around.”
Le said the idea for the fair began after various pro-bicycle efforts emerged across campus in the fall.
“We had a lot of different issues, but also a lot of similar issues,” Le said. “This is a really great way to a continued collaboration. We can have a bigger group in order to demand more positive changes to improve bicycling around campus.”
Richard McGilvery, a Rutgers University Police Department officer, said riders should learn how to use their bicycles properly to avoid dangerous situations.
“We’ve had bike accidents in the past, and unfortunately they’ll probably continue, but we want to reduce the number as much as possible,” he said. “That’s why we do programs like this — for the educational aspect.”
Although the sidewalk bicycle ban has benefited the community in some ways, Le said cyclists should be given more consideration on the road.
“Sometimes there aren’t bicycle lanes or paths that people feel safe on,” Le said. “We would like the city to couple that kind of law with more infrastructure on the road so that cyclists can feel safe.”
The fair was also used as an advertising venue for various bicycling organizations on campus.
Erin Kelly, head of the TA/GA Steering Committee, said she hoped to attract participants for a bicycle race on Saturday to protest the merger between Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University.
“Everybody has really mobilized to vocalize their opposition to this proposal in South Jersey,” said Kelly, a teaching assistant in the Department of English. “But at this point, we feel like there’s less awareness of the impact on the rest of this state. That’s why people from Camden are coming up for the day.”