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Restrict bike access on campus

Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, October 28, 2003

While bringing my new office lamp to campus from the direction of Main Circle, I was confronted by a thick mass of students making its way from DeBartalo Hall to South Quad. I maneuvered safely between them and arrived on the short strip of sidewalk just in front of the Law School. Away from the congestion, I was then free to walk in the middle of the street.Suddenly, I was struck from behind. My foot rose in the air and my shoe flew away. My body was thrust forward at an angle and I became air borne, going in the opposite direction of my shoe. The lamp went flying, too. I landed on the grass about five feet from where I had been struck by a student on a bike. To have been struck with such force and propelled in the same direction as the rider, the student must have been going very fast. Obviously the rider wanted to get around the mass of students. In doing so, he or she veered to the right of the group going onto the grass, then cris-crossed over the sidewalk where I was walking, and hit me from behind.No one helped me up, but I did hear someone ask, “Are you hurt?” In a daze I answered, “Where is my shoe? I cannot see it.” It was retrieved. By whom, I do not know. The person who hit me stood there looking scared. I do not recall them saying anything, but their friend glibly commented after I stood up, “Do not worry about it. You’ve just been ‘Schwinned!'” Then they rode off.Although I sustained a 3″ x 4″ bruise on my thigh, a scraped ankle and a bruised elbow, it was the latter comment that shocked me most of all. Such a flippant remark, especially since I am not in my 20s, 30s or 40s. In fact, I am closer to 60 than to 50. What if an elderly priest, professor or an infirm employee had been struck? What if I had landed face down on the cement instead of the grass with my glasses shattering on impact? What if I had hit my head? I wonder now, is it safe to walk on campus with so many bikers?This new term, “to be Schwinned,” is unsettling. It indicates that run-ins are quite common and numerous enough to merit the status of a popular saying. It is time for the University to look at the situation and establish bike riding policies to prevent more “Schwinnings.”Since my childhood, Notre Dame was declared a walking campus where cars and vehicles were restricted. For years students walked to and from their classes. Bikes were only permitted for off campus transportation. It has just been in the last few years that bikes have been used on campus and their numbers are increasing dramatically. In fact, there seems to be twice as many bikes this year than last.Bicycles are vehicles. Does their abundance mean that Notre Dame is no longer a pedestrian campus? Are bikes the only privately owned vehicles allowed to be ridden on campus? If so, are there bike regulations? If not, there should be. Bike regulations need to be established, publicized and enforced. In determining these regulations specific questions need to be answered. Do pedestrians have the right of way? What should be the speed limit(s)? Are bikes to be licensed, like cars? Are bike accidents to be treated like car accidents? What protocol should be in place for the parties involved in a bicycle collision? Are they to wait for security? Do they make a report?If bikes are a necessary evil to get from class to class on time, then the campus is no longer a walking campus as originally determined. With that change, new campus policies need to be made including regulations for bike use and pedestrian protection. In addition, to avoid the type of accident I recently experienced, I recommend that bike paths be laid throughout the campus and that they be separate from the sidewalks.After all is said and done, I am still saddened by the callousness and lack of respect and consideration shown to others when running into people is of no consequence. Such an attitude can only come as a result of numerous occurrences.

Susan Hamiltonstaff, Notre Dame Law LibraryOct. 28