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Bicycles or swift and deadly killers?

Kaitlin Spillane | Friday, October 5, 2007

It’s 10:40 on Monday morning. As soon as my painfully long calculus class ends, I race toward the exit of Hayes-Healy Hall, eager to avoid the rush of people. Of course, this is a futile quest, for as soon as I get out I am pushed and jostled every which way by fellow students determinedly heading for his or her own destination. Finally, I make it out to South Quad, where it seems as if the traffic flow is a little clearer. Turning in the direction of the Loftus Fitness Center, I pause to take a sip of coffee when … bam! – a less-than-observant cyclist plows into me.

“Sorry!” the culprit casually yells over his shoulder as he pedals merrily away, leaving me with a bruising leg and much more than a sip of coffee all over the front of my shirt. Suffice it to say, the rest of my morning was spent simmering in anger. And for the rest of the week, I inadvertently began to notice the disturbing amount of near collisions between bikers and innocent pedestrians, bikers and fellow bikers, and bikers and inanimate objects (read: trees and squirrels).

I used to envy students with bikes for the ease at which they could travel around campus. Now, I am starting to fear them.

For all intents and purposes, bicycles are an excellent mode of transportation at Notre Dame. Having a bike means you can sleep that extra 10 minutes or talk a little longer with your friends between classes, instead of rushing off. You can laugh at those lowly walkers trudging their way from DeBartolo to Rockne while you speed by.

Still, the owner of a bike faces many perils. Balancing on two wheels with a thirty-pound book bag upon your back, Starbucks in one hand, and your cell phone in the other all while navigating through the throngs of students (without a helmet, I might add) takes the skill of a trapeze artist. Lose your focus for just one second, and you might find yourself sprawled out on the grass as amused on-lookers pass you by and try not to laugh. Not to mention the fact that you have to worry about someone breaking your lock and stealing your precious Schwinn.

Of course, bikers are not the only ones who cause or face danger when they set off on their ways across campus. Pedestrians, like myself, are forced to remain alert to the perils of straying across a biker’s path, the consequences of which may include the following: getting run over, being splattered with mud/puddle water, chance it to be a rainy day, and suffering verbal abuse (least vulgar example: “Watch out!”). Though most risk is experienced during the hectic hours of the morning and afternoon, a pedestrian must be on guard even at the most unexpected times. I recently was told about an incident in which two ingenious gentlemen tied a skateboard to the back of a bike and rode around campus, one on the bike and one on the skateboard. Though hilarious, one must be shocked at the danger occurrences like this pose to the pedestrian community. And it undoubtedly begs the question: Will we ever be completely safe on our own Notre Dame sidewalks?

To be sure, I am not at all suggesting that bikes are “bad.” Perhaps I am simply jealous of the people who breeze by me at 10:40 on a Monday morning. But one thing this week of observing the relationship between bikers and non-bikers has taught me is this: Be alert at all times, else you can end up with a sharp pain in your leg and what was to be a blissful sip of coffee all over your shirt.