Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
It’s extremely frustrating to be a pedestrian on a college campus and have to jump out of the way when bikes speed past you on the sidewalk. You spend your days navigating people on bikes and other electric and non-electric vehicles — as well as drivers on the road — knowing you are often the most vulnerable person in any interaction with a vehicle.
Now, the city of College Park is partnering with VeoRide to bring nearly 300 ride-share scooters and bikes, both electric and pedal, to the city. These vehicles will definitely increase mobility on and around campus, and that’s a good thing. Access to sustainable, relatively affordable transportation opens many opportunities for students.
But at the same time, having more vehicles on campus increases the need for strict enforcement of road laws. These scooters and bikes need to be on the road, not the sidewalk, and they need to adhere to traffic laws just like any other vehicle.
The police department at Purdue University said most bicycle crashes are not reported to the police. Many people wait too long to report a crash, which results in incorrect statistics on campus accidents. In Maryland, there are on average 816 bicycle and pedalcycle crashes per year, of which more than 80 percent result in injury or death. Most of these incidents involved a motor vehicle and a cyclist, and this statistic might not fully account for incidents involving pedestrians since reporting rates are likely lower for those kinds of accidents.
Motor vehicles and bicycles, as well as other vehicles on the road, should be following traffic laws. Allowing three feet of space when passing a bike, for example, is for the safety of all vehicles, but particularly protects cyclists who are more exposed and vulnerable.
I understand the impulse to weave in and out of traffic, or do whatever necessary to get to your destination quickly. After all, the point of using a bike, for many students, is to decrease travel times between classes, clubs and work. At the same time, people who ignore stop signs or do not stop for pedestrians while riding scooters or bikes are literally breaking the law.
With the introduction of these ride-share vehicles on campus and around College Park, there is a greater need for enforcement of road laws for all vehicles. People riding bikes or scooters on sidewalks should be fined or ticketed, just like a car would be for speeding or running a stop sign.
There are, of course, plenty of cyclists on campus who do follow road laws and respect pedestrians. And we could all be more conscious, even as pedestrians; pay more attention to the road and less attention to our cell phones. Nonetheless, bicycles and scooters are vehicles that have the potential to severely injure pedestrians, especially on a crowded college campus. Road laws need to be strictly enforced in order for these ride-share vehicles to make the greatest positive impact on this community.
Liyanga de Silva is a senior English and women’s studies major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.