Bicycles are vehicles, too

Kelly Byer

Editor’s Note: The photo illustration previously attached to this story, was taken for a different features story about drinking at the bars and biking home.

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The mistake of attaching the photo illustration to this story was made while posting the story to the site.

Erika Lhotsky, junior photo illustration major, commutes to Kent from Akron on a bicycle to attend classes. In one trip, she said an average of five people shout comments as she passes.

And that’s not counting the car horns. Lhotsky said she was so startled by a car horn one time that she crashed.

“I was riding, a car scared me, and I just like fell,” she said.

Two accidents involving bicycles on campus have occurred so far this semester, with the most recent happening on Tuesday, according to Kent State police records.

The first one involved a bicyclist who entered a crosswalk, hitting a bus that was traveling on the road.

“Recently we’re starting to run into more where bicyclists are involved and at fault in a crash, rather than a motor vehicle,” said Sgt. Joe Hendry of the Kent State Police Department.

Being safe and smart while cycling

People sharing roads or sidewalks should pay attention and be aware of rules regulating transportation, Hendry said, which is one of the main reasons accidents occur.

Branden Vondrak, senior visual communications design major, said a truck once turned directly in front of him while he was riding his bike on Morris Road toward the Business Administration Building.

“He didn’t see me and he just took a left-hand turn into a parking space,” Vondrak said.

The driver, he said, had not been paying attention.

Hendry said most drivers at fault in an accident didn’t see the biker.

“People on the roadway need to know that because it’s a campus and there’s a lot of people on bicycles … they need to be aware of not only pedestrians but also bicycles that they’re sharing the roadway with,” Hendry said.

To increase visibility, Hendry said, bicyclists should wear reflective or bright clothing and use a light if they are operating at night.

“Bicyclists should be aware that any vehicle always has a blind spot,” Hendry said.

When waiting for a street light to change, Hendry said bicyclists should wait for the motor vehicle to move first in case it unexpectedly turns right, in front of them.

Gina Gutshall, senior visual communication design major, said more drivers should use turn signals for that reason.

“As a biker, I’m always looking at people’s turn signals, judging off of them where I’m going,” Gutshall said.

Hendry said other crashes have happened because a bicyclist did not yield to a motor vehicle or was crossing the street where he or she shouldn’t have been.

“They do not have the right of way just because the vehicle is stopped at the stop sign,” Hendry said.

“If no one’s in the intersection, the vehicle has the right of way to proceed through the intersection.”

Why some students choose to bike rather than hike it

Despite safety concerns, students still have reasons why they prefer biking.

“Everybody I know rides because they love it and they know how to be safe doing it,” Lhotsky said.

She said the benefits of biking include saving money on gas, not waiting in traffic and not worrying about parking tickets.

Vondrak said he agrees, adding that it is also good for exercise.

“Why take a spinning class when you can just ride a bike?” Vondrak said.

But Vondrak said students walking, like bicyclists and drivers, should pay attention to their surroundings.

“I’m not saying that as you’re walking you should always be vigilant and looking to see what’s happening,” Vondrak said, “But don’t stare at the ground all the time and talk on your phone.”

Senior communications major Kevin Carlin said students tend to walk in the bike lanes on university pathways, which makes it hard for bikers to respect the lanes.

“It doesn’t even look like it should be a bike lane,” Vondrak said, referring to the bike lanes on the University Esplanade. “It looks more like a decorative element.”

Off campus, drivers often yell or honk at bicyclists to make them move to the sidewalk, which could startle someone, Lhotsky said.

“All laws that apply to being in a car apply to being on a bike, except our blinkers are one-handed,” she said.

Besides not being safe, yelling and honking is annoying, Vondrak said, who’s heard various shouts of, “Hey, get a car, Lance!”

Lhotsky agreed, saying, “When I was driving a car I didn’t yell ‘Hey nascar!'”

Contact safety reporter Kelly Byer at [email protected].