Tue 6 Mar 2007
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In response to Vallie’s blog and as a concern of my own, I would like to raise some important issues or barriers that the college community needs to overcome to cut our emissions.
As a bicyclist myself, I am a big supporter of reducing our carbon footprint on campus. I do not understand why students feel they must drive to class when they live a quarter mile away. If faculty who live much farther from campus than us are making the effort to walk, carpool, or bike to work, we as students, should make the effort as well. I am not sure if Dickinson is a car-friendly campus due to either the limited parking or the danger you risk to parallel parking you car on the road (repairing damage from hit and runs on the public streets can become expensive). If it is not car friendly, it is more disturbing that Dickinson is not a pedestrian or biker friendly campus. I believe this is evident by the fact that vehicles have hit students and faculty while crossing the road. One problem is the lack of crosswalks and the prevalence of jaywalking; however, the main problem is the pedestrians’ reduced visibility due to parallel-parked cars.
Short of the pedestrian accidents that have already occurred, I fear that a potentially fatal accident is just around the corner involving bicycles (knock on wood: hopefully not involving me). Let’s face it; Carlisle does not encourage bike use. It does not have bike lanes and bikes must cycle in the narrow space between parallel-parked cars and traffic. Bicyclists must be weary of parked cars maneuvering out of their spots as well as oncoming and passing motor traffic. In addition, bicyclists must be weary of pedestrians who jaywalk in densely populated walking areas (a lot to worry about on a cold morning on your way to class!). Although pedestrians should not jaywalk (and can be fined for it), the current system makes it so much more dangerous. Since they cannot see past parked cars, pedestrians must cautiously put themselves in the line of traffic in order to see if it is safe to cross. Whereas a car might be able to stop in time for such a sudden surprise, a bicyclist cannot. This results in either a crash, the bicyclist swerving to hit something else rather than the pedestrian, or the bicycle stopping in time only to be flung over their handlebars (and maybe horrifically onto the glass windshield of one of the parked cars!). On a sad note, a D.C. pedestrian was killed early February when a bicyclist struck him while he was jaywalking behind a stopped car.
Cumberland County has recognized the absence of bicycle lanes in the area as a problem. The Cumberland County Planning Commission realizes that roads that do have shoulders for bike lanes are too narrow. In Carlisle, they simply do not exist. Thus, bicycling is discouraged and the volume of motorization increases along with congestion, pollution, and vehicle speed (which may lead to more accidents). For more information, please refer to the Cumberland County Planning Commission’s 2003 Comprehensive Plan, available: http://www.ccpa.net/cumberland/cwp/view.asp?A=1725&Q=524569.
Here in Carlisle, we are fortunate that the city is planned well enough that it would be simple to bike around town to suit one’s needs. However, the safety risks inherent in Carlisle streets eliminate such an environmentally beneficial act. (I for one found it much safer to ride my bike in India with a mix of trucks, cars, auto rickshaws, motorcyclists, and other bikers).
In conclusion, I believe that it is in Dickinson’s best interests as a residential campus discouraging the “suitcase” ambiance, as a campus moving towards carbon neutrality, and as one that owns a Dickinson Rides bike fleet for student use, to put pressure on our local government to establish bike lanes an eliminate parallel parking within the Carlisle borough. In the meantime, let’s make Dickinson a biker campus. Go out buy a bike, ride to classes and other places, demand safer bike and pedestrian infrastructure locally, and most importantly, show that we as students can make carbon neutrality a reality! Just remember the do’s and don’ts of biking safety; don’t bike and talk on your cell, don’t listen to your ipod, do use hand signals, do use a bell to alert others of your presence, and always wear a helmet no matter how stupid you look and how much everyone stares, you’re the smart one in the end!
For a checklist to determine a community’s “bikeability” check out: