Rules of the road (and sidewalk) on campus

Photo courtesy of Andrew Saulters

Perhaps you missed the blue route for the last time. Perhaps you want to wake up a bit later. Or, perhaps you need to get from North Ave. to the Paper Science Building in less than a half-hour. In any case, if you have a bike, a U-lock, a helmet and are ready to get around campus quickly and conveniently, then you’re almost all set. But not quite. On the way, you realize how many stairs, hills, tight passages and inattentive and constantly texting pedestrians  that you never had to think about when you simply got around campus on foot. How do you avoid these obstacles without adding too much time to your commute?

As a cyclist, you’re in a much different position than you were as a pedestrian. This also means, however, that you need a system to control your newfound speed, power and presence. The most important thing to consider is the safety of those on foot, the pedestrians. Speeding down a hill around a corner may land you and a fellow Tech student on the ground after a collision.

So, how do you prevent such a catastrophe from happening? It’s just a matter of being at the right place and knowing the pedestrian crossings. Bikes should not be on sidewalks next to a road; it’s too narrow for the bike, and poses a higher collision possibility. Instead, ride on the road towards the side. In the bike lane, if they exist. Also note that while it’s legal to turn right on a red, or to go through a green light, always check for pedestrians before going, as many misunderstand the traffic laws.

Now that you’re riding on the roads, there’s a new threat: cars. Cars are big and scary, but as long as you ride carefully and safely, all will be well. First off, stop at stop signs and lights. Always. Crossing areas that come out of parking garages should also be done with extreme caution, as these areas are blind. This is especially true for Klaus, as it’s blind and on a hill. Finally, signal your turns. With your left hand, point left if you want to turn left, point up if you want to turn right, and point down if you want to stop. This may prevent a car from misunderstanding your intentions. That said, it’s often safer and more convenient to bike through on-campus parkways.

The west side of campus is, for the most part, quite bike friendly. Cyclists who live there have numerous routes available to get to their residence hall, a fair number of wide car-free pathways and many areas to secure your bike — from bike rooms in residence halls to bike racks outside most academic buildings. As far as the routes themselves, there are a fair number of recommendations and warnings. First, the parkway from the Love Building towards the Burger Bowl is dangerous due to the intersection with the road mixed with the speed of the hill. Consider, instead, getting onto the road on the other side of the Love Building, near the CRC. Another option is to go through the path near the MRDC, but be warned that there is usually a large amount of sand at the bottom of this path, and it is a bit narrow. The parkway between the Love Building and the Student Center is good, but leads to a flight of stairs for those trying to go further. To avoid this, carefully use the parking lot near Sustainable Education and Boggs to get to the Campanile without stairs.

East Campus has plenty of space, but is busier for both cars and people. To make matters worse, many east campus buildings don’t have the same support for locking bikes as west campus ones. In spite of this, don’t lock your bike to places they don’t belong. Fences and railings are not places to put your bike. In any case, avoid both freshman hill and the stairs to Skiles parkway by using fourth street instead of Bobby Dodd Rd. Of course, be careful of Peter’s Parking Deck as you go this way. North Avenue is an option, but it’s not recommendable during anything resembling traffic, so it’s best to avoid that road where possible. Instead, if you live in North Ave., follow the blue route path in reverse to avoid the maniacal cars.

A bike isn’t just a mule to get you from class to class or place to place. It can be a tool of exploration and fun. Piedmont Park, the Beltline and other such destinations around Atlanta that the MARTA doesn’t help you reach suddenly feel so much closer. Getting to these places can be assisted with an under used feature of Google Maps. Get directions to your destination, and change the method to bike, and you’ll have a bike-ready path to your new destination!