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By Barry Wheaton
A recycling fiend, Barry is working toward building a co-op that will also act as a weekly carpool community for people who live outside of metropolitan areas.
Saving money, helping the environment and getting exercise all at the same time? These are some of the many reasons why so many college students choose a bike as transportation when heading to college. If you are on yourway out of high school or are a current college student thinking of making the switch, it's important to understand basic campus safety and etiquette tips before hitting the streets. Here are some tips to help you brush-up on biking basics that will ensure a fun and safe daily commute.
Bikers share the same responsibility as drivers on the road. Many bikers assume cars will stop for them or that because they are on a bike that they have the right to interact with traffic as they please — this couldn't be further from the truth.
Always ride with the flow of traffic. Share the road with drivers — do not compete for it. Be aware and always be seen when biking on streets to campus. Make sure to communicate with drivers by using directional cues when you plan to turn. Always look over your shoulder, and give yourself about 30 to 40 yards between other vehicles for turning. Keep a few feet of distance between you and parked cars as you can't always tell when a person is about to open a car door or pull out of his or her spot. Remember drivers do not always see bicyclists coming.
When you're on campus, avoid using shared walkways as much as possible. A lot of campuses have designated bike path areas marked by cones and bollards or lines and symbols painted on the ground. When it is inevitable that you will have to share a walkway, yield to pedestrians.
All of these seem like pretty common sense things, but if you are running late for class or on your way to a big exam they can be easy to forget. While biking, focus on what is around you and eliminate any mind clutter that could distract you.
When you first start out, take some time to get to know your campus. Find out where bike paths are located, where the congested areas of your campus are and if there are alternative routes. If you are biking from an off-campus location, see if there is a park with multi-use bike paths you can use instead of busy streets. Pick routes that make you feel safe and talk to other bikers or your campuses' security team for even better insight.
Practicing safe habits as a biker is the first step to owning biking on your college campus. Always wear a helmet and have a phone with you in case of emergencies.
Before you head out for the day, check the weather and adjust your route, bike and the gear you bring accordingly. Being prepared is a big part of being safe. By law, most cities require bikers to have a white headlight and rear reflector. LED bike lights are great options as they are bright and last longer than basic lights. If you plan to bike in the early morning, dusk or night, make yourself as visible as possible to other bikers, pedestrians and drivers.
Stolen bikes are a common problem on college campuses. Lock up your bike with a U-lock and always try to lock both the frame and tires to a bike-rack. Unfortunately, many students will come out of class to find a wheel-less bike — yeah, people steal those! Lock bikes in a well-lit area where there is a high volume of pedestrian traffic and don't lock your bike on top of other bikes.
For more information about cycling on Texas campuses, see the BikeTexas CATS program.