NEWS — April 17, 2007 12:00 am

Hybrid Bike Lanes Arrive at MSU

Although Minnesota State has become more pedestrian-friendly over the last year, most people around campus don’t seem to even know about it.

The hybrid biking lane, which can be found on streets around campus like Maywood Avenue, Warren Street, and others, is an upgraded form of biking lane. And with gas prices going up, more people could be spending their time on two wheels rather than four around MSU. Cars and bikes will be sharing lanes together more and more, which is where the hybrid lane is helpful.

Last year, symbols were painted on some of the streets around MSU. This year, signs were put up. Yet still many don’t know of their significance or even existence. Even though the lanes are on campus, not many officials from the university seem to know about them either.

“I really don’t know anything about them,” said Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Scott Olson. He referred the Reporter to three other people who may know something about the lanes, but two of them could not be reached and the other also did not know anything about the lanes.

“I really don’t know anything about the hybrid bike lanes,” said Todd Pfingsten, the director of campus recreation. “In fact, this is the first I’ve heard of them.”

Avid cyclist Richard Keir, the man who initiated the move to get signs out on the roads, never talked to the university about the hybrid lanes although the city did.

“I never talked to President [Richard] Davenport or anyone from the school when working on the lanes,” Keir said. “That was the city that really would have worked with that.”

Although the administration may know little about the new lanes, the new addition to campus could be the beginning of the administration’s desire for a “pedestrian-friendly campus.”

Now that the signs are up for the new lanes, Keir would to see students, staff, and people of the community becoming more educated, not just on the hybrid lanes, but about the rules of the road for cars sharing lanes with bicycles.

“Drivers and bikers need to be educated,” Keir said. “There are some people who don’t have a clue what the rules are.”

There are no laws against biking on streets with traffic. Bikers are not restricted to cycling on sidewalks. They have just as much right to be on the road as cars do, which many drivers don’t seem to realize. In fact, riding on the streets can be safer for bikers since most accidents happen off the streets for cyclists.

“Unless you have training wheels,” Keir said, “you don’t belong on the sidewalk.”

Traditional biking lanes, which are designated by the solid white lanes with white diamonds, seem to segregate bikers from the main road and can cause problems at intersections if bikers need to make a left turn or cross intersections. But the hybrid lane fixes this problem.

The hybrid lane is actually a part of the regular road. Unlike its predecessor, the symbol on the road allows bikers to use all the lane, not just one small section of it. The lanes are wider to provide more room for bikes and cars. The hybrid lanes help to remind drivers that cyclists can legally use the roads and will be using them. It is a symbol to remind drivers to share the roads with bikers, not try to force them off of it. Drivers need to be watching for bikers.

“Drivers don’t look for bikes coming on the roads, especially if they are riding on the wrong side,” Keir said. ” If you don’t think you should look for it, you aren’t going to see it. Many people don’t look for bikes on the road. With this, bikers will be in the lanes riding with traffic.”

The lanes marked with the hybrid symbol should help fix the problem of cyclists not being able to safely make left turns since drivers should know that bikes will be able to roam the road.

Keir managed to get the city to put signs out on the streets. About three years ago, he started pestering the city to do something about bicycle awareness and making the streets friendlier for bikers. After talking to the city’s traffic and safety department, the city decided it was something worth working on.

A cyclist for MSU, Chris Thompson, actually knows what the signs stand for and mean. He has been enjoying the symbols being in the streets, he said, but he admits people don’t know how to use them.

“The lanes are really nice,” Thompson said. “But motorists still don’t always abide by them. I’ve been forced off the roads a lot by cars.”

Both Keir and Thompson agree that what people, both drivers and cyclists, need is more education on rules for biking on the streets.

“If there were signs or posters or ads in the newspapers about the rules, or something so that people would be reminded of what the laws and rules are for biking it would make it a lot safer,” Thompson said.

Amanda Bingham is a Reporter staff writer

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