The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday August 19th

'On your left!': Walkers and bikers navigate sharing sidewalks

<p>The "Tar Heels Bikes" bike share program was launched by Chancellor Folt and Associate Vice Chancellor of Campus Enterprises Brad Ives in front of Davis Library on Wednesday.</p>
Buy Photos Bikers and walkers have to share sidewalks on campus.

For 15-minute increments during weekdays, it's not uncommon to see swarms of walkers, bikers and skateboarders making their way to class on campus. 

The debate between two of these commuter types has broken out in a Facebook group for UNC students, "Finding Dorian: UNC Memorial Meme Stash."

Multiple memes have been posted in the group criticizing the behavior of bikers and walkers from both sides. Some memes say that bikers too frequently run into pedestrians, while others claim that some pedestrians don't pay attention when they walk. 

According to an email from UNC Media Relations Manager Randy Young, there have been seven bicycle accidents reported involving EMS assistance since Jan. 1, 2018, with two occurring on pedestrian sidewalks.

Many students, including Corbin Jones, a junior English major, can recall memories of nearly being hit by bikers. 

“When I don't have headphones in and hear the roaring of a bicycle behind me, basically I wait for death,” Jones said. “I figure if I turn around and they smack me, it’s going to hurt much more than them clipping me in the side.”

Jones said that recently, a biker swerved and turned unexpectedly in front of him. 

“I felt the air go past me,” said Jones. “She took such a quick turn.”

Elizabeth Choi, a first-year chemistry major, said she has almost been hit several times.

“I’ve almost gotten a heart attack,” Choi said. “It scares the heck out of me.”

Choi said her fear of being hit in the crowds of students walking to class is a small factor in her preference of riding the bus over other modes of transportation.

Although stories of pedestrians being nearly or actually hit may be prevalent on campus, Jones said it does not mean bikers are always at fault.  

“If you somehow get hit just be like, ‘Wow, was that my fault or the biker’s?’” Jones said. “It’s really easy to throw blame on someone else when something goes down and it's hard to take accountability, but sometimes it’s not always other people’s fault.”

According to UNC Campus Safety and Risk Management, bikes are permitted on the brick paths on campus, although pedestrians have the right-of-way.

Safety guidelines suggest bikers make eye contact with pedestrians when possible, alert pedestrians by saying “passing on your left/right” or by ringing a bell, ride at reasonable speeds and avoid distractions like listening to music.

The hectic bustle of everyday traffic to and from class is unavoidable, Jones said, but the dynamics between bikers and walkers could be improved to better assure the safety of all. 

Senior Catherine Bennett bikes some days of the week. She said she recognizes bikers' obligation to keep sidewalks safe, since sidewalks were made more for walkers than bikers. 

“Being a bike rider, you're going faster than anyone on the sidewalks," Bennett said. "And you're also probably going to be one of like three of the 500 people looking up and paying attention to what’s going on around them."

Additionally, Bennett said bikers should practice before trying to bike through hectic class changes that are hard to maneuver for inexperienced bikers.

“No one is walking at the same speed, which makes it a little difficult," Bennett said. 

She said it's important for bikers to be aware of how fast they are moving and how close they are to the pedestrians around them.

Bennett said that while bikers need to be cautious around walkers, walkers should also be aware of their surroundings to prevent collisions.  

"The combination of wearing your earphones and not looking up and just staring at your phone while you walk is a deadly combo for when you look up for one second and realize, 'Oh crap, there's a bike,'" Bennett said.

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