The bridges over College Ave. and Broadway may be receiving several makeovers in the coming months with various bicycle barriers and new signage. Last Thursday, students and faculty noticed large barriers were installed on the bridges, only to have them removed within a few hours.
The goal is to find a way to hinder cyclists from biking over the bridges without preventing pedestrians and wheelchair users. Stephens’ Project Manager Richard Perkins explained that there might be a good deal of trial and error to try to find an effective solution.
The installation of the barriers stirred a prompt response from campus, and Perkins’ inbox filled quickly.
“(The emails contained) concerns more so than complaints, and mostly about wheelchair users. One concern was over a physical barrier dividing the campus,” Perkins said. There was a lot of positive feedback, with some thanking the school for addressing what for many people has been a big problem.
Second year theatre major Emma Delfosse uses a wheelchair. “I didn’t have too much trouble getting through them but making the quick turns was a bit of a bother. I worried more about people who used the bridges who had power wheelchairs since those chairs are wider and don’t have the ability to make sharp turns like a manual wheelchair does,” Delfosse said.
There was no particular incident that instigated the construction of the chicanes, the technical term for the type of barrier used, but rather an extension of the bridge reconstruction and a solution to a long-standing problem. The school is looking for a solution to make the bridges safer for pedestrians.
“Over several years Stephens students, staff and faculty have been at the losing edge between interactions between cyclists and themselves. We can promote the chicane concept to deter cyclists. It won’t stop all of them, but it’ll help,” Perkins said.
Effectiveness of the barriers is yet to be seen. During installation, a passing cyclist told the contractors, “this isn’t going to stop me; it’s just aggravating.”
Students and faculty have noticed ineffectiveness as well. Director of the Student Success Center Margaret Campbell said, “I saw a bicyclist traveling west on the sidewalk toward Lela Raney Wood; he was gearing up to pedal across the bridge to Stamper. A campus person shouted out that a barrier was ahead. The cyclist stopped at the barrier, walked through it, got on his bicycle and continued pedaling.”
In the past the school had put up a line of single posts to defer cyclists, but they proved to be ineffective and were removed.
These chicanes were also removed within several hours of being installed. They did comply with regulations specified by the Americans with Disabilities Act, but it was decided that there was still a concern for bicycle and wheelchair safety. There was no warning to students or community members beforehand, and the signs that were put up after the chicanes were installed weren’t very effective.
The team in charge of the project are re-investigating the spacing between the chicanes, a topic they hadn’t anticipated as a problem before the installations. They are also planning to conduct interviews with wheelchair users that frequent the campus and to install permanent ‘Walk Your Bike’ signs that are more eye-catching than the current maroon-and-white ones.
According to Perkins, the goal is to create the “most convenient, accommodate for safety of students. It’s been an on-going cause of concern. We are trying to reach a solution that’s agreeable to everyone, our number one concern is student safety.”