With around 3,000 students zipping around campus on bicycles every day, crashes are common, but also avoidable with the proper safety precautions.
There have been nine reported bike crashes on campus during the 2011-12 school year, according to UT Police Department records, and 54 crashes throughout Austin in 2012, according to Austin Police Department records. There has been one bicycle wreck fatality in 2012 and it was not on campus, according to APD records.
“Typically crashes are caused by a visibility issue,” said Craig Staley, general manager of Lance Armstrong’s Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop. “Most of the crashes, including the fatal ones, happen because someone did not see someone else.”
Staley said maintaining visibility and wearing a helmet are the most important aspects of safe biking, which is reinforced by UTPD records, which show that all bike crashes this school year have happened in the late afternoon or later, when there is less sunlight.
“Helmets, lights and proper safety equipment are very important,” Staley said. “We encourage all of our customers to buy a good helmet and lights and reflectors when they purchase a bike.”
Staley said the UT area is slightly safer for biking because the abundance of riders forces pedestrians and motorists to stay on the lookout.
“I would suggest riding on campus as much as possible, rather than riding on Guadalupe [Street],” he said. “Not that Guadalupe [Street] is completely unsafe. It does have a bike lane which is helpful. There is just so much congestion there, though, and the motorists are less likely to be on the lookout for bicyclists.”
Sam Cortez, bike coordinator for UT Parking and Transportation Services, said planning and learning a route is an important key to safe cycling.
“The No. 1 safety tip is to ride predictably,” Cortez said. “That’s what we tell everyone. Stopping at stop signs, using hand signals and having lights for the night are also very important.”
Lt. Ely Reyes with the APD Highway Enforcement Command said safe bicycling requires teamwork from both bicyclists and motorists.
“Bicycle safety is a two-way street that requires awareness for both cyclists and drivers,” Reyes said. “Bicyclists need to abide by the same traffic laws as vehicles. This means stopping at stop signs and red lights. These are the two most common violations we observe.”
Staley said people should expect to see more changes in their surroundings because of an increase in bicycling and safety awareness.
“When the city makes plans for construction of buildings and roads, bikes are part of the equation now,” Staley said. “Always expect there to be bikes.”
Printed on Wednesday, March 21, 2012 as: UT student bycyclists receive safety tips for riding on campus