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New program to educate cyclists

Collegiate Times: New program to educate cyclists

Monday, November 30, 2009; 11:27 PM | 2 | ShareThis | Print
by Kristen Dopieralski, news staff writer

Virginia Tech has partnered with Yield to Life, a non-profit organization that aims to bridge communication between cyclists, motorists and pedestrians.

The work with Yield to Life has launched an educational campaign to remind cyclists of common courtesies, such as using reflectors and hand signals according to the guidelines set by Tech.

“We are trying to create, I guess, a sort of community and a cycling attitude on campus as well as among motorists that is one of mutual respect,” said Deborah Freed, alternative transportation manager at Tech.

Freed said that Tech plans to record a podcast with David Zabriskie, a world-class cyclist and founder of Yield to Life, on cycling guidelines on the Tech Web site.

“For motor vehicle drivers that means being alert and aware that there are cyclists on the road and that they are allowed to be there, and for cyclists it’s a real responsibility to be aware of their surroundings,” Freed said.

The university plans to put up information cards in Blacksburg Transit bus interiors about proper ways to bike. Yield to Life also wants to share information through a bus advertisement that will wrap around the entire vehicle. It hopes to have the bus wrap running before January.

Brochures explaining cycling etiquette are already present in Squires Student Center and the Graduate Life Center. Tech hopes to shortly place them in the residence halls.

According to Freed, the campaign is funded entirely by Yield to Life. The organization has given the university the brochures and ads as a part of the partnership.

This campaign is the result of the creation of a recently approved campus cycling policy that allows cyclists to use the sidewalk.

“When (the cyclists) were in the roadway they had to operate as a vehicle, and that was the end of the story,” Freed said. “With Virginia Tech trying to promote cycling on campus ... we decided that we need a more inclusive policy that addressed the way bikes were being used and should be used on the Virginia Tech campus.”

A history of injury is not the cause of the new policy and campaign on campus, Freed said, but because of the need for a change of culture to one of mutual respect between cyclists and others.

“I think any attempt to improve the coexistence of bikers and drivers is a good idea,” said Andy Mueller of the Blacksburg Bicycle Cooperative. “Creating more awareness among bikers and drivers about ways to improve their visibility, following of traffic rules, and use of bike lanes or crossings is very important as a first step in getting more bikes on the road more safely.”

Fellow member Ritchie Vaughan also praised the initiative, noting that current motorist awareness of cyclists on and around campus is lacking.

“My roommates and I have all been grazed by inattentive drivers pulling out of driveways or merging into turn lanes ... but we have all escaped safely,” Vaughan said. “An educational campaign would be a great benefit to cyclists and drivers alike.”

Cyclists don’t know “whether to bike in the straight lane or the turning lane at the West Campus Drive/Prices Fork stoplight when biking down Prices Fork,” Vaughan said, “and I see lots of bicycle commuters neglect to signal when they turn.”