Opinion: Rules of the road not just for motorists
By Maddie Friend
With as little as twenty minutes between some classes and overcrowded shuttle busses, many students make the commute from north to south campus on bicycles or longboards — seemingly perfect modes of transportation. You can breathe fresh air, reduce your carbon footprint and move those creaky limbs in the time you would normally spend fidgeting at the bus stop, cramming onto a smelly, packed vehicle and sprinting to your class after finally reaching your stop.
However, bicycle and longboard safety on Northern Arizona University’s (NAU) campus has denigrated to something less than even general courtesy. It is not unusual to see a bicyclist or boarder fly through a stop sign, forcing drivers to slam on their brakes to avoid a collision.
In fact, it is more common to see a bicyclist or boarder flagrantly disregard the stop sign and associated law than to see one come to a full and complete stop, look in all directions and wait for their turn before proceeding.
According to Arizona Revised Statues (ARS) 28-812, “ . . . a person riding a bicycle on a roadway or on a shoulder adjoining a roadway is granted all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle . . .”
Although the statues do not directly spell out conditions for longboarders, the situation for cyclists is clear: Follow the same rules of the road as cars. This includes — but is not limited to — yielding to oncoming traffic, coming to a full and complete stop at stop signs and stop lights, not weaving between cars to jockey a position ahead of them at a stop light, using proper turn signals and properly equipping a bicycle used at night with legal and adequate lighting.
To see a bicyclist obey all of the same laws as a motor vehicle is rare. Maybe most cyclists do not know they are required to equip a bike they ride at night with “ . . . a lamp on the front end that emits a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and a red reflector on the rear of a type that is approved by the department and that is visible from all distances from 50 feet to 300 feet to the rear when the reflector is directly in front of lawful upper beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle . . .” according to ARS 28-817.
But I bet they know they need to stop at stop signs.
Because cyclists are required to follow the same law as motor vehicle operators, they are also liable for the same penalties, including citations, moving traffic violations and other tickets and fines.
However, NAU Police Department only has approximately 12 officers. Often, they are occupied with other matters and unable to adequately police cyclists and longboarders. Additionally, these officers may face difficulty when trying to pull over a cyclist who jumps curbs, swerves in and out of traffic lanes and slips through stop signals.
The university has tried to mitigate these infractions by appealing to student’s ethos, using electronic billboards with advertisement-like slogans to convince students to follow the rules of the road and promote safety.
Despite their best intentions, their target audience just as easily ignores these billboards as the stop signs they blaze through.
One of the most nefarious intersections on campus is outside Cline Library. A three-way stop often crowded with cyclists, pedestrians, longboarders and drivers, many accidents are often nearly avoided, to a chorus of squealing tires and blaring horns, often accented with a poignant certain finger.
Although the timing of this may seem callous, regarding the tragic recent death of an NAU student and cyclist, this editorial is not in response to or referring to that incident.
The problem here is campus travelers jeopardizing their safety and the safety of others.
Bicyclists should not view themselves as above the law merely because their carbon output is less than the law-abiding Hummer idling at the stop sign. The high number of lawbreaking travelers on NAU campus is unacceptable.
Editor’s note: Copy Chief, avid bike commuter and recreational cyclist Maddie Friend wrote this editorial on behalf of the staff.