Bikes are efficient for riders, but dangerous for pedestrians

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As a naïve and lowly freshman, I haven’t spent enough time here to develop such a staunch opinion on bicycles as my elder compatriots at The Flat Hat. To be honest, I didn’t know that people had an opinion on bicycles at all. I mean, they’re bikes, what is there to have an opinion about?

It was at this point that I discovered two distinct groups, harboring either deep resentment or unquestionable loyalty to these bi-wheeled machines. As a neutral party that has neither been seduced nor traumatized by the bicycle, I will try to address this inflammatory issue neutrally.

Bikes can be a useful way to get around campus, especially for fellow freshman sequestered into the godforsaken lands of the Green and Gold Village. A number of my hallmates with bicycles have the luxury of visiting Marketplace on a whim, or perusing the shelves of Food Lion and Target with ease.

For those unlucky students who have classes in Morton, a 10-minute sprint to another class can be annoying and impractical, arriving negligibly late and soaked with sweat from the Williamsburg humidity. In short, bicycles allow better mobility and flexibility for those with difficult schedules or extracurricular activities, especially when located at the polar extremities of campus.

But bicycles come with their downsides. More often than not their riders come screaming down hills and sharp inclines, hell-bent on keeping their brake-pads intact by seemingly never using them.

They duck and weave through pedestrians like it’s some kind of game, threading the needle as if we’re expendable casualties. Cyclists take an almost sadistic pleasure in seeing us stunned and confused, staring wide-eyed like a deer in the headlights, prisoners to their callous disregard of the pedestrian’s sacred rights.

Whereas cars understand that if they hit pedestrians there will be serious repercussions, cyclists live with the mistakenly held belief that they cannot do significant harm to merit reprisals.

The nature of this issue forces cyclists onto the defensive, attacked by those who have been wronged by the negligence of others. The remedy to this unhealthy relationship between mounted cyclist and foot-based student is twofold.

While bikers do bear the brunt of the responsibility, it’s important to understand that pedestrians should be aware of their surroundings and not totally oblivious, living in their own internal bubble of headphone-induced seclusion.

Take the earbuds out and look at people for a change, maybe smile and say good morning like a decent human being. Staring blindly at the ground and walking like half-conscious zombies is part of the problem.

Cyclists bear the burden of being the powerful vehicle, having the force to do some serious damage to us fragile meat-sacks. Ring a bell or say something while passing, otherwise it feels like a startling burst of motion emerging from the corner of my eye.

So, there you have it. I started this piece neutral and optimistic, hopeful that both parties can cooperate and live together in harmony.

But now the cynic in me is showing. Cyclists and pedestrians are both terrible and both at fault.

Don’t blame cyclists because you refuse to keep your head up and prefer your own internal world. Bikers need to avoid killing pedestrians at all costs, but act with a heartless indifference to our safety or sanity.

Cyclists shouldn’t be derided just because they chose a quick and efficient mode of transportation, but the actions of a few bad apples have left an unsavory taste in the mouths of many pedestrians on this campus.

And it wouldn’t hurt to wear a helmet every once and awhile.

Email Christian Borio at cmborio@email.wm.edu