Indiana’s Purdue University Aims to Improve Biking Safety

By CHRIS MORISSE VIZZA, Journal & Courier | November 6, 2014

Spend a few minutes in the heart of the Purdue University campus and it doesn’t take long to see that bike riders have little regard for stop signs.

A primary cause of the problem quickly became apparent after Purdue police last month launched an enforcement campaign and stopped cyclists to explain the rules of the road.

“Certain states allow bikes to yield at stop signs and drive through,” Capt. Eric Chin said. “They didn’t know that bicycles are treated the same as vehicles under Indiana law.”

That was the case when Sgt. Travis Neal stopped freshman Alexis Mueller last week at Third Street and Martin Jischke Drive.

“I’m asking you to do one thing,” Neal said as he wrote Mueller a warning and handed her information about traffic laws. “Tell all of your friends we’re going to be out here doing this.”

Mueller said she would follow through. “I don’t want other people to get stopped,” she said.

Compliance improved after officers monitored four major intersections and issued 100 warnings, Chin told the Journal & Courier. For example, University and Third streets had the largest increase in compliance, from 48 percent on Oct. 2 to 53 percent on Oct. 24.

Officers will continue to patrol and educate.

Campus planning staffers expect a recently completed bicycle and pedestrian plan to solve some traffic conflicts.

Building separate bike facilities on routes that follow logical paths north and south across campus is a key recommendation of the yearlong study conducted by consultants Rundell Ernstberger Associates LLC and Toole Design Group.

The network would consist of bike lanes in streets, protected bike lanes, sharrows, contraflow lanes – where bicycles ride against the flow of vehicle traffic – and elevated cycle tracks, depending on the location and available space.

When and which segments of the bike network are built depend on funding and opportunities to incorporate the network into other projects, said John Collier, director of campus master planning.

“If we can implement and address the details on a project-by-project basis, bicyclists will gravitate toward the system because the routes will be connected,” he said. “I am sure that over a handful of years that we can change the culture.”

The consultants also recommended education and enforcement components that include hiring a campus bicycle coordinator to establish a working group to help prioritize and implement construction of the infrastructure.

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