Biking Etiquette on College Campuses

Biking on campus is great. It’s good for you, it’s good for the environment and it’s usually more efficient than walking or taking a bus. It also gives you a great view of how beautiful your school is and gives you a means to explore. All of that said, biking as a form of regular transportation is different than taking a leisurely bike ride through a park.

Bike Path Rules

  • Before anything else, figure out where bikes are meant to travel. Many campuses will have bike lanes running along the sides of their normal roads. Use those if they’re available because it keeps you out of the way of both cars and pedestrians.
  • Bike traffic moves like car traffic. That means riding on the left side of the side walk or path if there’s more than one direction of bike (or foot) traffic moving around.
  • Watch out for pedestrians. You will, at some point, see someone on a bike crash into someone on foot. It’s not pretty and going to class with a freshly scraped knee certainly doesn’t feel like the first steps to adulthood. Generally, stay outside of where people are walking. This might mean riding on grass, but that’s still preferable to hitting someone (and you probably won’t get stuck behind someone moving slowly!).
  • Don’t be afraid to yell if you’re going to hit someone. If someone suddenly turns in front of you or you can’t maneuver completely out of the way of someone, yelling “on your right!” (or whatever is situationally appropriate) works well.
  • Don’t lock your bike over top of another bike. Someone did this to me the first week of fall semester during my sophomore year and I ended up wrestling my bike out from under another girl’s bike and lock and then through a patch of bushes; I was not a happy camper. If there’s not space to park yours at a rack, find another one. The forces of bike rack karma will reward you later.

General bike advice

  • Remember to bring a bike lock with you to campus. I’ve heard of the thinner ones being cut through; you may want to check out U-lock style ones instead. These do require a key though. You may also want to keep a second lock on hand if one breaks.
  • On the topic of locks, don’t tell anyone your password (if you have a combination lock). Even if it’s your roommate or best friend, it’s better than risking being late to an important class if they feel like pranksters.
  • Register your bike (if available). On my campus, bike registrations go through the police office that’s on campus. Registrations will help if your bike gets stolen. It usually requires the serial number (found on the bottom of the bike), your information and attaching a registration sticker to your bike.
  • Know the busy parts of campus. If your school has a large student population, certain parts of campus will get very busy with foot traffic (as well as skaters and bikers). There’s one particular stretch of sidewalk on my campus that goes for two or three blocks that gets so busy that you just have to get off and walk your bike if you’re going somewhere around 10 a.m. You’ll need to either plan for extra time or find a different route to class if your campus has pedestrian traffic jams.

Remember that biking may not be practical during the winter months. It’s advantageous to figure out the bus schedule before the morning after the first major snow of the year (word of advice: the buses will be packed the day of the first big snow, head out to your stop early if there’s snow or rain).

Find out if there’s a bike storage room in your dorm. Some have them in their basements or on individual floors. The person at the front desk or your RA should know if it’s available. Take advantage of these if you don’t plan on using your bike during the winter (your chain will thank you later!).

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Gwen Rynberg

Gwen Rynberg

Gwen Rynberg is a junior at Michigan State University majoring in Journalism. She works part-time in retail and in her free time, Gwen likes reading, exploring parks, going to concerts and hanging out with friends. She likes social media and can be found scrolling through her Twitter feed and Tumblr dashboard. Gwen hopes to work in print in the future.
Gwen Rynberg

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