Cycling can be dangerous. From the bike lane along Michigan road running through IUPUI’s campus to where the Monon Trail ends in Westfield Bike, bikers are commonly involved in accidents and collisions.
Cars, pedestrians, and construction can make conditions worse for cyclists.
Someone who experienced a bicycle accident first hand is IUPUI journalism professor Steve Sweitzer.
Many people bike on the Monon Trail. One day he was biking south, headed toward his home in Broad Ripple. He was crossing 75th street to continue on the trail one moment and the next he felt like he was flying through the air.
“Things were going in slow motion,” Sweitzer said. “Some kid ran a red light and hit me.”
After smashing into the windshield of the car, he felt something wrong.
“I looked down, it was a mess,” Sweitzer said.
When checked out by EMS, he asked one of the paramedics if his tattoo on his leg was going to be fine.
“That tattoo is the least of your worries,” he was told.
Sweitzer spent two weeks in the hospital. He broke one of his legs and now walks with a permanent limp. Still, he was lucky, and the good news is that he can still ride.
The School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) published a study that tracked bicycle collisions in Indiana from 2006 to 2010. They found that during that time there were 5,314 collisions. Most ended in non-life threatening injuries like Sweitzer’s. However, some resulted in death. Sevenish Law Firm reported on their website that in 14 cyclists died in accidents in 2013.
Riding in Indianapolis has always been dangerous. The SPEA study found that in Marion county almost seven out of 1,000 riders get into an accident.
For those who bike on IUPUI’s campus, their ride can be just as hazardous. Bike riders now have to be more careful on campus due to the construction on Michigan Street.
“Now, if you’re going on Michigan it’s dangerous because the lanes, they get all messed up. It’s a bit scary,” IUPUI student Shehav Khativ said.
Khativ has been going to campus for over a year and he thinks is safer to avoid Michigan altogether.
“If you are going through the buildings, [biking is] much easier, much safer,” he said.
History Professor Rebecca Strum usually has her bike sitting outside her office on the fifth floor of Cavanaugh.
“I live just about two miles from campus and I bike on the Cultural Trail, because even when there is not construction I am not comfortable biking on Michigan or New York, I’ve known too many people to get into accidents, so I stay on the trail,” Strum said.
Khativ and Strum are excited for new bike path on Michigan Street.
Drew Hayden, a junior at Ball State University rode a couple times around IUPUI’s campus. He is glad that the university is starting to think about cyclists.
“It’s good that people are paying attention to what cyclists want,” Hayden said.
While bikers struggle to navigate around the construction on campus, the construction is in place to improve safety on campus.
Ric Burrous of Inside IUPUI wrote in an October 2016 article that a protected bike lane will be built on Michigan Street similar to the existing one on New York Street. This lane will give cyclists safer and better options of getting around campus.
Burrous shared some safety tips for bikers during the construction. He said to include lights and other proper equipment on your bike. One important piece bikers should include on their bike is a bell, which is required by law in Indiana.
For now, bikers should use the trails and the bike lane on New York as they wait for the one on Michigan. Closed toe shoes and other gear will help protect a cyclist when riding, as sandals are dangerous to wear even on a short commute.
Bikers can be safer by following the rules of the road and watching out for pedestrians. While there is not a law about riding on sidewalks in Indiana or Indianapolis, bikers can and should use the road and bike lanes to their advantage.
April Mantel, the Public Information Officer for the campus police stated, “We can provide you with safety tips for pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicular safety. All three do have to pay attention and somewhat work with one another when they all share the roads.”
Most importantly, when biking, a helmet can be the difference between life and death..
For Sweitzer, it is what saved his life.
“I would be dead without a helmet,” he said.