Each year the Madison Police Department reminds students and city residents of the law that all drivers must yield to pedestrians, whether they are crossing the street at a marked or unmarked location.
What remains unclear is whether bicyclists are pedestrians, or drivers.
Let’s turn that opaqueness into clarity; generally, a biker is entitled to the same rights and obligated to follow the same rules as the driver of a motor vehicle.
Speaking of motor vehicles, on campus I’ve noticed a significant increase in the use of mopeds. However, because it seems mopeders roll as if they always have the right of way, I like to think that “moped” is just short for “more pedestrians.” (For full disclosure, I, too, ride the moped-rule-breaking bandwagon.)
The rules of the road are fairly straightforward. The hierarchy of right of way is as follows: pedestrian, bicycle, moped, car/bus.
But what happens when a bus is behind schedule? What happens when 200 students need to go from the humanities building to Van Hise in 10 minutes? What happens when you put upward of 40,000 students on campus and expect them to get to class on time?
Just like you, I could call multiple drivers stupid, hundreds of pedestrians stupid, bikers stupid, mopeders stupid, and hell, we could agree that the general public is stupid, but that we are not.
But I don’t think that anyone has the intention of getting hit or causing injury on campus when crossing the street, when they are not supposed to or riding through a wall of pedestrians with their moped. Now, that would be stupid.
What we really need to ask is, why does everyone think they have the right of way?
The answer is that we don’t all have the right of way, but we all do need to get to classes, jobs and extracurriculars. We need certain courses that are only available at certain times, and in building a schedule, it’s clear that the University of Wisconsin does not acknowledge the time it takes students to get to classes. I’m still aggravated that I have five minutes to get from Van Hise to Vilas.
UW has demonstrated an ignorance of the fact that some students have jobs, some are double majors and some have classes at completely opposite ends of campus. The university ignores the fact that, because there are 40,000 plus students on campus, all vehicles (bicycles included) must yield to the two-mile line of them crossing the crosswalk, regardless of whether the light signals that it is okay for them to do so.
Waiting for the number of people on the crosswalk to die down, I’ve sat on my moped for 20 minutes just to travel four yards. I’ve seen bicyclists hit pedestrians. I’ve watched a car pull out and nearly hit a moped driver who, in an attempt to get to class on time, began riding in the left lane.
Come to think of it, I want to change what I previously said about people not being stupid. Most pedestrians, bicyclists, moped drivers and car drivers are stupid, but I can’t blame them for it. When students are rushed to get somewhere and penalized for arriving late, it’s no surprise that they make stupid choices.
Garth Beyer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior majoring in journalism.