Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


In-Depth: Destination: class

Each year, a new group of freshmen arrives on the University of Wisconsin campus and quickly realize the fairly high chance of getting side-swiped by a bus, run over by a bike or trampled by a moped while walking to class.

UW Police Department Community Officer for the Central Campus Kristin Radtke went as far as to call certain intersections on campus an "accident waiting to happen." She is "surprised" there have been no deaths lately due to bicycle or moped accidents.

"It's a disaster. During class-changing time, I just want to stand there and cringe because it's a disaster," Radtke said.


Between the pedestrians, bicycles, mopeds, cars and buses throughout campus and the city, areas such as the Langdon Street and Park Street intersection and the Charter Street and Observatory Drive intersection can be very dangerous, she added.

Radtke is trying to work on tabulating statistics on moped and bicycle accidents but, unfortunately, it is not a priority, and it is a very time-consuming process, she added. But because of her involvement with UW's Bicycle/Pedestrian Subcommittee and her efforts to organize an education and enforcement campaign in September, Radtke was able to make an estimated guess.

"I think there have been more this fall than I've seen before," Radtke said.

MPD Captain Mary Schauf said the biggest concern of the MPD is moped operators and bicyclists who "blatantly" violate the law.

"It's not unusual to get a handful of significant accidents," Schauf said, adding she is not aware of any serious accidents recently. "There are some dangerous intersections downtown."

Besides crowded intersections, bicyclists on Picnic Point received some attention last spring when the Bicycle/Pedestrian Subcommittee of UW's Transportation Committee proposed to ban bicycles on Picnic Point.

Complaints from runners, families with small children and other non-bicyclists who liked to enjoy the path without the fear of speeding bicycles led to the proposal, but the ban did not pass.

Schauf also said residential areas are a problem for mopeds and bikes. She is especially concerned with moped operators who live on one-way streets and, instead of following the flow of traffic, they "zip down" the sidewalk going the opposite direction.

"If you are on a sidewalk, it's for pedestrians," Schauf said. "They think for mopeds, you can bend all these rules, but it's simply not the case."

Schauf said many students don't have proper lighting for bicycles and if they dart in front of a car, the driver has no way of seeing them.

Radtke agreed that most moped operators will act as a bicyclist, a pedestrian or a vehicle — whatever will work to their advantage in a situation.

"They are pretty much — with bikes and mopeds — considered a motor vehicle," Radtke said.

Moped operators need a valid license, and the only difference between bicycles and cars is that once bikers stop at a red light, if they look in all directions, they can go through the light, she added.

Bikers need to be very conscious of their environment, Radtke said, adding she has seen some people go the wrong way down the biker lane. Bicyclists must pay attention and must yield to pedestrians just as vehicles must yield to bikers, she added.

Andrew Muzi, manager and head mechanic of Yellow Jersey on State Street, said approximately eight to 12 damaged bicycles are brought in per week due to accidents. There is an even distribution of bicycle-pedestrian accidents and bicycle-car accidents ranging from minor to severe, he said.

"There's also equal distribution of spaciness — car drivers who are oblivious and bike riders who shouldn't be wearing their iPods," Muzi added.

Jesse Joswick, service manager at Budget Bicycle Center on Regent Street, said the number of bicycle accidents also depends on the time of the year.

"This week, we've already seen one today," he said early in the week. "When the freshmen move [in], we usually see three or four a day."

According to Joswick, during move-in week, the increase in cars, out-of-towners and "a lot of kids that aren't good at cycling and haven't figured things out yet" contribute to the increase in bike accidents as the school year begins.

Joswick said over the course of a year, Budget Bicycle Center fixes anywhere from 250 to 300 bicycles due to accidents.

Scooter Therapy, 9 N. Ingersoll St., reported "very few" mopeds that need to be repaired due to accidents and they sell about 150 mopeds per year. Only one moped per week on average is brought in due to an accident, and it's usually because a friend who did not know how to drive the moped borrowed it.

Prevention efforts

Radtke said she sees more bicyclists wearing helmets than moped operators. Bicyclists, moped operators and motorcyclists are not required to wear helmets in Wisconsin.

There is no federal law in the United States requiring bicyclists to wear helmets, but some states and cities across the nation require people under certain ages, ranging from 12 to 18, to wear helmets while riding a bicycle.

The UWPD tries to complete a session of enforcement and education on mopeds and bicycles in the fall and spring of each year. In September, there was a week-and-a-half-long educational session where informational pamphlets and 800 verbal warnings were given out to moped operators and bicyclists.

Following the educational session was two weeks of enforcement where 76 citations for bikes and mopeds were written. Bikers were given tickets for going the wrong way in a bike lane and for failure to stop at stop signs.

For moped operators, common violations ranged from operating on a sidewalk, two people on a moped, illegally passing and failing to stop at a stop sign, Radtke said. Through the UWPD, a passenger on a moped will cost the driver $185.50.

Schauf said UW citations for bikers and moped operators are more expensive than city citations. A city citation for two people on a moped is $103.58. Bicyclists who ride a bike on Library Mall will receive a $66 ticket from the MPD, and failure to yield to vehicles when entering a street is a violation for $53.50.

According to UW Senior Transportation Planner Rob Kennedy, 37 injury-producing accidents from mopeds that illegally entered traffic and obstructed pedestrians occurred during the 2003-04 school year.

But Radtke said the UWPD does not have the staffing to enforce moped regulations all day, every day. The department's education and enforcement program was paid for by a grant.

"With football, Homecoming and Halloween, it's been a busy month. We haven't been enforcing as much," Radtke said.

UW senior Sarah Holt, who has owned a moped for two years, has received a ticket for letting someone ride with her on her moped but has never gotten in an accident. She admits she has to drive "defensively" around campus and "freshmen are sometimes afraid mopeders will hit them."

However, Holt said she doesn't understand why some students do not like mopeds.

"They're not something that should be frowned upon," Holt said. "It cuts down hours of walking time each week. Mopeds are nice for a busy college student with extracurriculars."

UW senior Meghan Hurley said she has not had any "big issues" with other pedestrians or bikers since she has had her moped for two years.

But both Holt and Hurley agreed the biggest problem is the new parking stalls designed for mopeds.

"The new stalls are tiny and hard to get into," Hurley said, adding that Vilas Hall has only about 10 spots and many students with mopeds are left without parking.

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