State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Looming Bike Plan Raises Concerns About Cyclist Safety

by on April 06, 2015 6:35 AM

We've all experienced that moment of frustration while driving down the street.

You see a bicyclist on the shoulder, pedaling away and slightly infringing into the street because the bike lane isn't big enough.

In order to avoid creeping too close for comfort as you make the pass, you're forced to cross the yellow double lines. If the Centre County Council of Government's impending Regional Bike Plan brings legitimate change, those awkward encounters may soon be a thing of the past.

"I believe that this bike plan has an opportunity to help both cyclists and motorists create a safer and more accepting environment," says Alden Anderson, a State College cyclist.

The Bike Plan is still in its infancy, but the process aims to evaluate the needs of bicyclists within Centre County as a whole. The conglomerate of town governments decided in January 2014 to begin work on a comprehensive, wide-reaching bike plan.

The plan will address a number of concerns, the most prominent being the relationship between motorists and cyclists. One State College biker, Luke Nigro, believes that educating both motorists and cyclists on the rules of the road is the first step in creating a safer environment for everyone.

"I think the borough is doing as much as any other town does to provide an environment that is conducive to biking," Nigro says. "Bikers, by law, need to follow all road signage and rules of the road. However, the main problem with this is that drivers and bikers alike don't know that."

Nigro adds that bikers don't know when to be assertive with actions like lane-merging. On the other hand, he says, drivers don't know when they need to back off and treat bikes as a normal vehicle, which they are by law. In terms of a concrete solution to this problem, Nigro suggests education through signage.

"I think signage indicating that bikers are present and equal according to traffic laws is a good idea," he says. "That means that drivers have a responsibility to be aware of bikes and bikers have a responsibility to know the rules of the road, which they should anyway."

In addition to driver and cyclist education, many bikers express concern about the current size and state of bike lanes in the borough. James Read, who is a member of Penn State's Cycling Team and rides throughout the county, says that State college could use wider bike lanes.

"Wider and safer bike paths that are accessible to everyone are definitely needed," Read says. "Also, making the paths smooth to ride on and cleared of snow in the winter is key. It is often off-putting for riders when either of these aren't met."

Among a slew of concerns regarding biking in the borough, another theme is insufficient parking, especially within downtown State College. Many bicyclists say that major streets, especially Beaver Avenue and College Avenue, could use more bike racks. 

"I don't want to put my bike on a rinky-dink pole on College Avenue on a weekend night because I know someone, somehow is going to mess with it," Nigro says. "I think there should be more dedicated bike racks downtown."

With all of those concerns in mind, Anderson still believes that the main issue falls on a lack of mutual respect between motorists and cyclists. 

"All things considered, the biggest issue is the lack of respect that motorists and cyclists have for each other," he says. "People know what to do. They just need to act appropriately."

The Centre Region Council of Governments will hold a public meeting to discuss the regional bike plan on Wednesday, April 15, from 5 to 8 p.m. The meeting will take place in the COG Building at 2643 Gateway Dr. and is open to residents of State College and surrounding townships.

For those who can't attend the meeting, you can offer input on State College's bicycle-related needs by filling out a survey at


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Zach Berger is the managing editor of He graduated from Penn State University in 2014 with a degree in print journalism. Zach enjoys writing about a variety of topics ranging from football to government, music, and everything in between.
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