Sharing the Sidewalk: Community Members Support New Bike Path Campaign
Ever had a stroll in the park end badly because a bicyclist nearly ran you over?
Avid cyclist Brian Dempsey hears about it all the time.
“There are friends of mine who have been hiking on the paths who’ve said there is a problem there,” Dempsey says. “My wife and I ride on the paths and we try to warn pedestrians and slow down so that there’s no conflict but I’ve heard from others.”
Conflicts like these are the reason why Dempsey, a chair for the Centre Region Bicycle Advisory Committee, is pleased with the new Share the Path Centre Region campaign that just got underway.
Forty-six signs have been installed on paths throughout the Centre Region that explain how bikers and walkers can coexist
The new safety campaign was the focus of a ceremony at State College’s Sunset Park, located on McKee Street, Thursday afternoon.
The signs warn all users to keep right unless they’re passing someone, to respect everyone on the pass, and to keep their pets on a leash. They also advise cyclist to use lights after dark, to call out audibly when passing someone, and to wear a helmet.
“This campaign is to try and improve the environment [of the paths] for everyone,” Dempsey says. “That way everybody can use those paths safely and take advantage of them.”
The seeds for the campaign were planted by Ferguson Township resident Jack Williams in November of 2012. A biker himself, Williams wrote a letter to the township regarding his concerns about bikers not warning pedestrians that they were approaching.
From there, the issue was referred to the Centre Region Council of Governments where eventually it was developed into a program with a consistent set of rules and guidelines.
“We’ve received some positive feedback,” Centre Regional Planning Agency Transportation Planner Patricia Meek said. “We’ve located them at critical locations where bikes or pedestrians would be entering or leaving the paths so that there’s a better opportunity for them to see the information.”
The ceremony, which featured four speakers and lasted just over 15 minutes, was attended by a group of about 20 people, both young and old.
Carla Stilson, a mother of two and a College Township council member, expressed her satisfaction with the signs after consistently seeing dangerous situations arise on the paths due to poor communication.
“[My family] uses the paths all the time and there are definitely situations where the lack of awareness of what the rules are on a bike path have led to some moments of unsureness,” Stilson says. “I’m really excited to see this go up. I think it will help educate everybody that uses the path.”
Along with the numerous cyclists and parents in attendance, there were also a handful of Penn State students at the event who offered their praise for campaign.
Elliott Killian, a fifth-year senior and Ferguson Township representative, uses a path nearly every day on his way to class. Killian says he often sees examples of dangerous behavior.
“If you walk this path, its common that bikes are going really fast because it’s downhill all the way,” Killian says. “I’ve almost had bike-to-bike collisions before. You’ve got to be [aware] of it and shout out ‘Geronimo’ or something to make sure.”
Killian adds that he's glad the campaign will keep the paths that are a part of his community safer.
“Every time I walk on it I think of all the people that made it possible that were here before,” Killian says. “The path is 30 years old and today we’re using it. That just goes to show that all the other paths we’re making now will still be used in the future.”