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Speaking Out


It had to happen sooner or later. Finally, my turn came, and I was "biked" around 12:30 PM on October 4 as I was walking west on the sidewalk along Walnut Street. Approaching the corner at 34th Street, I made the error of turning to cross Walnut, at which point a young woman crashed into me from behind. At least, according to the cyclist it was my error. As I turned to confront the offender, she denounced me for changing direction. That is right! I was in the wrong, because I had turned to cross the street at the corner. (And I thought pedestrians were supposed to cross streets at the corners!)

No apology whatsoever was offered! When I pointed out that, lacking rear view eyes, I had no way of knowing that a cyclist was approaching from behind and about to pass me, the cyclist became even more truculent and adamant in her insistence that I had caused the collision. She was convinced that the campus sidewalks belonged to cyclists and that pedestrians were nothing more than an annoying nuisance

I was fortunate; no injury resulted. Since I was wearing dark slacks, the tire marks left when my right leg was rammed did not even leave visible stains. But, one of these days, grievous injuries--ghastly fractures, concussions, and perhaps even death--could lie in store for Penn pedestrians as we are forced to cope with an ever more aggressive and irresponsible swarm of cyclists. Increasingly, the latter careen around at high speeds on campus walkways, zooming dangerously close to pedestrians, near misses being the norm.

Penn does need to address this mounting threat to public safety before a disastrous accident belatedly puts this issue on the front burner. At a minimum, a campaign should be launched to raise awareness that campus walkways are designed for pedestrians and that pedestrians have the right of way on our sidewalks

--Ann Elizabeth Mayer
Associate Professor of Legal Studies


The University does have a Bicycle Policy that is actively enforced by officers of the Penn Police Department. The policy prohibits the operation of bicycles on Locust, Smith, and Hamilton Walks between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Penn Police officers on foot and on bicycles are aware of and share the safety concerns that pedestrians have relative to unsafe operation of bicycles on campus walkways. Officers are detailed to campus walkways every day to enforce appropriate ordinances. Through visible, proactive patrol, our officers will make the walkways of our campus safer for all members of our community.

If a member of the community should observe a bicycle operating in a manner inconsistent with University policy, I encourage you to bring the situation to the attention of the Penn Police by reporting this activity to the department. Walk to the nearest Blue Light emergency phone and report the activity to our Communications Center. An officer will be dispatched and the situation will be managed appropriate to the offense.

--Thomas A. Rambo, Chief of Police

Speaking Out welcomes reader contributions. Short, timely letters on University issues will be accepted by Thursday at noon for the following Tuesday's issue, subject to right-of-reply guidelines. Advance notice of intention to submit is appreciated. --Eds.


  Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 8, October 15, 2002