By STEVEN NALLEY
The number of students with registered bicycles on the Mississippi State University campus has grown by 62 percent so far this year versus last year.
Mike Harris, director of MSU Parking Operations, said 1,216 people on campus have registered their bicycles with his office since this fall semester began, compared with a total of 750 for the 2010 fall semester. Bicycle registration continues throughout the year, he said, so the potential to further outpace 2010 registration exists.
â€śBikes are a big hit,â€ť Harris said. â€śItâ€™s easy to get around, itâ€™s certainly healthier using them, and it helps with traffic.â€ť
Further, Harris said, registration is not required, only recommended. He said those who register receive a bicycle permit to attach to the bicycle, allowing them to recover bicycles that are lost, confiscated or stolen when MSU staff find them.
â€śItâ€™s not mandatory,â€ť Harris said. â€śThereâ€™s more bikes than that on campus. Those are just the ones we have registered.â€ť
Harris said vehicular traffic on campus has risen as well, suggesting that students and staff who use bicycles do not necessarily use their vehicles less. Many of them commute to campus, park their vehicles, and then use bicycles to continue moving around campus, he said. The growth of both vehicular and bicycle traffic on campus, he said, is likely a function of the continued overall growth of the student population.
Harris said MSU routinely works to make campus more bicycle-friendly.
â€śBike racks have been added, and more are being added,â€ť Harris said. â€śOf course, our master plan committee is looking into the addition of bike lanes around campus.â€ť
One of MSUâ€™s efforts to increase bicycle use on campus is the MSU Bike Share Program, also known as Bully Bike. Harris said this program makes unique MSU-themed bicycles available for anyone to use wherever they find them on campus.
â€śYou donâ€™t lock them up in a bike rack or anything,â€ť Harris said. â€śTheyâ€™re left open to be freely used by anyone. Itâ€™s been very successful too, the students really like it. You donâ€™t see too many of them sitting still.â€ť
While MSU does not track how often the Bully Bikes are used, Harris said, their dispersion around campus from their origin point on the MSU Drill Field testifies to their popularity. Some have also tried to take Bully Bikes off-campus, Harris said, but MSU has an exclusive copyright on those bicyclesâ€™ designs, making them easy to find and recover around town.
Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas said the Starkville Board of Aldermen have placed a great emphasis on bike and pedestrian systems. They have added bike lanes to existing roads, incorporated multi-use paths into new ones, and increased compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, he said.
â€śWe have constructed sidewalks in needed areas, and the sidewalk ordinance is working across town to develop sidewalks as construction projects take place,â€ť Dumas said. â€śNot to mention that over the coming year and as part of the louisville street (rebuilding) project, we will construct a new sidewalk linking Lynn Lane with Starkville High School. We are also working hard to complete a Safe Routes to School project and have submitted a proposal for transportation funds for sidewalk projects along Highway 12.â€ť
Starkville also has an ordinance requiring all cyclists in town to wear helmets. Dumas said the board passed it out of a sense of stewardship, to give everyone in Starkville a healthy framework for alternative transportation.
â€śWhat is interesting about Starkville is that we have a large percentage of our student population who move here from areas that are too rural or suburban to be comfortable areas for biking,â€ť Dumas said. â€śThus, they have very little biking experience. Yet, as college students who live adjacent to the campus and have access to bikable areas, it is only proper that we require safe transit for all, whether they be novice or experts.â€ť
While MSU does not require cyclists to wear helmets like Starkville does, Harris said, students and others on campus are still encouraged to wear them, and MSU places a high value on bicycle safety.
Here are the rules for bicycle use on campus:
1. Cyclists should use extreme caution and slow down or walk their bicycles when interacting with pedestrians, such as when using sidewalks to access bike racks.
2. Pedestrian crosswalks are not for bicycles. Automobiles are not required by law nor equipped with the reaction time to stop for bikes shooting across crosswalks. Bicyclists wishing to use crosswalks should walk their bikes through the crosswalk as a pedestrian.
3. Bicycles using campus roadways operate with the same rules as automobiles.
4. Bicyclists are strongly encouraged to wear safety equipment while on campus (including helmets), as well as properly maintain the mechanical aspects of their bike for the safest riding experience possible. The City of Starkville also would like to remind bicyclists of the responsibility of riding between campus and the city. Starkville has a helmet ordinance which requires all persons on a bicycle to wear a helmet. Cyclists can be cited and fined for not wearing a helmet when riding in the city limits of Starkville. For more info, please visit http://starkvilleinmotion.org
5. Bike rack use on campus is mandatory. All bike riders are asked to assist the university by not locking bikes in such a way that they block sidewalks or handicap access to buildings. Furthermore, bike riders are asked to refrain from locking bikes to campus trees or foliage, light poles or other freestanding posts or railings, or any other freestanding structures (except bike racks). Please keep in mind there is a large population of students with disabilities who require accessible pathways and specific access to buildings, and the university is required by law to protect this access.
6. Bikes locked or left anywhere besides a bike rack are subject to the lock being cut and the bike being impounded by University Police.
The owner also is subject to a fine as outlined in OP 91.307: Policies for Traffic and Parking Rules and Regulations for the Campus and Streets of Mississippi State University.