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Letter to the Editor

Duke frequently commends itself on its commitment to alternative transportation, but in between new parking decks and freshly paved roads, conditions for bicycle commuters remain unsafe. On Campus Drive specifically, the absence of bicycle lanes makes it necessary to share the road with drivers, which need not be problematic. Unfortunately, university-employed bus drivers routinely exceed the posted speed limit and aggressively pass bicycle commuters. Bus drivers should be properly trained as to the relationship between drivers of motor vehicles and bicycle commuters, who are by NC law accorded the same status as drivers of motor vehicles; as such, bus drivers are obligated to slow down when approaching slower moving bicycles and when preparing to pass them, must leave a distance of two feet between their vehicle and the bicycle being passed, and must pass the bicycle completely before moving back into the lane (articles 20-141, 20-146, and 20 -149 of NC traffic laws, respectively). Duke buses are equipped with GPS devices enabling Duke Transportation to monitor location and speed; drivers should be trained and expected to obey the speed limit. Some roads on campus are marked to indicate that motor vehicles and bicycles are expected to share the road, but Campus Drive is not, which may lead some drivers to think that bicycles belong on the sidewalk or on the shoulder (or, judging from their driving, in the ditch). Marking Campus Drive appropriately would avoid some of this confusion and make commuting by bicycle safer.

Buses and bicycles are both desirable alternatives to driving, but Duke’s oversight has put the two in direct competition. Duke is responsible for providing a reasonably safe environment for bicycle commuters, and it is unfortunately clear that the institution has far more important infrastructure projects than providing safer bicycle lanes. Still, Duke must demonstrate their commitment to alternative transportation by properly informing drivers of their legal responsibility and holding them accountable to it. 

Michael Burrows

PhD Student, Sanford School of Public Policy

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