Members of Our Urban Future, a student organization that advocates for improved urban planning and sustainable development, held a Sunday demonstration against Duke’s approach to safe biking infrastructure.
Using duct tape, a stencil and temporary paint, OUF members gathered in front of the Rubenstein Arts Center and graffitied what safer bike lanes and bike-friendly infrastructure along Campus Drive would look like.
“It's been a concern for a while that there's just no bike infrastructure on campus,” said senior Zoe Tishaev, an OUF executive member. “We've actually regressed in cyclist infrastructure in the last few years.”
OUF members used tape to extend the bike lane to five feet, the minimum requirement for a permanent bike lane according to the Federal Highway Administration. Members also painted “sharrows,” a common icon encouraging motorists to share the road with cyclists where formal bike lanes may not exist.
The protest was in response to a recent post on the University’s Instagram account, which encouraged those on bikes and scooters to take more caution on the road. Members of OUF believe that those comments placed undue blame on bikers and scooter riders, while failing to acknowledge Duke’s own failure to address poor cyclist infrastructure.
“If you're going to talk about bike safety, you can't really do that until you have the bare minimum in place,” said junior Addie Geitner, an OUF executive member.
Duke has pulled funding from several sustainable commuting services in recent years, including the bike-share program Zagster, a C3 bus route from East Campus to Science Drive and Enterprise CareShare. The University has also removed pieces of bike-friendly infrastructure that used to be in place, such as sharrows on Campus Drive and curb-cuts on the main bus loop.
OUF members believe that minor and relatively inexpensive changes could provide drastic benefits to commuters’ safety. They highlighted several potential changes, such as a new crosswalk near 300 Swift and the reinstatement of sharrows and curb-cuts that were removed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For OUF, the need for such alterations has been made apparent by recent incidents with bikers on campus, including 62-year-old cyclist Dean Hutchison’s death in a collision at the intersection of Anderson Street and Duke University Road.
Duke did not comment on Hutchinson’s death, adding to OUF students' frustration on what they consider the University’s failure to address issues with bike infrastructure.
OUF asserts that making alterations to cyclist infrastructure on campus can have immediate positive impacts. They pointed to how as soon as demonstrators added temporary bike lanes, people started using them.
“We saw at least 20 cyclists at midnight, which just goes to show how necessary cycling infrastructure is on Duke's campus, and it's just a need that we're not providing,” Tishaev said.
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Bennett Gillespie is a Trinity first-year and a staff reporter for the news department.