Deteriorating UCF campus bike lanes pose safety hazards
As he rides his bicycle home from work on Libra Drive, John Parker dodges broken glass, sand bars and crumbling pavement in an attempt to stay on a bike path that is no more than two feet wide.
"I've been biking to and from the school for about four years. The roadways, especially the bike lanes, have been deteriorating," said Parker, who is the office manager for the Department of Music at UCF. "It's a safety issue, especially since the cars are swerving out of the way to avoid you."
Libra Drive, a two-lane road that connects the main campus to Research Park, is a major outlet for motorists coming from State Road 408 and passes by the newest addition to student parking, the Libra Garage. These dimensions create a consistent flow of traffic that UCF's Office of Facilities Planning has begun to take into account, as shown in a draft of the Campus Master Plan for 2015 to 2025.
The master plan includes future plans to turn Libra Drive into a four-lane roadway, with one of the major goals for the overall campus infrastructure aiming "to create logical patterns of pedestrian and non-vehicular circulation systems" but only states to "consider" the use of pedestrian and bicycle paths.
Some UCF cyclists say the future developments for a more bicycle-friendly campus can't come soon enough.
Unkept roadways aren't the only problem cyclists have to worry about when commuting to and from campus. High levels of motor-vehicle traffic can be found on campus and on surrounding roads such as Alafaya Trail and University Boulevard and can pose a huge threat to those using alternate modes of transportation.
After a severe accident — a collision with a car while riding his bicycle on Alafaya Trail on his way to school — Garrett Kistler, a senior psychology major, is wary of using bike lanes. The accident occurred when the vehicle sideswiped him while he was riding in the bike lane. He landed on his shoulder and had to get surgery for his injuries, which required a year and a half of recovery.
"I don't use a bike lane if there's a sidewalk for the main reason of cars not respecting the bike lane. That accident was a life-changing experience," Kistler said.
But the fear that arises with riding in the bike lane on a busy road can cause even more dangers to cyclists, according to a study by MetroPlan Orlando that was conducted on high-volume roadways, including University Boulevard and Alafaya Trail. Biking on sidewalks against the flow of traffic was the main contributor to collisions, mostly because of motorists paying attention only to the flow of traffic before pulling out into the thoroughfare.
Rachel Higgins, a senior writing major, is currently working on a project involved in improving bicycle transportation at UCF and believes that if the focus for transportation was switched from motor vehicles to bicycles, it would solve the need for more parking garages and lots.
"I know that there are more than double the amount of people who own parking decals for their cars than there are parking spots available in garages and lots on campus, and this seems to prompt more construction of parking garages," Higgins said. "If more people feel safe to use other modes of transportation, there won't be such an overwhelming need for more parking spaces."
The Central Florida Future reached out to UCF's Administration and Finance department, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.