By now you’ve probably seen the signs around campus from our friends at Transportation Services warning you to be safe in on-campus traffic situations like looking up from your phones and making eye contact with drivers while crossing the street, for example.
Although these tips may seem so simple and self-explanatory that these signs are laughable, they were put up because people are still endangering themselves and others by making careless and stupid errors. So alas, here are some tips to stay safe, even when those around you are being nincompoops.
Take out the earbuds:
Seriously guys. I know listening to music on the daily commute is enjoyable and seems to make the time go more quickly. However, if you think time moves slowly on your walk to school, think of how slowly it will move in a hospital bed. Although there is no law prohibiting bikers or pedestrians from having earbuds in, they can distract from the world around you, and the world around you is especially important, especially if you’re a pedestrian on Monroe street, for example. Our hearing is an incredibly useful asset when assessing potentially dangerous traffic situations. This is notably paramount for bikers, since they share the road with motorized vehicles that may not be able to see them on an overcast day. Which brings me to my next point.
Make yourself visible:
This can be a tough one, because when you’re dressing yourself for the day you’re probably thinking about practicality, comfort, style, or a number of reasons that outweigh visibility. But if you can fling a brightly-colored or reflective jacket on just for your walk or bike to and from campus, you could really help keep yourself safe. This is especially true if you tend to commute in the early or evening hours of the day. Making yourself visible will really help drivers, because we’ve all been startled by a walker or biker wearing dark clothing at night, and it’s no fun. Also, if you choose to bike, putting lights on your bike will really lower your chances of getting struck at night. And lights also come with fun flashing sequences or cool colors. Mix and match! See how fun safety is?
Crosswalks are made for crossing:
You may want to sit down for this particular tidbit but crosswalks are called that because that is where you’re meant to cross. Crazy. I mean, it must be crazy, because people around campus are exceptionally bad at crossing at designated areas, particularly on the campus itself and on the gauntlet that is Monroe street. This problem is made worse when people have their eyeballs glued to their phones and cross without looking both ways. Being aware of your surroundings while putting yourself in the way of traffic is something that your mother probably taught you about when you were three years old. We’re in college now. I believe that we can navigate through traffic without being complete doofuses. The ability lies within.
The red hand isn’t a suggestion:
We’ve all been there: the light at the crosswalk won’t turn to the little walking guy. Class is going to start in a few minutes, so we glance around and run across the street, the big red “stop” hand reflected in our guilty, guilty eyes. Ok, so maybe it’s not quite that dramatic. But the lights at intersections are a comprehensible system: everybody gets a turn, and when it’s your turn to cross, the poor bloke in the car just has to wait for you to get safely to the other side. You can really aggravate him by dropping a penny in the middle of the crosswalk and then stooping to pick it up and examining it to see what year it was minted. Just kidding. Don’t make drivers angry on purpose. Basically, waiting your turn at the crosswalk could take you out of a potentially dangerous situation, especially if a driver is also facing distractions and may not see you.
These are pretty basic tips that may seem like they don’t make a lot of difference. So what if I like to bike with headphones? Who am I hurting if I cross the in the middle of the street if no one’s there? Honestly, these things might be fine in an ordinary day. But it’s that unordinary day, the one you weren’t expecting, when you’re crossing the street or wearing dark clothing and someone doesn’t see you that you’re preparing for. It’s like biking without wearing a helmet. Sure, you can go without one, and maybe nothing will happen. But in the off-chance you do get hit, you’re sure going to wish you’d been wearing one. If you’re going to gamble, you might as well gamble in favor of your personal safety and that of others.
The opinions expressed in Keating’s column do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Barometer staff.