Bikers beware: Foster not spot for easy riders

Valli Muthappan

For the first time in weeks, I was early to a class Monday. I’m not sure how I managed to do this — I blame the car alarm that went off on Hinman Avenue at 11 a.m. But rather than rolling over and going back to sleep as befits a Spring Quarter senior, I woke up, showered and ambled to class.

When I arrived in Harris Hall, I picked up a copy of The Daily. The headline read, “ASG leaders to question new bike law.”

New bike law? What was wrong with the old one? Well, plenty of things, but I decided to read on.

The article was about Evanston City Council’s new ordinance stating that biking could be banned on any sidewalk where safety was a concern. The north sidewalk along Foster Street between Sheridan Road and the Foster El station already had been declared a no-bike zone.

I didn’t get it. The person who requested the ban wasn’t hit. So why the fuss? Why prevent bicyclists from riding there? And who defines what is a safety concern in the first place?

Then I understood. Duh! Evanston hates Northwestern. And since the council can’t lash out at the administration — though I’m sure some aldermen wouldn’t mind three rounds with an administrator — it makes hell for students. After all, most people who ride bikes in Evanston are students.

I own a bike, a rusted old Huffy I’ve had since seventh grade. I brought it to school freshman year, and I’ve trusted it to get me where I need to go safely and on time ever since.

Whether I’ve been racing to get to class on time (for those days when car alarms don’t go off) or returning home from a late night at the chemistry lab, riding my bike on the sidewalk keeps me from missing pop quizzes or being hit by a car. Especially last fall, when I had many group meetings at Foster and Sherman Avenue, I would ride my bike there and back. It was more convenient than taking the shuttle, and I didn’t have to feel bad about asking someone to walk me home.

Yes, some students are aggressive bicyclists. We veer close to people and make sharp turns. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a bike accident while I’ve been at NU (aside from that suburban legend we all hear as freshman of the guy who plowed into an old lady downtown). We’re used to riding bikes and we’re also pretty conscious of people’s safety — except our own, given that most of us don’t wear helmets.

It’s time Evanston thought of our safety. It’s unreasonable to ask us to ride our bikes on the street in downtown Evanston — the traffic is busy and the soccer moms barrel along with behemoths of SUVs.

On our rusty, student-budget bikes, we’re prime targets to be hit by a speeding or reckless car. But at least downtown is not an area that most of us traverse multiple times a day. Foster is filled with student residences and a convenient El station. It’s unfair and dangerous to force us off the sidewalk in front of our own homes, temporary though they are.

I’m proud of ASG for speaking up against this new policy, and I hope the city will listen and compromise. It’s time Evanston did something for its other residents: students.