University Police note increase in bicycle, skateboard rule violations

November 28, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Police Sgt. Monica Himes and her colleagues in University Police and Public Safety have seen a noticeable uptick in the number of cyclists and skateboarders violating campus riding rules — and they’re not the only ones who have taken notice of this dangerous trend. 

The steady stream of emails into Himes’ inbox tell the story: “Many cyclists do not obey the rules for riding properly on campus,” writes one concerned Penn Stater. “Something needs to be done about the unsafe environment caused by cyclists on campus,” writes another.

“We’re getting a lot of complaints that bicyclists are operating against the rules of the road, more than in recent years,” Himes said, noting that the complaints have come from pedestrians, drivers, and even fellow cyclists.

Cyclists riding on campus roadways have the same legal responsibilities as drivers, Himes said, meaning that they need to stop at stop signs and stop lights, signal when changing lanes or turning, yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, ride in the same direction as vehicular traffic, bike predictably and safely, and not bike under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“Breaking the rules can earn you a ticket just as a driver would when operating a motor vehicle,” Himes said.

Himes noted that other common violations encountered by University Police include cyclists riding with headphones or ear buds covering both ears, cyclists passing a line of cars waiting at a stop sign or stop light, cyclists riding without a light at night, and cyclists weaving in and out of pedestrian traffic.

In fact, due to concerns over pedestrian safety, under University Policy SY16, which governs bicycle use on campus, cyclists cannot ride on sidewalks in what is known as the limited bicycle zone at University Park. Cyclists must instead get off and walk their bikes on sidewalks in this zone, which is an area of central campus bounded by Pollock Road to the south, Shortlidge Road to the east, Curtin Road to the north, and Fraser Road to the west.

While cycling is prohibited in the limited bicycle zone, under SY16, skateboard riding is not permitted at all on the University Park campus. Despite being banned, Himes said skateboard use is on the rise.

“It is very specific in our SY16 policy that skateboards are prohibited,” said Himes. “And by skateboards we mean long boards and all other types of boards. Sometimes people will say, ‘Well, it’s a long board, I can’t do tricks.’ The problem is that a skateboard isn’t a vehicle, so it can’t be on the roadway. There’s no brake mechanism on them, so on sidewalks there’s no way to safely stop if you’re cruising along in heavy foot traffic. So skateboards are completely banned — there are no areas on campus where you’re allowed to ride a skateboard.”

Himes said in most instances violators are unaware that riding skateboards is prohibited, so first-time offenders often walk away with just a warning.  

“Then, if the person is stopped again, it will show up that they’ve been stopped previously, and they will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct for not abiding by campus rules and regulations,” said Himes.

Himes noted that education is a key component of University Police’s bicycle and skateboard enforcement efforts, which is why an online Bicycle Education and Enforcement Program is currently being developed.

“We want to make it so that people are reminded to do these things because it’s going to keep themselves and others safe,” Himes said.

The unsafe behaviors aren’t limited to wheeled transportation, however. Himes pointed out that the entire campus community — drivers, riders and walkers alike — must all play a role in making campus travel safer.

“While traveling throughout campus, respect one another,” Himes said. “Respect your own personal safety enough that you look up from your phone and not be engulfed in it. Be aware of your surroundings. I’ve seen people so distracted by their phones that they’ve almost run into the police cruiser. Your own personal awareness is key.”

For additional information about safe and legal bicycling in Pennsylvania, visit the Pennsylvania Bicycle Driver’s Manual online.

Last Updated November 28, 2016