FAU thinks students don’t know how to ride their bikes and walk safely on campus.
And, it turns out, they don’t.
In a half hour on the Breezeway, the UP counted nearly 100 students walking and texting or talking on the phone last Wednesday.
“We’ve seen people on bicycles doing it, we’ve seen people on scooters doing it,” FAU police Chief Charles Lowe said. “The fact of the matter is, if you’re looking down and you’re paying attention to what you’re texting, you’re not paying attention to what is going on around you.”
The day before, a biker rode right past a stop sign during the annual Boca Safety Walk. “They’re supposed to follow the rules of the road like everyone else,” Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) Director Tom Bradley said when he saw it.
So this year’s sixth annual Safety Month’s theme is “Look up, look down, look all around,” with a focus on pedestrian and bike safety. “It’s early in the semester and gives us an opportunity to get that information out,” Lowe said.
This month, FAU is putting on events, like the Safety Walk on the Boca and Jupiter campuses, and holding a safety video contest where students can win a $200 GoPro camera, donated by Force-E Scuba Center. EH&S recorded a show on Owl Radio that will blare warnings over their speakers to bike riders and skateboarders in the Breezeway all month long.
Patricia Gomez, a sophomore pre-nursing major, says she texts on the Breezeway all the time. “It’s bad, but I do it to avoid eye contact,” she says. “I always run into people, so I should probably stop doing that.”
Bradley says texting and walking isn’t advertised as much as texting and driving, because it’s not as dangerous.
“Texting and walking, biking, and skateboarding haven’t been talked about,” he says. “People can’t die from it, but serious injuries can happen.”
Mary Ann Pertierra, a mathematics doctorate student, thinks texting and walking is OK as long as you’re paying attention. “I think it’s fine if you text in the Breezeway,” she says
“Just look up every once in awhile and know what’s around you.”
This year there have been 11 pedestrian and bike accidents on the Boca campus, and two of them were this semester, according to Lowe. He says seeing students crossing the street and getting hit by a car is not unusual.
“We had a bicyclist over on Dade Ave. by Algonquin that literally rode his bike into the side of a car full speed and he went over the hood of the car,” he says. FAU had camera footage of the accident that showed the car come to a complete stop and the biker hit the side of the window without slowing down.
“He ran right into the side of him,” Lowe says. “It wasn’t very good.”
Bradley also hopes to remind students about the Breezeway bike ban this month. Student Government and Student Affairs tried to help keep students from riding their bikes and skateboards through the Breezeway in the past, but students still do it.
“There’s signs posted, but no one reads signs,” Bradley says. “They just become part of the background.”
He says budget cuts are part of the problem. There’s not enough staff to enforce the rules. “You almost have to be out there all day long because it’s a frequent occurrence,” Lowe says. “If three people go by and no one challenges them, then the other five or ten that are carrying their skateboards put them down and take off too.”
Besides stopping to talk on the phone or send a text, students should make sure a vehicle sees them when they’re crossing the street. “So make sure that that vehicle sees you before you walk out in front of it,” Lowe says. “And I know that sounds like a simple thing to say, but it really is true. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t count on people to do the right thing.”
Visit www.fau.edu/safetymonth for more information on Safety Month and a list of events.