Murfreesboro Citizens for Bike Lanes call for sharing the road
It’s hot, and the biker is late for class. He peddles quickly, standing on the pedals as he rides up the hill on Middle Tennessee Boulevard. A car whizzes past him, a bit too close for comfort. Another one flies by, and the wind makes him swerve. The car behind him honks, startling him, and the driver flips him off as the cyclist steadies himself.
The roads are filled with animosity for folks on a bike. Aggressive drivers have no patience for a cyclist in their way.
And so Middle Tennessee Students have another demand for campus officials, and it can’t be met with a fast food restaurant in a new shiny building. Bike lanes. Cyclists want them everywhere. Though bike lanes exist on Greenland Drive, MTSU Boulevard and Alumni Drive, some of the more narrow roads around campus pose serious threats to cyclists.
Members of the group “Murfreesboro Citizens for Bike Lanes” are calling upon campus officials and city administrators to make a concentrated effort to improve bike safety by constructing lanes on all the roads around the campus and city hall vicinity.
“The lack of bike lanes makes it really hard for me to safely commute to school without a car. I started the group to see how many people had this same issue, and I was surprised that so many other people felt very similarly,” said Cedar Mittig,a junior majoring in liberal arts, the group’s creator.
Ron Malone, assistant vice-president of events and transportation services on campus, said projects to widen Lightning Way and Champions Way, accommodating bike and shuttle lanes, are scheduled to begin in January.
However, many bikers agree that lanes are needed elsewhere, especially on the main roads around the campus perimeter. Drivers often expect bikers to ride entirely out of their way and on the sidewalk, which is illegal in Tennessee.
According to section 55-8-175 of the Tennessee Code Annotated, any person operating a bicycle at less than the normal speed of traffic should ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except for when passing another vehicle, preparing for a left turn, or avoiding objects in the road. Bikers may also ride elsewhere under the condition of “substandard width lanes,” meaning a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side.
One such lane might include Middle Tennessee Boulevard, which is hardly wide enough for its current five lanes of traffic. Dana Richardson, Murfreesboro transportation director, said that next spring construction companies will bid on plans to widen the road and add bike lanes from Main Street to Greenland Drive.
Until those plans come to fruition, bikers will continue to ride on narrow roads, which often incurs abuse from aggressive drivers.
“Literally every day a car passes within an inch of me. It’s really nerve wracking. If someone is on their phone, I’m road kill,” said Mittig. “In some extreme incidents, I’ve had people pull over and start screaming at me to get on the sidewalk. Obviously these people are ignorant of the fact that it’s against the law.”
Drivers and bikers must exercise extreme caution until bike lanes are established throughout the campus area. Having to briefly slow down behind a cyclist might be frustrating, but being a minute or two late could prevent a potentially fatal accident.
Honking, yelling or speeding past cyclists might startle them and cause them to swerve, and drivers must remember that an automobile provides a level of protection bikers do not have. Bicyclists must also be aware of their surroundings and the width of the road—if it is too narrow, the roadway law does not apply. Also, helmets can be the literal difference between life and death.
Biking is great for the environment and the health of the cyclist—unless a terrible accident occurs. Drivers and cyclists must learn to share the roads around MTSU, and the bulk of the responsibility duly falls on the operator of the two-ton machine.