Biking, driving safety taught for World Carfree Day

Hannah Helwig, General Reporter

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A bike ride intended to celebrate World Carfree Day took on new meaning following the death of University of Wisconsin-Platteville student James Thomas. Thomas died after being involved in a pickup-bicycle collision Sept.13.

“We wanted to be really respectful because this is a horrible, tragic loss,” Amy Seeboth-Wilson, sustainability coordinator, said. “I think it’s really important at moments like these for the community to stop and reflect on values.”

Part of Seeboth-Wilson’s position is to fulfill the role of alternative transportation coordinator, meaning she works to encourage students to come to campus without a car.

“We are trying to help students be more frugal with spending, plus it’s not good for the environment and it’s expensive for the university to provide parking,” Seeboth-Wilson said.

As a result, more bicycles are used as a primary mode of transportation, making it even more important to foster a safe cycling environment.

“We want to have a community which is safe for both drivers and riders,” Seeboth-Wilson said.

The ride, which took place Sept. 22, was part of this goal. Cody Shaide, a Share and Be Aware Ambassador for Wisconsin Bike Fed led the ride according to wisconsinbikefed.org. Wisconsin Bike Fed is the largest statewide bicycle organization in the country.

“We want to promote safe riding, riding legally, best practices and in particular the safe routes in town,” Shaide said. “The initial plan was to go all the way out to the end of [Rountree Branch Trail]. That section is kind of torn up right now, but I’ll still be able to highlight all of the different points where people can get from one place to the next, and show where the path leads to as well as take people on some of the safer streets here in town.”

Shaide said that the ride was also intended to reduce any anxiety the recent accident has caused.

Both drivers and cyclists can improve safety by being more aware, Seeboth-Wilson said. This sentiment was echoed by the Platteville Police Department.

“I don’t think a lot of bicyclists view themselves as traffic,” Officer Matthew Froiseth said. “They view themselves more as pedestrians and that’s not what they are. You need to have a light on the front of your bicycle, just like you would on a regular car during the hours of darkness. Of course we also advise people to wear light colored clothing so that they are more visible to traffic.”

Froiseth also said drivers need to stay distraction free and focus on their surroundings.

“Every year there are more distractions available for people with cell phones, navigation and touch screens in their cars,” Froiseth said. “It’s that much more important for people to pay more attention to the road so that the likelihood of accidents can be prevented.”

More information on bicycle safety tips can be found at uwplatt.edu/transportation/bicycling.

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