NIU may be paving the way for new bike paths


Mike Morocco, senior time arts major, takes the eco park bike path as a shortcut back to his apartment Tuesday afternoon.

By Chelsey Boutan

Before NIU Sgt. Alan Smith crosses from one side to the other on the sidewalk, he always looks over his shoulder.

“I’ve almost been hit several times just walking down the sidewalk,” Smith said. “You have to turn around because the bikes just fly through.”

Having a lane specifically designated for bicyclists would decrease the chances of an accident occurring and would increase the safety of students, Smith said.

“If one person gets injured that’s one too many,” Smith said. “So if you can prevent that or reduce the chances, then no matter how much it costs, it’s worth it.”

Jeff Daurer, director of capital budget and planning for NIU, said construction of campus bike paths could begin in summer 2013 if there are funds remaining following parking lot improvements.

“If bidding is positive on the parking lots, I certainly foresee us pursuing the bike paths,” Daurer said.

According to the New Northern LifeStyle website, bike paths and lots are included in the preliminary plan “to encourage travel by bicycle instead of by car.”

Daurer said the residence hall renovations are his top priority. Following that are parking lot renovations next summer. If funds are sufficient, Daurer said he will look into “opportunities for bike paths.”

Daurer said the exact location of the proposed bike paths at NIU  is undetermined at this time and won’t know the cost until the scope of work and bidding are completed.

Illinois State University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Eastern Illinois University each have bike paths on campus. Western Illinois University has no designated path for campus bicyclists.

Smith said he likes the idea of bike paths because it would decrease the chances of an accident occurring between a bicyclist and a car or a bicyclist and a pedestrian.

“Some of our students don’t pay attention,” Smith said. “If you observe them they are talking on their phones, listening to music with headphones in their ears…they are just oblivious to things around them. When you have a bicyclist coming through and you have someone not listening…you have a potential for an accident.”

There have been few reported accidents involving bicycles in the past three years and no severe injuries or fatalities, Smith said.

Senior journalism major Katie Downin said bike paths would be a helpful addition to campus.

“A lot of times I’ll be riding my bike and will feel like I’m going to hit people,” Downin said. “People walk with headphones and they don’t know you’re coming up behind them.”