Freshman, Engineering major
Earlier this semester, UFPD Officer Wayne L. Clark drove down Southwest Archer Rd. while simultaneously enjoying his savory, chicken burger with a side of fries from Chick-fil-A. He found his peace abruptly interrupted by the sight of a confused girl with a bloody head sitting on the side of the road.
“It looked to me like something wasn’t right,” Officer Clark retells, so he “flipped on the emergency lights and went to go talk to her.” The young girl was just “coming back to reality” when Clark entered the scene. According to the officer, “She had no idea what happened, what she was doing, or how she crashed.” Luckily, Officer Clark was able to administer first aid until emergency services arrived just a few minutes later.
On her arrival at the hospital, doctors immediately treated the two-inch gash in her head and further diagnosed her with a small skull fracture and a concussion. It was determined that the victim had been speeding down Archer Road on her bicycle when she saw someone on the sidewalk. In hopes of avoiding a collision, she jumped the curb to get into the bike lane, however, tragedy struck when she hit the lip of the curb while getting back onto the sidewalk, causing her to take a nosedive into the concrete.
Although Officer Clark gave her a free helmet after the fact, he declares “Although it was bad, it could have been worse, which is why we advocate for people to wear helmets. Most likely, if she had been wearing a helmet it [a majority of the injuries] would have been avoided.”
As Officer Clark humbly articulates, “I was just at the right place at the right time.” He rightfully advises everyone to “pay attention to your surroundings at all times. Don’t just assume people will stop for you.” If Officer Clark weren’t there to administer first aid and call for the paramedics when he did, it is unimaginable what could have happened. He added “…At night time it is even worse. It is harder to see bicycles at night without lights.” Officer Clark also underscored the importance of following traffic laws to prevent hefty traffic tickets or life-threatening injuries.
Raegan Garner, UF Honors advisor, promotes riding your bicycle, but in the same breath tells how riders should be more cautious. She has ridden her bike for many years, and jokes about how “we need to find a way to make helmets less dorky” as a helmet has saved her head many times. None of her accidents have happened on campus, however, she believes pedestrian awareness on campus could be bettered. “Students and faculty need to think of where the bike lanes are,” Ms. Garner continues “bikes [like cars] are also moving at a speed.” You wouldn’t jump out in front of a moving truck, so why would you walk in front of a bicycle?
Ms. Garner recognizes the argument in society of whether bicyclists should be on the road or on the side walk. As a general rule of thumb, she believes, “if there is a bike lane they should be in the bike lane. If the sidewalk is crowded, they should walk their bike.” Ms. Garner especially stresses using hand signals, stopping at stop signs, and being aware at all times. Even if you feel foolish, you can get ticketed for traffic violations.
Just the other day, Nicholas DelCastillo, an RA at Hume, was “crossing the intersection of Gale Lemerand and Museum Rd” on his bicycle. “I was passing a couple of cars and the light had just turned green,” Nicholas recalls. As he began to pass a green minivan next to him, the minivan turned his blinker on, cut into his lane, and missed Nicholas by only 12 inches. “If I had been a couple of seconds slower, I may have been run over,” he frankly retells. Nicholas tells, “there are problems with cars being aware of bikes around them, they don’t look for bikes, they don’t check their mirrors, they pull into bike lanes, they don’t see bikes crossing the lanes.” But Nicholas believes bicyclists could better follow traffic laws to be safer. Nonetheless, Nicholas believes UFPD does a great job of helping with bike safety, however, “UF in general could be more active with bike safety.”
With so many bicyclists on campus, UFPD works to teach bicycle safety. For example, they table for bicycle safety at events at UF, as well as give out free helmets at the police station. The officer kindly relays that “We [the UFPD] would rather educate you through fairs [tabling] than after an accident or by giving you a ticket.” Furthermore, Officer Clark confidently states, “I think we [the UFPD] have done a good job of telling people about the services we have to offer,” while discussing methods such as using social media, talking at Preview, and giving out pamphlets to get the word out. The officer asserts that the UFPD “has bicycle safety certified officers that can give them [students] tips and tricks for how to ride safely”.
To give an example, Rhina Maylin Lara, an Honors student who missed several weeks of school due to concussion in a bike accident, wishes she had worn a helmet. Now, almost a year after the incident, she believes, “Not so many people wear helmets while they are biking, which is a problem… If I were wearing a helmet, I would not have had such a severe concussion.” With a smile on her face, Rhina goes on to avow she believes, “[Wearing a helmet] is not really reinforced. There are cops everywhere and they kinda stop you if you’re going too fast or riding without hands… But nobody has really gotten a citation for not wearing a helmet.” Although she knows that could be annoying for students, Rhina confidently asserts, “It’s something that’s necessary. When you ride, you should wear a helmet.”
Nonetheless, if you ride your bike on campus, make sure to be safe and wear a helmet. If you don’t want to go off campus to get a helmet, you can just stop by the UFPD’s office. Also, be sure to take advantage of free bike registration and the bike shop at the Reitz Union. This way, if your bicycle is stolen, UFPD will have a better chance of returning your bike to you. If you live off campus, you should also register your bike with the Gainesville Police – which can easily be done online. However, our most important piece of advice remains this: WEAR YOUR HELMET.