Bicyclist on Campus

A cyclist glides across 11th Avenue towards Centennial Mall Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, on campus at Montana State.

Scooters, Segways, hover boards and other “personal mobility devices” with motors would be banned from the Centennial Mall and other pedestrian areas on the Montana State University campus and would have to stay on streets and bike lanes, under a new proposed policy.

Bicycles, skateboards, skates and pedal-assist e-bikes, which can be human-powered or electrically assisted, would be allowed in pedestrian areas so long as people don’t go more than 5 mph and use them safely and courteously.

Campus planners presented the policy proposal this week to the University Council. Comments from the public will be collected over the next month. The council could vote to approve the policy at its next meeting March 5.

Planners drafted the policy after learning that an electric scooter ride-sharing company was coming to Bozeman and after an accident last fall, when a professor was hit and hurt by a student riding a bicycle, said John How, director of campus planning, design and construction.

The No. 1 goal is to protect pedestrians, but MSU also wants to encourage bike riding and other alternatives to single-person use of cars, said Candace Mastel, campus planner. Years ago bikes were banned from the central mall area, but that ban was dropped to encourage more bike riding, she said.

The proposed policy would give priority to pedestrians in two areas. One is the core of campus, between South Sixth and South 11th avenues, and between Harrison and Grant streets, which includes the Centennial Mall and area around the Strand Union Building.

The second pedestrian area would be the west side of South 11th Avenue, from the greenhouse parking lot to Grant Street, west to 12th Avenue.

The new policy doesn’t affect electric wheelchairs, which are covered by federal disability laws.

Pedestrians would also have responsibility to be careful, and not cause accidents by texting as they walk across campus, Mastel said.

The policy would also set rules for where vehicles can be parked. Scooter vendors would have to have sites off-campus for customers to drop off ride-sharing scooters, unless MSU sets up space in its parking lots, something not yet decided.

MSU’s sustainability office has hired a transportation coordinator to educate students and reach out to campus groups, she said. Videos will be added to new student orientation sessions so students will be educated before they arrive on campus.

“It’s a good policy, it’s made a lot of progress,” said Eric Austin, Faculty Senate chair. He thanked the planners for listening to concerns raised by faculty members to earlier versions and revising the draft. Austin said he has been cycling for 30 years and supports reducing the number of single-occupant cars.

Bob Hawks, former Bozeman mayor, said he appreciates the effort to reduce the use of cars, since students are now parking their cars as far away as Main Street. Hawks said it’s sometimes hard to see oncoming traffic when driving out of alleys because of all the parked cars.

Bikes with gas engines — Mastel likened them to bikes run by lawnmower engines — would be treated like motorcycles.

The policy would allow temporarily closing pedestrian areas to bikes and other personal devices for events like Catapalooza, Mastel said.

The new policy doesn’t create zones where people would be required to dismount and walk, but it does allow the flexibility to create such zones in the future if necessary, she said.

The entire draft policy on personal mobility devices can be read online (www.montana.edu/legalcounsel/proposed/index.html)

Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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