It’s a common sight on campus: Bicyclists whiz through stop signs, pedestrians jaywalk and motorists don’t pay attention to crosswalks or to bicyclists.
Each year, when fall term arrives and Oregon State University bicycle-riding students head back to class, the instances of collisions and near-misses around campus increase, according to Oregon State Police Campus Commander Lt. Steve Mitchell.
“It’s an annual thing that happens, and some years are worse than others. This year is worse due to the large population of students,” Mitchell said. “We’re looking at the highest population of students we’ve ever had. I think with the congestion, it’s just more noticeable than in the past.”
Last fall term, officials announced a record-breaking enrollment of nearly 24,977 students — a number that rose this fall to 26,393 and increased the congestion on OSU’s streets and sidewalks — especially in the 10 minutes before and after classes begin. The congestion has been complicated by those drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians and even skaters who don’t follow traffic laws.
In response to increased complaints from faculty, staff and students of reckless behavior on the part of each kind of campus commuter, Oregon State Police and the OSU Department of Public Safety plan to conduct a saturation operation from 1 to 4 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday on Jefferson Way in front of the Kerr Administration Building and on Campus Way near the Memorial Union Building.
During the operation, available officers will congregate in the area to watch for traffic violations.
The director of the Department of Public Safety has received six complaints this fall about bicyclists who aren’t paying attention to traffic-control devices such as stop lights and signs to yield the right of way, said public safety officer Bob Brown. He said bicyclists are subject to the same laws as motorists, but some students come from places where bicyclists aren’t accustomed to following such laws.
Saturation operations on campus are typically performed at least once per year, and the purpose is to educate the community, Mitchell said, but officers have the discretion to issue citations when they see fit.
“It depends on the circumstances of each contact and how egregious each violation is,” he said. “Our goal is to have voluntary compliance … We’re really just trying to educate them as to why they need to do it.” Any citations issued, however, could come with fines as high as $260.
The saturation patrol has been in the planning for a while — long before an Oregon State University student was killed on her bicycle Saturday in an off-campus accident unrelated to increased campus traffic congestion.
Carin Marie Norris, 19, of Corvallis, was pronounced dead at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center shortly after the 10 a.m. accident. According to Benton County Sheriff’s Capt. Greg Ridler, she fell off her bicycle for an unknown reason and landed in the travel lane while riding on Sulphur Springs Road near its intersection with Soap Creek Road. There she was struck by an SUV. No alcohol or drugs were involved, and the cause of the accident remained under investigation Monday.