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5 Tips for Using a Bike on Campus


Alisha Newton

When considering biking around campus, I had a lot of questions: Should I bring my own bike, or rent one? If I bring my own, should I bring a mountain bike or road bike? Where will I put it? How will I maintain it? Will I be able to get around without knocking over pedestrians?

My bike, safely locked up.

The answers are quite simple. Here’s my guide to biking on (and off) campus:

1. Bring your own, or rent one. I brought my own mountain bike, but if it ever gives out, I’ll turn to re{cycle}, the student-run bicycle rental business on campus. Located in Sarratt Student Center, they rent out bikes for a day, week, month, semester, or year, whatever you need.

2. Make sure it stays yours. If you bring your own, register it with the VU police department and keep it locked up. For more tips on preventing bicycle theft, see the VUPD website: http://police.vanderbilt.edu/students/register-your-possessions/.

3. Maintain it. Now six weeks into the semester, my bike got a little slow and sticky, so I dropped by a local outdoors store to get my tires pumped and my chain lubed. It was fast and free, but in the future I’ll borrow a friend’s air pump.

4. Know where you’re going. Especially in the beginning, I took “the long way” to somewhere so many times. I recommend checking out a map before you undertake an arduous journey. Last week I needed to go to a bank in Nashville, and led astray by the Maps app on my iPad, went to the completely wrong part of town. With the help of a stranger, I eventually found the right place.

5. Be safe. Warn pedestrians as you approach, wear a helmet, and follow traffic rules.

On that last point, I have a confession: I haven’t been wearing my helmet, and today after riding back from church, I wiped out along the edge of a wet sidewalk. I was in the Medical Center area, and the first person to see me had some Band-Aids in his bag. He crossed the street to help me, just like a Good Samaritan. Now my foot is bruised, but that’s far preferable to hurting my head. I wasn’t wearing a helmet, and it scares me to think what could happen if I crash again.

Another interesting moment was when I warned a pedestrian, “Passing on your left” and as I passed, the person looked over his shoulder… to the right. This wasn’t a potential danger for either of us, but just be aware that some people are uneasy around bikes, even when you warn them in advance.

There’s also the bridge to watch out for: The bridge between Commons/Peabody and main campus is a pedestrian-only zone, so I usually have to walk my bike across the bridge and medical research building area. (Truth be told: at night, when it’s clear, I zoom across that bridge!) In the right-of-way pecking order, car < bike < pedestrian.

According to my dad, people who drive cars get frustrated by bikers because they either act like cars or pedestrians, depending on what suits them best in the moment. I try not to be “that biker,” but sometimes I cut diagonally across the road instead of taking two crosswalks. I know, I’m bad.


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