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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Yellow Tape Wars or my small act of civil disobedience

Oak Street through the UTC campus has been closed to cars for years and made into strictly a pedestrian and bike way. There were a set of posts on the west entrance that, while blocking cars, allowed easy access by walkers, bikers and the school's utility golf carts. Seemed to work fine.
But one day as I was riding to work, workmen were busy with those posts on some project. I didn't think too much about it, so imagine my surprise on my way home, I found myself jerking to a stop to save myself from running my bike into a chain barely visible in the dark. Inspecting it, I discovered that this chain was stretched between two posts practically the whole width of the street. There was left some clearance on the sides for passage-two feet on one side and just one foot clearance on the other side. The powers-in-charge of UTC deemed that was all that was needed for all traffic on the 25 foot wide street to get through. Talk about a bottle neck. Two pedestrians cannot walk side by side. A bicycle has to carefully maneuver through that tiny opening. Sometimes the whole street width is filled with traffic which then has to be squeezed into that tiny funnel.
Why would the powers-in-charge do this? Besides teaching cycling maneuver skills, there didn't seem to have any advantage over the old system. Then it dawned on me; it was for the CARS! The series of posts had no way to allow vehicles through! There was another entrance on the other side of Oak Street that allowed vehicle entry, but that must have been too inconvenient for someone. So instead, a system was devised that made it difficult for every legitimate user so a driver of a car would just have to undo a chain to get through. Don't tell me this isn't a car-centric society.
It appears that I wasn't the only user of that passageway put off by the insult of this new gateway. A month or so after construction, I rode through and found the bolt that held the chain to the post had been ripped out. The wall had been torn down! (OK, it wasn't exactly a wall, but it felt like one)
But the powers-in-charge of UTC weren't giving up so quickly. Riding back through, a yellow tape had been stretched out between the posts. A day later, the tape had been torn down. The tape went up, the tape went down. The tape went back up.
My heart pounded with glee everythime I saw that tape go down. There were others like me! I wasn't alone in thinking that that blockage was asinine, insulting and even dangerous. So when, coming home a few days ago, I found the tape up again,this time threaded through several barricades, I knew what I had to do. I couldn't leave it to others to fight this battle. It was time for me to do my share. Without slowing down, I ran that bike though the tape. I pulled down the barricades, setting up quite a racket before the tape broke. FREE AGAIN! Boy, that was a good feeling.
If those authorities read this I guess they can send their cops after me. (Hey, Greg, you going to arrest me? Being a cyclist mounted cop, surely you understand)
I don't know where this is going to end. I guess there will be an attempt to fix the chain bolt. I hope if it succeeds, it will be ripped out again. It sends out the wrong message. I see groups of potential students and their parents taken on tours just at that spot. As the student leaders funnels the up to 30 people though the one foot wide passage way, are they telling them how pedestrian and bike friendly the campus is?
UTC needs to get it together. Don't close down a street to make a wonderful multiuse path and make it pedestrian and biker unfriendly. What's the sense of that? Hopefully the protest of that blockage will continue. I promise to do my part!


UPDATE!!! April 5
The chain has been fixed, once again all traffic is crowded in almost impossible to sqeeze through openings. The dirt path that the utilty golf carts take around the chain looks like it is becoming a fixed feature. The landscaping has taken a last gasp and has been throughly beaten down. Rather nice for an entrance to our local university. I'm sure it makes for a nice impressions on those potential students that I see frequently being taken around.
I can just hope the Chain Wars are not over.

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1 comment:

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