Distraction dominates roads in East Lansing

Print More

Laura Bohannon

Michigan State University students ride bikes among pedestrians at a busy intersection on campus.

“It’s a monthly occurrence. We get car versus either pedestrian or bike, skateboarder, you name it. You get them monthly. Sometimes multiples in a month,” he said.

“We do get our fair share. I would estimate we maybe get three, four, five a month,” Wriggelsworth said.

“You need to understand that MSU is right in the middle of East Lansing, so very, very, very high pedestrian and bike usage in our city, and inevitably we see people that don’t abide by the laws, specifically bicyclists,” he said.

From August to May, approximately 50,000 students are navigating campus and the city. About a quarter of these students are freshmen, so this is their first experience on campus.

MSU sophomore Bri Sholte said she was hit by a car while riding her bike during finals week in Dec. 2015, and didn’t know riding a bike across crosswalks is a violation of state law.

“I was headed to an exam in the morning, and I got hit in front of the Spartan statue,” Sholte said.

“I found out I was considered at fault for that accident because you’re supposed to walk your bikes across crosswalks, per Michigan law, and I didn’t know that, and I feel like a lot of people don’t,” she said.

Bicyclists must follow traffic rules

Wriggelsworth said when bicyclists are on the street they have to abide by all the rules cars do.

Sholte said she knows of two other people who were hit by cars while riding their bikes, one on campus and the other in East Lansing.

Sholte also said her father works in East Lansing and a lot of his co-workers have kids who are MSU students, and few of his co-workers said their kids had been hit by cars on campus, too.

Wriggelsworth said, “The sad thing is at most of these intersections these car-bike accidents are actually the bicyclist’s fault, because they don’t think they have to get off their bike and walk their bike at walking speed across crosswalks, or they don’t have to abide by the ‘don’t walk’ sign. They’re not even supposed to be on sidewalks.”

“With all the distracted driving out there, you mix the distracted driving with bicyclists that think he or she doesn’t have to abide by the rules of the road, and that’s when these accidents happen,” he said.

MSU senior Zach Switzer and his friend were walking along Grand River Avenue earlier this year, and a car who had a stop sign bumped into them while they were crossing Bailey Street.

“It was pulling forward slowly as if to make a turn, and it bumped us,” Switzer said. Switzer said he and his friend sustained no injuries, but they were “definitely spooked.”

It’s not just an issue on and around Michigan State’s campus, either. Wriggelsworth said bicyclists that ride to East Lansing High School generally do not abide by the law either.

Wriggelsworth said he spoke to a crossing guard in front of Marble Elementary School and MacDonald Middle School.

“She said one of the things she sees a ton is bicyclists – in the bike lane – but they don’t think they have to stop for crossing guards. So she’ll be crossing kids at the crosswalk and bikes are just ripping through her intersection because most people, most college kids on bikes, don’t follow the rules of the road,” he said.

“We did a crosswalk enforcement the other day out in front of the high school, and all the pedestrians did fine, but the kids that rode their bikes to the high school really did whatever the heck they wanted,” he said.

“That’s the scary part,” Wriggelsworth said. “I’m actually surprised, if not shocked, that we don’t have more,” he said.

Drunken and distracted

“Especially more car-pedestrian accidents, with drunk drivers. I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better with distracted drivers,” he said.

“This is what I see. I see way too many distracted drivers, and I see way too many distracted walkers. Everybody’s got their face buried in a phone no matter what they’re doing. So the walker has no idea what’s going on around them, and the driver has going on around them,” Wriggelsworth said.

“Everybody’s plugged in,” he said.

Wriggelsworth said that years ago someone was hit by a train near Hubbard Hall because their headphones were so loud they couldn’t hear the train coming.

“You know why when you go to those railroad crossings now you’ve got to do the zig zag? That’s why,” Wriggelsworth said.

“So you can’t just keep walking straight. You have to do that maneuver which gets your senses off whatever book, phone, whatever you were in,” he said.

Wriggelsworth said distracted driving is a major problem in East Lansing.

He said the East Lansing Police have plainclothes officers in plain cars who go around with a videographer in the passenger seat, and they video drivers using their phones while driving.

“I’m always the one driving the van and I’ll say, ‘yeah it’s a blue Escort going westbound on Saginaw and the gal’s been on her phone for 1 minute total,’ and we’ll have officers come stop them,” he said.

“When we’re doing that, it’s incredible to me how many people we see walking who are completely oblivious to what’s going on around them. Oblivious to the distracted driver that’s going to blow the red light. Oblivious to maybe the not distracted bicyclist doing 25 mph on the sidewalk that’s going to try to beat the light,” he said.

Wriggelsworth said the East Lansing Police Department has seen people with serious injuries after colliding with bicyclists.

“We do our best. It’s a catch 22, because we have too many distracted drivers out there and if I could have one thing happen, if the pedestrians and the bicyclists – and I’m not putting the blame on them – would pay more attention to the rules and abide by them we would have less of these. That’s a guarantee,” Wriggelsworth said.

Comments are closed.