Michael Ronkin, president of Designing Streets for Pedestrians & Bicyclists, moved from Switzerland to the U.S. about 40 years ago and immediately realized a problem — the unsafe road conditions for walkers and bikers.
“I have never gotten into a crash, but after I moved from Switzerland, I rode a bike everywhere and walked a lot,” Ronkin said. “I noticed immediately how much more difficult it was to walk and bicycle here. For the last 50 years, we have designed streets with just cars in mind.”
Ronkin was chosen by the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, Federal Highway Administration and the Michigan Department of Transportation to hold a conference Tuesday through Friday at the East Lansing Marriott at University Place, 300 M.A.C. Ave., to discuss issues facing cyclists.
“They do this conference every year and they always like to have an inspiring keynote speaker and they thought I would be a good fit,” Ronkin said. “I travel around the country to cities and give them advice on how to make streets work better for people not in cars — that’s transit users, walkers and bicyclists.”
Before embarking on an 11-mile journey Wednesday through the campus and city, Ronkin said he formed an impression about MSUs roads.
“My first impression was very positive, but as you get farther from the downtown things are a little more sprawled,” he said. “I was surprised to see the parking, and that you can drive on (campus). I think campuses should be closed to motor vehicles except deliveries.”
Following the conference, Tim Potter, manager of MSU Bikes Service Center, led a group of about 15 bikers on a tour across campus, with brief pit stops at Spartan Stadium, MSU Bikes Service Center, the new Farm Lane bridge and Frandor Plaza, in Lansing.
“We are going to be showcasing the bike and pedestrian facilities on campus to a group of people coming from all over the state and to an international expert,” Potter said.
He said the improvements MSU has made to its roads have been fantastic.
“We have done a lot in the last 10 years to make it a better, friendly place for bicyclists and pedestrians,” he said. “If (MSU) repaved or redeveloped a road, they made it wide enough for bike lanes and also did a bunch of other improvements to make it safer.”
The group of bikers included not only Ronkin and Potter, but also engineers and planners, said Rich Moeller, executive director of the League of Michigan Bicyclists.
“It’s different when you see it by bike versus in your car,” Moeller said. “It’s hands-on (and) it allows them to get on their bike and see some of the issues bicyclists are facing. It helps them as planners and engineers to design things.”
Attending college only lasts for four short years, said Ronkin, who wants to see one important change at MSU.
“It’s a great campus next to a small city, but lose the car,” he said. “This is your opportunity to really experience life in a different way.”
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