New committee studying mobility safety on campus

A new committee has been appointed to study the ongoing safety issues related to transportation on campus.

drawing of cyclist with pedestrians and cars in background“As the vibrancy, population and number of visitors to our campus have grown over the past decade, so has the number of transportation options for getting around campus,” Vice President for Administration Kevin Kirby said in an Oct. 19 email to the Rice community. “Whether you travel on foot or by car, bike, shuttle, cart, motorcycle, scooter, skateboard, hoverboard, unicycle, skates or some other mode, you may have had or witnessed a near-miss experience with someone who violated a traffic law or wasn’t paying attention as they zoomed about the campus. In some cases — luckily, very few — it wasn’t a near miss; there was a collision of some sort.”

Kirby noted that the university has made a number of changes over the years to ensure the safety of the Rice community, “but we must do more,” he said.

He appointed Richard Johnson ’92, director of Rice’s Administrative Center for Sustainability and Energy Management, to chair the Mobility Safety Committee, whose members will include students, faculty and staff. The committee is seeking comments about particular problem areas on campus and suggestions for how to improve mobility safety. Feedback can be emailed to

“While the committee is deliberating, I have asked the Rice University Police Department to be more strict about enforcing traffic laws and campus rules, which should help decrease the potential for accidents,” Kirby said.

“Cars parked illegally increase the chances of a mishap because they can block the line of sight for oncoming traffic that may have to stop suddenly to avoid hitting a pedestrian who walked between two parked cars to cross the road. So if you leave your car in a no-parking zone or you park in a 15-minute space for longer than the allotted time, you can expect to get ticketed. If you ride a bike and don’t stop at a stop sign, you can get fined. Skaters and skateboarders who fail to yield the right of way to pedestrians or travel in the street against the vehicular traffic flow can get fined,” Kirby said.

He noted these additional ways that members of the Rice community can help to make the campus safer:

  • If you see a dangerous condition or incident, report it to RUPD by calling 713-348-6000.
  • No one on wheels should go around a shuttle bus when it is stopped to unload passengers, who could unknowingly walk into the path of a cyclist or skateboarder trying to pass the stationary bus.
  • Cyclists, skateboarders, drivers and others on wheels should not distract themselves from the road by texting or reading their phone while in motion.
  • Riding bikes and skateboards in the covered walkways (cloisters) is prohibited. Many buildings have entrances that open blindly onto covered walkways, and pedestrians may not look for an approaching bike or skateboard when they step out of a building.
  • Even when you have the right of way, stay vigilant and look both ways before crossing the road. A distracted driver or a cyclist in a hurry may not see you.
  • Watch for pedestrians, especially at crosswalks. Be particularly careful at campus exits and look for joggers and other users of the outer loop.
  • Cyclists and skateboarders should slow down to pass pedestrians on the sidewalk and ring a bell or yell “on your left” to let pedestrians know they’re coming by.
  • At night, cyclists should wear light-colored or reflective clothing and have a light on their bikes to make them more visible to drivers and pedestrians.

“Please help us make the campus safe for all of us,” Kirby said.

About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.