Wheels or heels? Mobility committee hits the road – and the sidewalks

Dismount zones for bicycles, other wheeled modes of transportation placed across campus

Sometimes people getting around campus need to jump off their wheels and take to their heels.

That’s the idea behind Rice’s new dismount zones, sidewalks where people riding bicycles, skateboards and scooters are asked to walk instead of roll. Signs marking the zones began appearing on campus last week.

safety sign

New dismount zone signage posted near Fondren Library. 

The dismount zones are the most conspicuous work done by the Mobility Safety Committee (MSC), which was created last year to identify safety issues related to transportation at Rice. The MSC adopted a “heels to wheels” approach, taking into account pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, people with disabilities, cart drivers, skateboarders and more.

“These are just a few of the changes that are coming as a result of the MSC’s work,” said Vice President for Administration Kevin Kirby. “But we want to emphasize that mobility safety at Rice is not just a committee effort, it’s a community effort.”

The MSC studied transportation “hot spots” and asked the public for ideas and suggestions, which led to a series of recommendations, Kirby said.

One change already visible on campus is the establishment of a dismount zone on the west side of Fondren Library near Brochstein Pavilion. Cyclists, skateboarders and people getting around on wheels are asked to dismount and walk through the zone, which is marked with signs. Dismount signs will also be placed along covered arcades, such as the area on the east side of Fondren Library. The Rice University Police Department will be in charge of enforcement.

Meanwhile, Kirby said, the university is studying ways to create safe pathways for cyclists and how to encourage more people to ride bikes around the campus. Kirby also noted that the Graduate Student Association, the Student Association and the Rice University Cycling and Triathlon Club created a bicycle safety video in cooperation with RUPD.

Speeding was a major concern raised during the MSC’s research, Kirby noted, especially along Alumni Drive. About a third of the cars traveling along that corridor did not have Rice parking stickers, he said, so RUPD has already stepped up enforcement of the existing ban on cut-through traffic on campus. RUPD is also devoting more effort to enforcing speed limits on Rice Boulevard, Kirby said.

In another effort to slow traffic on campus, speed humps will be installed in the vicinity of the Gibbs Recreation Center, Kirby said, adding that the university is also looking at ways to slow down vehicles driving around Wiess College.

Rice has also asked the City of Houston for help with traffic concerns on the streets surrounding the campus. The university has renewed a long-running request for a stop light at Entrance 20, where Rice Boulevard intersects with Kent Street. Rice has also asked the city to install “no right on red” signage at the intersection of Main Street and University Boulevard to protect pedestrians crossing near the BioScience Research Collaborative, Kirby said.

Drivers should also notice that hedges have been trimmed at all campus entrances and exits to improve sight lines, Kirby said.

“We recognize that despite the many measures that will soon be implemented, mobility safety will remain an important issue requiring attention for years to come at Rice,” Kirby said. “With the Rice community’s help and support, together we can make our campus and its perimeter a safer place.”

The Mobility Safety Committee report and implementation status can be found at https://mobilitysafety.rice.edu and accessed by logging in with a Rice NetID. Concerns and ideas can be sent to mobilitysafety@rice.edu.



About Arie Passwaters

Arie Wilson Passwaters is a Web editor in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.