University of Colorado freshman Mike Jaeger was walking by the Duane Physics and Astrophysics building Wednesday afternoon when something stopped him in his tracks.
“At first, I thought this was real,” he said, surveying a scene roped off with CAUTION tape.
In it, three mannequins lay splayed on the sidewalk. One of the mannequins’ legs were tangled in a wrecked bicycle. Another was face-down in a puddle of spilled coffee. The third was on its back, its legs smushed up against the brick wall and its arms thrown behind its head. A broken cell phone lay near an overturned book bag; textbooks, notepads and pens were scattered on the concrete.
The biker-mannequin had a hand-written sign around its neck: “DIRC.”
“What’s a DIRC?” asked Jaeger, a political science major.
It started as an acronym for “Dangerous, Irresponsible, Reckless and Careless,” said Peter Roper, a program manager for the CU Environmental Center. But Roper and others behind the weeklong guerilla “Don’t be a DIRC” campaign, which is focused on encouraging safe bicycling and skateboarding on campus, would prefer to stay mum about the meaning and let students come up with their own definitions.
“We’re trying to make it something students don’t want to be,” said Roper, who helps run CU’s Bicycle Program. “It’s cool to be a biker … But it’s not cool to be railroading into people.”
Bicycling and skateboarding are immensely popular on the CU campus, an environmentally friendly trend that no one wants to discourage, Roper and others said. But speeding cyclists and zippy ‘boarders can also cause problems, especially in areas without clearly distinguished bicycle paths.
Cindy Donahue, director of CU’s Disability Services, said she’s heard complaints from students in wheelchairs and those who use canes. She once heard of a seeing-eye dog whose toes were run over.
“Someone who is blind, they’re not going to sense or feel, ‘Do I go to the left? Do I go to the right?'” said Donahue, who serves on CU’s pedestrian safety committee. Neither she nor Disability Services is directly involved with the “Don’t be a DIRC” campaign — but she appreciates its efforts.
“We’re looking at how we can make this a safer campus for everyone,” she said.
Roper and others hope students ponder that question on their own after ogling the campaign’s “accident scenes.” They plan to construct one on campus every day this week; the first two involved a police officer who had stopped to help the bloodied-and-bandaged victim of a bicycle-pedestrian collision. Yesterday, the faceless policeman mannequin was dressed as a professor — as evident by his fancy black shoes — who had gotten plowed into by a reckless, distracted biker chatting on his cell phone.
“You stand and watch it and every single person does double-takes,” said Jesi Vandeputte, a senior environmental studies major helping with the campaign. “A lot of people are saying stuff and pointing.”
“We’re trying to basically change the culture of riding on campus. Our idea is to try and (be) preventative and instill it into people’s minds and almost their hearts, but that sounds a little cheesy.”
The campaign also has a blog — recklessatcu.blogspot.com — where students, faculty and staff can post stories and rants about reckless cyclists and skateboarders. As of last night, there were 23 posts. Some listed the worst collision spots on campus. Others called for more bike paths. There were posts from cyclists complaining about distracted walkers with iPods — and vice versa.
“I don’t ride a bike on campus, ever, for one main reason: I’m way too scared,” wrote one person. “It’s busy, it’s crowded, and nobody (pedestrians included) pays enough attention.”