Fermi National Laboratory

Volume 25  |  Friday, July 19, 2002  |  Number 12
In This Issue  |  FermiNews Main Page

Buffalo and Bikers Right of Way

by Mike Perricone

Fermilab visitors may now go where the buffalo roam.

Beginning May 23, visitors have been able to request buffalo viewing passes, continuing the expansion of public access to the laboratory. With the pass, unescorted visitors are permitted to drive to the buffalo pasture to view the herd of about 60 buffalo, including more than 20 young animals born this spring. Driving is restricted to selected roads leading to and from the buffalo pasture.

Visitors must use the Pine Street entrance to obtain the buffalo viewing pass, and access is granted from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. There is no fee. Viewing the buffalo would have required a strenuous mile-long hike for pedestrian visitors. The new policy allows everybody, including families with small children, to easily get to the pasture where the young buffalo run around under the watchful eyes of “Mom and Dad Buffalo.”

“We have issued more than 400 buffalo passes,” said Bill Flaherty, Fermilab’s head of security. “The general adage holds true that good weather, weekends and holidays bring out bigger numbers.”

From hiking and biking to walking and jogging, from bird-watching and fishing to following nature trails searching for butterflies, Fermilab’s neighbors have a long history of enjoying the natural beauty of the site’s 6,800 acres. Adhering to U.S. Department of Energy Policy, the site was closed for recreational use following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In the following months, the lab and DOE worked together to find ways to offer limited site access for Fermilab’s neighbors.

Fermilab neighbors frequently come to the lab for fishing. Right now, residents need to park their cars at the gate and walk to the ponds. In March 2001, pedestrians and bicyclists were readmitted to the site. Pedestrians and bicyclists are allowed to enter the lab from either the main west entrance (Pine Street off Kirk Road) or the east side (Batavia Road off Rte. 59), and proceed without obtaining identity badges or visitors’ passes. However, visitors may not enter any laboratory buildings, except the Leon Lederman Science Education Center, without obtaining identity badges or visitors’ passes. The evolving policy has brought the welcome sight of neighbors once again enjoying the lab’s natural attractions, though a casual observer might think the number of visitors doesn’t yet match the levels before the shutdown.

“We can’t say where we stand in that regard compared to pre-9/11 days,” Flaherty said. “My personal experience at being out here late afternoons and on weekend days is that we are getting a good turnout, but not quite pre-9/11 levels.”

New rules expand Fermilab access for pedestrians, bikers and buffalo viewers– but caution is always the rule

As welcome as the visitors are, there appears to be some need for a period of adjustment. One bicyclist, who has commuted through the site for years, was happy to regain access but a little disappointed with his reception. “Thank you for reopening the Fermi property to bikers. It sure makes my commute to Geneva easier,” wrote Rich Scott of Naperville, who has resumed commuting by bike to the business he owns with his wife, the Great Harvest Bread Shop in Geneva.

Scott’s daily route through the site combines stretches on the lab’s bike path and roadways, and the ride has sometimes been more adventuresome than he’d like.

“Most of the drivers have been, let’s say, less than courteous,” Scott said. “The unwillingness of drivers to share the road does puzzle me as there is not much traffic and the speed limit is low. However, I’ve been buzzed and yelled at numerous times…I can take the verbal abuse, it’s the driving close that bugs me.”

With tens of miles of quiet roads and bike paths Fermilab is a popular destination for bicyclists in the Chicago area. Flaherty acknowledged that motorists have complained about encountering bicyclists.

“Some drivers comment on how hazardous it is, even if the cyclists are adhering to rules of the road,” Flaherty said. “Many bicyclists don’t follow the rules, by riding abreast or by not obeying traffic control signs. There is not much middle ground on this question.”

Still, by following the Illinois Rules of the Road— for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists—there is room for everyone. And to help out, we’re publishing the rules of the road on the next page.

Enjoy the site—and be careful out there.

Rules of Sharing the Road

On the Web:
Recreation at Fermilab

last modified 7/19/2002   email Fermilab