Tuesday, Feb. 9, 12:23 p.m. — four university vehicles, a cement truck in transit and thousands of students crowd the area between Tommy Trojan and the Von KleinSmid Center. Amid the uncharacteristic rain, passersby fill the air with incomprehensible chit-chat. Bikes whiz and swerve across the slick pavements, as a FedEx truck inches along at snail’s pace.
Motor vehicles, electric vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians must all utilize the same transit corridors on USC’s campus. But there’s no reason they must all use them at the same time.
When developing urban streets, city planners often attempt to separate bicycles, motor vehicles and pedestrians. On campus, sidewalks, roads, bus lanes, truck routes and bikeways are all one in the same. Without any space on campus to distinguish between bikeways and driveways, the lone solution is to cut out one mode of transportation or another.
According to Undergraduate Student Government Campus Affairs Director Helen Moser, the university’s traffic safety task force is working on a solution to tackle this issue, though it has not finalized its recommendations.
To solve the congestion, the committee should highly consider a solution that bans everything but pedestrian and bicycle traffic during passing periods, the “20s” and “50s” of every hour between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. Such a proposal, however, is easier to imagine than to implement.
Bicycles alone pose a challenge. Since special bicycle driving licenses aren’t required, most students who ride their bicycles around campus aren’t informed of the proper rules and procedures, such as moving to the right in the face of oncoming traffic. And in a rush to get to class or work, speed and safety often become secondary concerns.
Students aren’t going to change poor habits if faced with inconsistent regulation. Just watch how effective the “Bike Ban” signs posted in front of the USC Pertusati Bookstore and Lyon Center are when no Department of Public Safety officer stands nearby yelling at those defying the ban. Even if a bicycle rider must dismount, the issue of congestion still isn’t resolved. Compared to an SUV, the amount of space occupied by a bicycle is negligible.
DPS Capt. David Carlisle mentioned a proposal to eliminate all vehicular traffic on campus. Such a move would require delivery trucks to operate on the perimeter of campus and move only between midnight and 6 a.m.
Campus safety would be significantly improved if there were fewer vehicles moving on campus during peak bicycle and pedestrian movement periods. Travel to class 10 minutes earlier than you normally would, and you’ll find the streets of USC filled with dozens of people instead of thousands.
If vehicles were limited to emergency travel during these peak periods of student movement, the congestion problem would be significantly resolved.
Additionally, the little white carts serving essential services such as transporting food and supplies can accomplish such tasks while students are in class. Students just need a few minutes every hour to ferry themselves around. All these other vehicles that keep the school operating will still be left with plenty of time to get themselves to their engagements.
Restricting traffic during peak periods of every hour during the day is the first step toward solving the traffic safety problem.
Until then, we’ll continue to feel the squeeze.
Paresh Dave is a freshman majoring in print journalism.