California legislators might be singing the body electric right now, but in Los Angeles, it’s all about bikes. Actually, it’s all about cars, freeways and, to a lesser extent, the Kardashians. But as the state is warming to the idea of congratulating plug-in cars with carpool lane access, the City of Angels is inching slowly toward being a biker’s city.
At this summer’s L.A. Bicycle Summit, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa outlined a plan to build 1,600 miles of bike paths around Los Angeles and suggested laws requiring cars to give cyclists a three-foot berth when passing on the road. All in all, Angeleno cyclists have much to look forward to in the coming years.
Trojans have no such luck.
By now, the campus bicycle/pedestrian schism is a tired enough subject to have exhausted all puns (the last time I wrote about the issue I mentioned “spinning the wheel,” and even that was admittedly a stretch). But just because we can’t be clever doesn’t mean we should stop writing about campus security’s contentious relationship with bikers (we can include skateboarders in this too, but they’re really more a danger to themselves.)
This time last year, the Department of Public Safety’s attack plan for cyclists was slipshod. It involved inviting LAPD officers to monitor intersections a few times a semester to ticket riders, impounding stray bikes (a plan that proved impossible to carry out with the lack of resources) and telling students to walk their bikes through traffic-heavy areas of campus.
USC was in need of a more comprehensive plan for how to deal with the congestion. We needed more bike racks on the outskirts of campus, we needed bike lanes where there was space and, most of all, we needed consistency.
A year has passed, a pretty, new building has sprouted up in the center of campus and it seems DPS’ tactics have evolved very little. There are simply more officers telling students to walk their bikes. And they’re louder.
As a campus that sees anywhere between 10,000 and 15,000 bikes per day, according to a 2009 study conducted by the University Park Health Center, USC needs a bike policy that is definitive and provides for the need of a campus on wheels. Pulling one student over on Trousdale Parkway while a phalanx of beach cruisers glide happily past won’t create a lasting difference in cyclist attitude. It will only teach the student to peddle faster next time.
DPS can’t ignore the fact that people cycle on campus, or concentrate its efforts solely around the prized campus center. It especially can’t allow the bike policy to be confined to a beleaguered officer’s plea to get off and walk.
Funds used to beef up the hall monitor presence in the no-bike zone could instead be allocated to deterring traffic in more productive ways, such as placing more racks on the campus perimeter — which could encourage students to park and walk — and making clearly marked bike paths where possible. Our campus might be too small to accommodate a system of paths, but bike lanes are still possible.
Most of all, the party line should be prevention, not enforcement.
When students are pulled over and told to walk their bikes, their complaint is usually not that they are forced to make the last 100 feet to class on foot. Most mention the crankiness of the officer and the fact that he yelled.
Can we really blame him? This is a problem that has worsened steadily in the past few years, and it’s obvious that our current M.O. isn’t working. “Walk your bike,” has become a hoarse battle cry on campus, and an ineffective one at that.
I’d be cranky too.
Lucy Mueller is a senior majoring in cinema-television production and a managing editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, “Everything is Copy,” runs Mondays.