You ride your bicycle all the way to class, but find the bike rack filled to capacity. You lock your back wheel in place and leave the bike near the rack so you can rush to class. When you come back out, your bike is gone.
After dejectedly walking home thinking your bike has been stolen, you find an email waiting for you saying your bike has been impounded by the Dept. of Public Safety. You must pay $20 to retrieve your bicycle or it will be sold or given to charity after 90 days.
This doesn’t sound like the type of activity in which a department dedicated to the university’s safety should engage. It is an inefficient attempt to fight the symptoms when a cure, such as adding bike racks, for the cause already exists.
This has been occurring for a long time now, and it seems DPS has been ramping up the amount of impounds in recent weeks or is at least trying to publicize the policy more through signs on the doors of the Lyon Center.
But this misguided rule does little for public safety and instead further strains the relationship between DPS and the student body. This policy doesn’t help DPS’ credibility in the minds of students who wonder if the department’s officers would be better served performing tasks that don’t involve charging students for recovering their own property. The policy could lead to further resentment against DPS because students might believe DPS would be better-suited in concentrating its efforts toward crime prevention and reaction, rather than impounding bikes.
The rule is in place to keep the amount of bike thefts down. It approaches the problem, however, from the wrong angle. The vast majority of these floating bicycles are not there by fault of the owner, but because of a lack of available bike rack space.
Places with a high volume of daily bike traffic, such as the Lyon Center or Leavey Library, are ill-equipped with available parking space. This causes that all-too-familiar congregation of spokes, pedals and handlebars in the way of the door. It leaves us one unfortunate pant-leg-snag away from disaster. Instead of fighting this problem with more bike racks, the university attempts to fight it with more ill-advised solutions by taking bikes away.
Yes, DPS uses discretion in the enforcement of this rule — you are not going to find officers enforcing it outside of Taper Hall during the height of class hours. And because of this good judgment, the rule seems inconsistent. Ambiguity rears its ugly head when the rule is enforced and the affected students are generally unfamiliar with the policy.
The department exists to ensure the safety of members of the USC community, most importantly its students. DPS can only help itself by focusing on more worthwhile endeavors.
Yes, the overflow of bikes needs to be addressed for the safety of the students. This shouldn’t be done through the folderol of impounding bikes. Rather, increasing the number of available bike racks so that high-traffic buildings like Taper Hall and the Lyon Center can handle the surplus would be a much more elegant and practical solution.
Daniel Grzywacz is a sophomore majoring in cinematic arts-critical studies. His column “Thoughts From the Quad” runs Wednesdays.