Nothing seems to attract more attention from the USC administration than bikes. Over the past several years, it has attempted to implement countless bike policies, including the most recent one designating bike lanes along Trousdale Parkway as part of the “We are Considerate. We are USC.” campaign.
The bike issue, however, is an exaggerated problem at USC. Though accidents do occur, the results are usually so minor they are inconsequential in the scope of everyday life.
Without stricter enforcement and knowledge of proper biking etiquette, the bike lanes serve as an inconvenience to bicyclists and pedestrians on campus and create confusion.
Rather than focus its efforts on implementing bike lanes, the administration should trust that students will exercise common sense and caution when biking on campus. In return, the student body should exercise caution when riding bikes.
Last year, USC attempted to establish No Bike Zones across campus during the most congested hours in terms of pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Students were required to walk their bikes near Tommy Trojan and the Lyon Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The only time students followed these restrictions, though, was when Dept. of Public Safety officers stood at intersections, enforcing the policy and threatening to hand out tickets for infractions.
If USC is aiming for rigid regulation, the administration should look to other cities with stricter approaches to bike safety. In Berlin, where biking is a common mode of transportation, sidewalks have been extended to include bike lanes and traffic lights have been installed at intersections specifically for bikers. All bikes have bells, which bicyclists ring when they approach pedestrians. They also have a system of enforcement: Minor biking infractions can cost more than $50.
At USC, there are now separate bike lanes, yet minimal enforcement. There is much less adherence to proper biking etiquette. The administration shouldn’t waver between Berlin-esque rules and a total lack of regulation, but should instead trust students to use their best judgment when biking. This requires the university to give students the freedom and trust they deserve and for students to take responsibility for their actions.
Students, as a result, could divert the energy invested in the bike debate toward issues more pertinent to student life, such as a fall break or an extended Thanksgiving vacation.
Bikes are a relatively frivolous matter in the day-to-day life of the average college student. They do help transport students from class to class or back to our dorms after a long night at Leavey Library, but students are not generally conscious of biking on and around campus.
Still, the administration continues to blow up the bike issue into a larger matter than it should be. Student Affairs has been quick to send emails regarding updates on the “We are Considerate.” campaign but has been more sparing in sending emails regarding other safety issues, such as armed robberies. The ongoing bike issue reveals how the priorities of the administration are not necessarily the priorities of the student body.
The best fix to USC’s bike problem is to take the magnifying glass away. Instead of implementing frivolous changes that seesaw between regulation and a lack thereof, the administration should give students the freedom to behave in the way we all know we can.
David Lowenstein is a junior majoring in international relations global business. Point/Counterpoint runs Fridays.