Bike policy changes exaggerate problem

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.

8 replies
  1. Kenny
    Kenny says:

    When I participated in the meeting in the spring about the new bicycle plan on campus, the proposal I had heard was that the bike lanes on Trousdale would have smooth pavement, while the pedestrian areas would have bricks or cobblestones, so that cyclists and pedestrians would automatically separate themselves. When I was here over the summer, most of the pavement was torn up, so I assumed that they were going forward with this plan.

    However, I see that in actuality, they have just redesigned the pavement in a way that does nothing to indicate the separated uses, and then applied a bit of paint as an afterthought. If the proposal from the spring had been implemented, it seems that all the effort that goes into enforcement and awareness right now could have been directed to other issues.

    However, it would seem like a waste to tear up all this pavement again just a few months after the last time it was replaced, so I suppose we’re stuck with the sub-optimal facilities at least for this current academic year. Perhaps the metal barriers will start to be used, and the separation will work, but I’m not optimistic right now.

  2. Jill
    Jill says:

    Maybe bikes are an issue.. but how about we prioritize. There are armed robberies and burglaries every week at and around USC. How about we focus on protecting USC students from violent felons before worrying about a biker being inconsiderate? Did we forget that two students got murdered just a few months ago?

    We need to demand better from the administration in terms of safety. Stop cracking down on bikers and people partying, and instead put ALL of our DPS officers and resources into preventing violent crime. Enough of the excuses already. We pay 40,000 years and have a $3.3 BILLION dollar endowment. Use a fraction of that to protect our most valuable resource- our people.

  3. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    I admit that I was walking down a bike lane earlier this week with a classmate and a DPS officer yelled at us and pointed to his left. It was literally, “HEY!” and him pointing. That honestly meant nothing to me as I had no clue why he was yelling or where he was pointing. When we got closer he yelled, “When I point like this it means get out of my bike lane!” Oh, there’s a bike lane now. That’s when we noticed the symbols of bikes and arrows painted on the ground and decided that the barriers that look like portable bike racks were, in fact, strange little barriers.

    Now I’m sure the administration and fellow students will say I have no excuse for not knowing about the bike lanes because there were emails sent out. But I can tell you exactly why I didn’t read those emails: They weren’t addressed to me. They were addressed to bicyclists in terms of “bike lanes.” I’m a pedestrian and leave it to the bicyclists to know where they can ride and trust that they won’t run me over (now that’s not to say I don’t pay attention, but still). If the administration wants this all to work a little better, they should send a separate email announcing the new pedestrian walkways, too. This is a two-way street where the bicyclists are only half of the equation.

    The school does spend way too much time on this issue and, I presume, way too much money dedicating DPS officers to its enforcement.

  4. Dave
    Dave says:

    I would have to side with Administration in regards to this issue. Administration cannot trust that bicycles will exercise common sense nor caution. Simply for the reason that they have not, do not and will not exercise common sense nor caution. Bicyclists fail to realize that they must abide by and are held to the same rules of the road as anyone who drives a vehicle. However I would like Administration to consider increasing the 10 minutes allotted in between classes to 20 minutes. Perhaps we wouldn’t need to race from one corner of campus to another.

  5. Sophia
    Sophia says:

    Anyone who’s ever tried to cross Jefferson and Hoover at midday/walked on campus ever can testify to the fact that it’s an issue

  6. Bicyclist and Pedestrian
    Bicyclist and Pedestrian says:

    “The administration should trust that students will exercise common sense and caution when biking on campus,” but that’s the thing: they’ve shown again and again that they can’t be trusted to do so. Texting while on a bike is not an uncommon occurrence on campus. Same goes for bicyclists insisting on staying on their bike in areas congested with pedestrians, like in front of the Campus Center. Sometimes the pedestrians will be walking faster than the bike is going, but you still see people wobbling their tires unsteadily through the crowds. Where’s the common sense in that? And it’s not just bicyclists. Pedestrians are more free to text while mobile, but there are those who are so distracted (phone or no phone), they don’t notice they’re drifting in front of people.

    I do agree, though, that the bike lanes are not being as effective as they were intended to be. Some bicyclists completely ignore them, some pedestrians walk right down the middle of them. Those portable barriers are a mess and hardly recognizable as barriers at all. And sometimes bicyclists still have to walk their bike during peak hours even though they’re utilizing the bike lane. Those safety zones are only sometimes monitored so the inconsistency allows everyone to disregard the “rules” when they feel like it.

    Yes, there are other problems the administration could focus on, and yes the bike policies aren’t exactly the most sensical, but I don’t think the administration should be ignoring the bikes either. But they need to make some adjustments. There are great, aware, cautious bicyclists on campus, but they are overshadowed by those who are close to causing accidents, no matter how “inconsequential” they may be.

  7. Maureen
    Maureen says:

    As a student, I totally disagree with this article. I think about bikes frequently as I worry about being mowed down by irresponsible riders who don’t follow regulations, or even worse, are talking on their cell phones and not paying attention to where they’re going. I know many of my peers also worry about this and other bike-related concerns. Since students have clearly demonstrated they don’t have the good judgement to ride their bikes in a safe manner, they shouldn’t be trusted to do so. I think the best solution would be to make campus a bike-free zone. Bikes are really only necessary for getting to and from campus from off-campus locations. Put guarded bike racks around the perimeter of campus for people to park at and make campus a pedestrian-only zone.

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