DPS, bike traffic reach greater volume

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.

William Brown | Daily Trojan

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.

13 replies
  1. Rick
    Rick says:

    Maybe Students should do ride alongs with some of our Maintenance vehicles on and off campus and see just how crazy the students are on their bikes on and off campus. Bike lanes off campus have a direction of flow, not to be ridden against. Yet students always seem to be riding against traffic, causing vehicles to swerve and putting their lives at risk. Is it really worth your life to cut a few minutes off your day. Heres a clue, put down the cell phones while riding your bikes. Stop trying to text while on your bike. Ride in the correct direction of traffic while on your bike. Wake up a few minutes earlier. I work at FMS. We have to share the road with the students and the students need to share it with us. Stop putting your lives at risk. Its not worth it. Maybe the Daily Trojan can mount some dash Cameras on some of our vehicles and record a days actions with these students and play it back for them. It would sure to be an eye opener.

  2. Alison Kendall
    Alison Kendall says:

    Glad to see that students at USC understand that the answer to the “bike problem” at USC is to see it as a “bike opportunity” to truly accommodate students, faculty and visitors on bikes with a comprehensive bike path or bike lane system, convenient, adequate bike parking, and bicycle skills education for freshman.
    Our non-profit, Sustainable Streets, offers bicycle skills education all over LA, and we’ve contacted USC administration to offer to help set up a comprehensive cycling program at USC…only to be told they want to finish the campus transportation plan before thinking about bike education.

  3. JJJJ
    JJJJ says:

    Perhaps less space for cars inside campus is in order? Why are the USC sidewalks so tiny? Why are parking spaces needed in front of dorms deep in the campus? Yes, space is needed for trucks to deliver food and for maintenance vehicles, but that’s not enough traffic to warrant two lanes.
    Kick out the cars from campus, and then you can start to talk about limiting bikes as well.

  4. Adam Henry
    Adam Henry says:

    The environmentally conscious arguments about bikes are bunk. The idea that if bikes were banned from campus, they would be replaced with cars is misleading. Most bikers around USC are not riding in lieu of driving, they are riding in lieu of walking. There is no need to have a bike if you live on campus. Lose the bike and walk. If you live within a couple blocks of campus – walk. Wake up a few minutes earlier and walk. Walk. Walk.

  5. ubrayj02
    ubrayj02 says:

    I went to school at UCSB and the I was horrified to see how the students shelling out double what I paid are treated by the goons at USC when it comes to bike riding. The kids riding bikes are doing us all a massive favor. There is no conceivable way that you can get this many tuition paying students into as dense an area as USC’s campus using anything other than bikes. There need to be quality bike lanes and traffic calming all around the main campus and student housing areas (the university spends ten of millions on car parking – where is the bike parking budget?). Incoming freshmen need to have a basic bike riding skills class made available to them, free of charge. The Campus needs to have bike lanes into the interior, to the largest lecture halls and facilities, and large quantities of bike parking made available. This will help the univeristy’s AQMD Rule 2202 filing (an annual report on how the university is working to reduce auto trips to its facilities). It will also encourage local residents and employees to ride to work – saving money that would otherwise go to subsidized car parking the university provides free of charge to car drivers.

  6. Chris Kidd
    Chris Kidd says:

    Until adequate, safe space is made for bicycles throughout campus, there are going to be bike/ped conflicts. The solution is not to force bikes to the periphery of campus, but to make clearly marked room for them on campus.

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