Adding bike racks a simple solution

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.

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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. 

3 replies
  1. USC FAN
    USC FAN says:

    I have to say that I agree with SC Trojan. I do think that a big problem on campus is the lack of bike racks. Btu the larger problem are the students that park their bikes in front of an entrance blocking people from coming in and out. The students that lock their bikes to handicap ramps so those in wheel chairs cant get into the building. (I personally call DPS to remove those bikes) There would not be a bike problem if people would just park their bikes in an orderly fashion. I walk in front of the Lyon Center and there are bikes that are parked in the middle of the walk way. Then I look at Webb and Flour and there are plenty of bike space. How about putting them near the bike racks at least even though there full. I would agree with a parking lot for just bikes. But I think students would still park them so messed up that they would end up closing it down anyway. I personally would like to think DPS for impounding the bikes, maybe the students will get a clue in parking them correctly. Oh and I called DPS about the issue and they told me they don’t impound just because they are not locked to a bike rack THEY IMPOUND THE ONES THAT ARE BLOCKING WALKWAYS AND ENTRANCE!! AS THEY SHOULD!! ALSO, I would rather get my bike impounded by DPS and pay $20 bucks for being in the way of my fellow students rather then getting it stolen by a criminal and have to pay another $200 bucks for a new bike!!

  2. Lee Drake
    Lee Drake says:

    As a parent touring the campus (different perspective than a student) with my prospective freshman last year, I was postively impressed with the number of bikes on campus (energy efficient, inexpensive transportation, excellent exercise) and negatively impressed with the university’s feeble attempt to provide adequate bike rack space. Adequate bike racks are not a huge expense, nor do they require maintenance. The campus doesn’t truly have a shortage of acreage on which to install racks either. With the amount of money that students pay in tuition a few extra racks outside key facilities like dorms and major classrooms does not seem like a huge burden, especially when you compare it to the labor and overhead involved in impounding bikes, recovering stolen bikes etc. Nothing will completely prevent theft in an urban environment, but creating a safer environment less tempting to thieves seems like the logical way to cut down on DPS man hours and the aggravation of stolen property.

    If the university wishes to impress the parents of incoming freshman – providing bike racks seems like a pretty cheap alternative.

  3. SC Trojan
    SC Trojan says:

    While I agree there aren’t enough bike racks to accommodate the hordes of bikes on campus, it is also ridiculous that people have to maneuver around the bikes that are left outside of buildings in an disorderly fashion or locked along a handrail but blocking an entrance to a building. On a campus overrun with bikes, perhaps a better solution is to consider creating bike “parking lots”. If there are those who drive to campus have to park their cars at a lot and walk on campus, those on bikes should have a similar responsibility.

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