Students and administrators have been racking their brains for a solution to the bicycle congestion on campus.
But a new bike policy isn’t going to change reality: There are simply too many bikes at USC.
The concept of reducing bike traffic by reducing the actual number of bikes has been mysteriously absent from the congestion conversation. Nevertheless, it is a strategy with tremendous potential for success. Instead of trying to make our dense campus bike-friendly, USC should think more realistically and advocate alternative forms of transportation. Students who currently bike should seriously think about making the switch.
Last week, the Office of Student Affairs and the USC Bicycle Master Plan consultant team outlined several proposed solutions to the congestion problem, including designated bike lanes on campus.
Bike lanes will accomplish one of the university’s major goals regarding bikes, which is safety.
Unfortunately, this solution won’t make biking any more convenient. Bike lanes would not reduce congestion so much as redirect it. While non-bikers would enjoy open expanses of path and roadway, bikers would be confined to specific areas on campus.
Bikes would no longer be able to zip around someone who happens to be peddling as fast as they can walk. They would no longer be able to take favorite shortcuts or make a quick U-turn when they decide to stop for a bite at Seeds Marketplace at the last minute.
Many other bike-related inconveniences would be significantly reduced if fewer people chose to bike in the first place. The most obvious inconvenience is the severe shortage of places to park a bike, let alone to lock it. The Bicycle Master Plan does include plans to add more storage space for bikes, but our tight urban campus only has room for so much.
The lack of adequate storage for bicycles contributes to the other big problem for bike owners: theft. Equally irritating is when you can’t tell if your bike has been stolen because it’s just as likely that it has been consumed by the labyrinth of bikes outside Leavey Library.
Longboarders and scooter riders experience none of these issues. They enjoy the ability to move as fast as bikes — at least on campus — without having to worry about finding a place to park when they reach their destination. They have more maneuverability, allowing for last-minute shortcuts, quick stops and, of course, collision prevention.
People who ride longboards also tend to be more spatially aware, as that awareness is an integral part of riding them. A campus with more longboarders would automatically become a campus with more conscientious commuters.
Bike reform at USC is certainly necessary. Many of the proposed programs sound fantastic. Still, the programs can only do so much for a problem that really comes down to one factor: an excess of bikes.
Francesca Bessey is a freshman majoring in narrative studies.