COLUMN: Campus needs to be more bike-friendly

As college students, bikes are a big part of our culture. They’re a fast, easy way to get around campus. Unlike our crosstown rivals, we enjoy a flat, level campus that is easy to maneuver with almost any mode of transportation. With a sizable amount of students utilizing a bicycle to get from point A to point B, naturally problems will arise, and the bicycle situation at USC has become increasingly more problematic with each passing year.

Racks near the Ronald Tutor Campus Center, where students used to be able to park their bikes, no longer exist, forcing students to park farther away from their destination, and thus defeating the purpose of riding a bike. Aside from on Trousdale Parkway, there are no designated bike lanes across campus, causing confusion, dozens of near-accidents and actual accidents involving bicyclists. Walking as a pedestrian on campus during the day has almost become an Olympic sport, dodging the scores of bikes, skateboarders, scooters and others. No one is arguing to discourage or ban bikes from campus — they are an integral and important part of campus life and identity — but there needs to be more of a concerted effort to keep bicyclists and pedestrians safe. Clearly marked and labeled lanes for bicyclists across campus, as well as increased spots to park bikes in strategic locations near buildings, would help clear traffic and congestion on campus during peak hours.

Another important factor in bicycles at USC is theft. It’s an unfortunate reality at USC, and it’s prevalent especially in bikes. The Department of Public Safety encourages students to register their bikes, lock their bikes with a U-lock or superior safety feature and remain cognizant and cautious of their bike at all times.

But even with these measures, bicycles are still stolen. Efforts such as Ryde, a program started by USC students, aim to promote bike-sharing, which shifts away from ownership and discourages stealing as there is an incentive to share. Even the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is getting in on the ride-sharing, introducing an $11 million project that will showcase 1,100 bikes at 65 stations throughout downtown Los Angeles. Both ride-sharing opportunities are great initiatives that alleviate the cost on riders and help decrease the issues of theft and parking.

There are still leaps to be made in order to put the brakes on a bicycle situation that may be spinning out of control if nothing is done. Today, it is virtually impossible to park a bike near the Ronald Tutor Campus Center. Guards and security near the Campus Center now monitor the parking of bikes and tell students to move if bikes are parked near pathways.

The ban on bikes in front of the Campus Center is actually not entirely bad. It has cleared up space tremendously and allowed for further seating, and it’s important for all students, including disabled students, to be able to access the Campus Center. But rather than simply eliminating parking spots, the bike racks should have been moved to an alternative location. When students would just park their bike anywhere, it was a maze to get into the Campus Center, but it has also become frustrating when students are told to move bikes and park elsewhere when there is almost nowhere to park nearby.

At USC, we enjoy a beautiful campus that allows us to maneuver and get around in a variety of different ways. You can walk, bike, skateboard, scooter and even unicycle to class. It is one advantage that we may take for granted. We need to work together to not spoil that luxury and find a mutually agreed upon solution.

It’s often joked that pedestrians hate bicyclists, skateboarders hate bicyclists and even bicyclists hate bicyclists. It doesn’t have to be that way. Bikes are an iconic part of USC. You can’t picture a building on campus that doesn’t have bikes parked outside.

Bikes at USC have become a microcosm of automobiles in Los Angeles, but Leavey Library and the Campus Center don’t have to be the 405. There are ways to get ourselves moving while at the same time keeping our campus presentable and navigable — they’re not mutually exclusive. We just have to get in the right gear.

Athanasius Georgy is a junior majoring in economics. His column, “Campus Talk,” runs  Thursdays.