December 7, 2019

Students seek alternate transportation: Webster has yet to become bike-friendly

The other day I walked out to discover a gaping tear in my bicycle’s bar tape because another bike’s handlebars were cutting into mine, thanks to a third one pushing it over.

A different day, I spent five minutes or so digging my bike out from under someone else’s. I’ve had pedals in my spokes and kickstands in my chain, and I’ve seen it happen to other bikes as well.

Parking on campus is a problem, and not just for cars. I’ve seen a few new bikes this semester, but no new posts or racks to chain them to. At least once a week I’ve had to go hunting for an empty spot because, as if there weren’t enough bikes already, someone parks a big motor scooter in between two of the Sverdrup bike posts, taking up two precious spots for bicycles (three if you’re stacking). The library isn’t scooter-free either, and it’s always crowded in the afternoon.

The biggest bike rack I’ve seen for commuters is in the bottom of the parking garage. Chances are, if students are riding their bikes to school, they don’t have a car, or choose not to drive to school if they’ve got one. If they don’t drive to school, they’re not going to be in the parking garage. How are they supposed to know it’s there?

Cyclists don’t generally have to go searching for a bike rack, especially so far from the building they’ve ridden to. Anywhere else you go that provides space for bikes to park will put all they have next to the building, and almost always within sight of the door.

Also, sticking a secret bike rack in a garage that could use more parking spots for cars is just wasteful. You could fit at least one more spot down there (and if they’re taking away 40 more spots, they can’t afford to waste even that one).

Unlike parking for cars, bicycle parking is a relatively easy and inexpensive fix that doesn’t require any extra land or major construction. Public Safety could start by ticketing motor scooters on the sidewalk. If it needs keys to start, it shouldn’t be on the sidewalk. There are spots on the lots and in the garage where cars aren’t allowed to park because the spot is too small or in a corner that would be awkward for cars to get in and out of. In a parking drought like Webster’s, we can’t afford to be wasting any space – those spots would be perfect for motorcycles and motor scooters.

An even better fix would be to provide more bike posts. In front of Sverdrup, there are four: one in front of the street-side door closest to the three-way stop, and three in front of the other street-side door. On each side of the latter three is a bench.

If Webster moved just one of the benches to a different spot along that sidewalk, they could fit at least three more posts, effectively doubling that parking space without much sacrifice or effort. Or, they could leave the benches, take the big rack from the bottom of the parking garage and put it along the sidewalk in between the two doors.

That would provide plenty of room for Webster’s seemingly ever-growing cyclist population.

I love riding my bike to school. There’s no gas to pay for, it’s good for the environment, and the exercise is great for relieving stress.

I encourage anyone who lives within a five-mile radius of campus to try commuting by bicycle. If the trend continues, however, and new bicycles keep appearing without new bike racks or posts to accommodate them, not everyone is going to be willing to play bike Tetris.

So, Webster, if you don’t want bicycles chained to every available tree on campus, please give us some new parking options.

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