I want to ride my bicycle
Transportation improvements in wake of new parking system
When it comes to subcultures on campus, few groups draw as much ire as bikers. You already have a mental image, don’t you? Headphones caught on handlebars, weaving through pedestrian traffic, sideswiping unsuspecting students—there is a lot to dislike.
What if we told you that bikers have been wronged too? It’s true. Current infrastructure at Washington University is woefully inadequate to support the current bike population. And with the administration currently doing their darndest to push cars off campus—a move that will likely increase the percentage of students turning to bikes—these issues will only become more apparent. Let’s not wait until this becomes a full-blown crisis.
Improving bike infrastructure will not only prepare campus for the inevitable influx of those two-wheeled annoyance machines, but they may also go a long way towards fostering understanding and acceptance for all modes of transportation at Wash. U.
First: Bike lanes.
We all want our campus to be beautiful, but appearances should not be prioritized over safety. Right now, Wash. U. has two beautiful causeways that extend east-west bordering Mudd Field. These paths are vital in connecting campus—from the Athletic Complex to Brookings Quadrangle. In their current state, pedestrians, bikers, long boarders, penny boarders and—sigh—hoverboarders all share the same space. As a result, when the paths are full—like, say, between classes—anyone traveling at a pace above a brisk walk is forced to dangerously weave in and out of traffic. All it takes is one person suddenly changing directions—or crossing the sidewalk without looking up from their phone—and you have an accident on your hands. Widening the current thoroughfares and constructing clearly designated bike lanes would do a great deal to mitigate that risk, even if it doesn’t look as pretty. Instead of sharing the road, bikes, skateboards and other quicker modes of travel now have their own space to move at a reasonable speed without sideswiping anyone.
Second: Bike pumps.
If we’re going to start having more bikes on campus, we need to make sure that the on-campus maintenance stations are fully operational. This includes the bike pumps. In recent weeks, upkeep of these pumps has been haphazard at best. At one point, the bike pump in the Lofts was cracked in half, the one behind Olin Library was missing its nozzle and the hose at the Danforth University Center was leaking air. That means if students in the Lofts had a flat tire, they’d have to walk their bike all the way to the South 40 for some air. That could be a 30- to 40-minute trip. There are two solutions to this problem: either install more maintenance stations so the current ones aren’t overused to the point of decay, or make sure the ones we have are more regularly maintained.
Third: Bike racks.
This is an issue limited to the more popular destinations on campus: the DUC, Simon Hall and right in front of the third-floor entrance to Lopata Hall. Now that it’s warm and sunny out, if you walk by those buildings you’ll see the racks are absolutely inundated with bikes. Bikes chained to nearby rails, bikes chained to trees, some bikes just left lying on the ground without any other possible space to lock up. This situation is both unnecessary and ripe for exploitation. Installing more bike racks around some of the more trafficked buildings should be a relatively cheap and easy way to alleviate this problem. Plus, it won’t be as easy for people to get their bikes stolen. That’s always a good thing.
Fourth: Follow the rules
With the inevitable influx of bikers comes the inevitable influx of bike crime. Regardless of how many places are freed up to park bikes, there will always be that random person that refuses to buy a bike lock, and is still shocked when it gets stolen. As a way to combat this, the Washington University Police Department offers Kryptonite U-locks—the recommended type, as they’re hard to break—at a discounted price of $25. Additionally, WUPD recommends registering every bike (free of charge) with their department, which is believed to deter crime as each bike will have a WUPD decal on it. Following these procedures, while admittedly costly, can help improve bike culture on campus and encourage more bikers and fewer drivers.