Opinion: UCI Bike Policy

One would expect such a university to do everything in its power to encourage positive changes in the fight against global warming—which is why many people in the UCI community have been left scratching their heads in reaction to the sudden change in bike and skateboard policy on campus.

Published Ocotber 29, 2007 by
By Ryon Graf

UC Irvine is a university that prides itself on its progressive stance on global climate change, and has proven a fertile ground for world-renowned atmospheric and earth systems research. Much of the Nobel Prize winning work of Dr. Frank Rowland was conducted on this campus, and there are dozens of laboratories on campus that produce high-caliber research on the effects of global climate change. In fact, our graduate program of atmospheric chemistry is currently ranked number one in the nation, right in front of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Former UCI Chancellor Ralph Cicerone left his position here to become president of the National Academy of Sciences, in order to be more influential in the fight against global warming.

One would expect such a university to do everything in its power to encourage positive changes in the fight against global warming—which is why many people in the UCI community have been left scratching their heads in reaction to the sudden change in bike and skateboard policy on campus.

The bicycle (and its foot-powered sibling, the skateboard) proves to be an excellent answer to the problem of carbon emissions for personal transportation. Bikes emit no carbon dioxide and consume no petroleum. The bicycle is a fast, convenient, safe and inexpensive means of transportation for broke college students. Bikes are practically an extension of the body for students at UC Santa Barbara and UC Davis. UCI should encourage biking, both to help reduce carbon emissions for tens of thousands of people, and to instill students with green habits that will remain after they leave the university.

As it stands, one can commute to campus, but then one encounters problems with parking, and once a spot is found one must often walk to class. How ironic: the plight of the motorist is now that of the cyclist. Bike parking is very scarce on campus, and students often find themselves reduced to walking beside their efficient personal transportation devices. It is not surprising that many students are finding that driving to campus is more attractive than ever before. Such a phenomenon lends itself to encourage more cars and therefore release more carbon into the atmosphere every day.

To be fair, UCI has made several small measures to encourage biking to campus. The division of Parking and Transportation previously offered a $50 incentive to buy bikes “to promote greener modes of transportation.” But that offer was only for the first 100 people who showed proof of purchase of a new bike, and was not enough to have any discernable impact.

UCI needs to put forth more effort to promote green transportation. The first thing that needs to be done is the lifting of the bike ban on campus. The proposed “5-20-10” rule, in which cyclists must slow to five miles per hour when within 20 feet of a pedestrian and dismount when within 10 feet, is an excellent answer to concerns about pedestrian collisions.

UCI needs to install more bike racks for easier parking, both near Ring Mall and near student housing. There is no reason why thousands of students need to rely on diesel-guzzling buses to get to class every day. From student housing it can take less than 10 minutes to reach the inner ring on a bike. UCI needs to encourage more students to ride bikes from Vista Del Campo, VDC Norte, Arroyo Vista and Palo Verde.

While more bike racks would be a start, more bike-friendly routes to housing would be even more effective. Imagine bike paths that cut through student housing from VDC or to Ring Mall without the need to stop frequently. One such path could easily be adapted from an existing five-foot-wide path by widening it to accommodate more bike traffic. Incentive programs could easily be established to encourage students to bike to campus.

Decent, reliable bikes can be purchased for less than the cost of a parking permit, and bikes don’t usually expire at the end of a quarter. Online classifieds such as Craigslist.org often have amazing deals on bikes.

UCI’s bike policy is the antithesis of what needs to be promoted. At such a prominent center for research on the effects of global warming, all students, employees and faculty should be pushing the green envelope. The current biking policy on campus discourages students from developing more sustainable practices. UCI needs to practice what it preaches. More than that, UCI needs to take a proactive stance on combating global warming by training its students to become leaders in 21st-century sustainable practices. The bike policy is merely a first step.

Ryon Graf is a fourth-year genetics major. He can be reached at rgraf@uci.edu