In 2009, the USC Undergraduate Student Government polled undergraduates and found that 80 percent use bikes on campus, 63 percent reported having been hit by a bicycle, 96 percent have almost been hit and 35 percent felt bicycle traffic was out of control.
Carey Drayton, chief of the Department of Public Safety (DPS), framed the issue succinctly when he complained of “the kamikaze bicyclists that weave their way through [campus] while sipping on lattes and talking on cell phones.”
To improve safety in the most congested area of campus, DPS stations officers on Trousdale Parkway and Childs Way between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to instruct students to walk their bicycles. In addition, vehicles are prohibited on the two streets during these hours.
“It has become very apparent that it is no longer safe to have 30,000 students walking around 200 acres and 15,000 bicycles,” said Paula Swinford, director of health promotion and prevention services. “Bikes need to become commuter vehicles, and then we need to reclaim our park.”
For the past year and a half, Swinford has served on a safety task force made up of students, faculty and staff. The task force presented the Division of Student Affairs with a number of recommendations, including restricting bicycles to the perimeter of campus, giving citations for improperly parked bicycles and installing more racks.
“We have 5,300 bike racks, so clearly if everybody brought their bikes, there aren’t sufficient bike racks,” said Charles Lane, associate senior vice president for career and protective services and head of the safety task force.
Additional racks have been placed in front of Grace Ford Salvatori Hall, and there are plans to place racks on Childs Way near the Student Union building.
At the same time, many of the existing racks remain unused.
Denzil Suite, associate vice president for student affairs, said that far too often, bicycles are blocking entrances and exits to buildings, fire lanes and ramps for disabled access.
Student affairs currently is drafting a letter that will be sent to the student body that will reiterate the bicycle policy found in SCampus, and the recommendations of the task force are under consideration.
Suite pointed out that the goal is not to ban bicycles on campus, as rumors have suggested.
“It’s important that we not just frame this as a bike issue but as a pedestrian safety issue,” he said. “We’re also focused on electric carts, trucks delivering services to the middle of campus and other vehicles that move through the center of campus. Given the footprint of what we’re dealing with, it is far too congested and the pace is too fast to ensure safety to pedestrians in the area.”
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