Cyclists Push for Bike Amenities
Cyclists push for bike amenities
March 2, 2007 4:22 PM
When Yussef Milburn rides his bike to SF State, he has to avoid pedestrians, car doors and irate drivers. Once he gets there, he is often admonished for locking his bike to handrails instead of one of the few places on campus where bikes are allowed. It’s no wonder a survey conducted for the school’s Master Plan found that cyclists constitute only 3 percent of campus commuters.
For those who pedal their way to SF State, there is an overwhelming opinion that there are not enough surrounding bike routes and campus bike facilities for them.
As a result, some student cyclists are appealing to the administration to provide more amenities for bikes on campus. Along with help from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, students are trying to encourage bicycle commuting by obtaining more bike racks and by raising bike awareness in general. Milburn, an environmental studies major, and Adam Greenfield, a BECA grad student, are joining forces with Ecologically Concerned Students and the coalition to get more of a bike presence at SF State.
“I believe cycling is the answer to a lot of different issues, such as environmental problems, fitness, and just being able to enjoy our city,” said Greenfield, 26. “We can’t force people to cycle, but the presence of more racks and bike services will be the biggest way to get people to think about riding a bike.”
Currently, the Bike Barn, located behind the gym, is the only secure bicycle facility on campus and many bikers agree it is an inconvenient location. As for racks, there are only a few at SF State, which are near the Fine Arts building.
“I’ve used the Bike Barn about once in three years of biking to State,” said Mary Brown, a grad student in geography. “It’s great for people who have classes near there, but totally pointless if you don’t. I’m not going to ride past the building where my class is, park my bike and then walk back up.”
Brown, who also takes some classes at UC Berkeley, said SF State could use some lessons in creating a bicycle-friendly campus from its neighbor across the bay.
“It’s like night and day, between the two campuses,” she said. “Outside of all the main buildings at Berkeley they have rows and rows of bike racks. Bikes are actually allowed and encouraged, and there’s no reason why we couldn’t have that at State.”
The university has acknowledged the need for more bicycle facilities — at least on paper.
According to the Master Plan, biking has a much brighter future at the school. The plan calls for strategies that will discourage single-occupancy automobile trips and proposes campus-wide improvements that will encourage commuters to travel by bike.
Planned projects include more bike racks located near various buildings, multiple bike lockers throughout campus and a new bike station, which will replace the Bike Barn and will potentially offer retail and rental services for people on campus as well as for the surrounding community.
To improve the commute for riders coming from the north, the plan proposes building a bridge for pedestrians and bicycles from Stonestown Galleria to campus. Paths dedicated solely to bikes and separated from cars and pedestrians are also in the works.
According to Rachel Kraai, projects manager for the SF Bike Coalition, the plan is promising and ambitious, but the main concern of cycling advocates is whether or not those projects will actually be executed.
“In general, the Master Plan is outlining a very positive outlook for bicycles,” Kraai said. “But many of these projects are very long term, and often things like that don’t come to fruition.”
Brown, the coalition’s bicycle network director for seven years, agreed with Kraai that promises on paper don’t necessarily mean anything until they’re actually carried out.
“The thing is that part of plans like this is that you don’t have to do any of it,” Brown said. “You can create this beautiful document, but no one’s forcing you to do it. There needs to be some kind of strategy.”
The student cyclists see things the same way. That’s why they’re campaigning to inform the rest of the student population about biking and getting petitions signed to make some quick and easy changes on campus.
Greenfield and Milburn will be out in the quad with ECO Students March 8, with a petition and survey about where bike racks should be located.
“The long-range plans are good, but there are plenty of quick fixes that can be done now,” said Greenfield. “We need to hold the university accountable for what they’ve promised, and I think if we rally student support, that will drive the point home. We can use the power we’ve got to make sure these projects don’t fall by the wayside.”
Milburn said that those quick fixes, like more racks, will relieve tension between cyclists and people on campus with disabilities, who don’t appreciate bikes that are locked to handrails.
“It seems like there’s a conflict between two groups that don’t necessarily want to be in conflict,” he said. “Cyclists don’t want to lock our bikes to handrails, but we don’t have any other options.”
Costs to the university for implementing more bike racks would be minimal –– certainly less than building a new parking garage, Kraai said.
The Palmer Group, a company that sells bike racks, and that the coalition often refers buyers to, has a complete list of their prices on their Web site, www.bikeparking.com. A rack that would hold 17 bikes would set SF State back about $750, a cost that could be allayed by funding from various regional sources, according to Kraai. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District, for instance, often has funds allocated for bike parking.
Greenfield believes that an increase in bicycle awareness will be beneficial for the entire SF State community, as well as its neighbors. He has been active in bicycle campaigns in other places, with promising results, even starting a critical mass movement in his home of Guernsey, a small island in the English Channel. More bikes lead to fewer cars, less congestion, cleaner air and a happier population, he said.
“We really need to get off the sofa and do something,” he said. “I care about this a lot. Everywhere needs more cyclists, and there’s no time like the present to get involved.”
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