Bike, scooter, skateboard safety under scrutiny at 5Cs and in Claremont

Student rides an electric skateboard at CMC.
Recent policies announced by CMC, HMC, Pomona College and the city of Claremont limit the use of student vehicles. (Cecilia Ransburg • The Student Life)

The whir of wheels and ring of bells are familiar sounds to 5C students on a campus where skateboards, scooters and bikes are popular methods of transportation. But recent policies announced by Claremont McKenna College, Pomona College and the city of Claremont seek to limit the use of these vehicles around pedestrians, citing safety concerns.

At CMC’s campus, A-frame signs popped up in September indicating that students are no longer allowed to ride motorized vehicles like powered skateboards, scooters and hoverboards through the campus. 

Brandon Frieberg PZ ’25 said he recently started riding his motorized skateboard, a Boosted Mini Board, around the 5Cs. 

“I have to go down to Pomona sometimes for band and to go around the different campuses for work,” he said. “And it’s really downhill from Pitzer in the direction of other schools, so with an electric skateboard I feel safer because I can brake slightly and maintain a constant speed.” 

Frieberg said that he hasn’t noticed signs up around any of the campuses prohibiting motorized vehicles, but while crossing CMC’s campus on his skateboard last weekend he was told to dismount by a campus security officer. 

“Camp Sec yelled at me on a megaphone and was like, ‘No motorized vehicles!’” he said. 

Frieberg said that while he was verbally warned, no officer followed him or punished him to enforce the policy. 

On Oct. 11, Pomona Dean of Campus Life Ellie Ash-Bala told Pomona students in an email that the Smith Campus Center Breezeway, where students pass from College Way to the Coop Fountain and Coop Store, had become a “dismount zone,” meaning that no bikes, skateboards, scooters or vehicles were allowed through it.

Ash-Bala told TSL that students riding through the breezeway posed a safety threat to other students and faculty using the space. 

“Over the past few years, before COVID, there have been several close calls with people riding through while others have exited the living room doors and the doors down to the HRL [Housing and Residence Life] Office,” she said in an email. “People have almost gotten run over.”

Ash-Bala added that while dismounting before entering the breezeway is now an official rule, staff who work in the SCC have been unofficially asking students to do so for the past few years. 

Marley McCauley PO ’25, who often rides her bike or skateboard through Pomona’s campus, said that although she has noticed signage telling students to dismount, she still sees many students ride through the breezeway. 

“I either get off or if there’s no one there, I’ll ride through it,” she said. “But if there’s a bunch of people I’ll get off and just walk.”

According to Ash-Bala, students who are seen riding through the breezeway will be asked to dismount.

“If a student consistently refuses to cooperate, we will follow up with them, but so far everyone has simply forgotten the new rule and dismounted right away,” she said. 

At the Oct. 12 Claremont City Council meeting, a new amendment was proposed to modify existing city municipal code 12.30.020, which prohibits roller skates and skateboards in the village shopping district and on portions of Mountain Avenue. The updated code would also ban bikes and scooters from sidewalks in the Village — bounded by North Street, Sante Fe Railroad, College Avenue and Indian Hill Boulevard — as well as the Village Expansion specific plan area.

“There’s no bike lanes between Third and Fourth on College and this [new rule] will include between Third and Fourth on College,” Claremont resident Erik Griswold said in an interview. “There’s no bike lanes on Indian Hill. I guess the idea is to get bicycle users to go around the village.”

After reading the agenda item, Griswold said, he sent an email to the city to be read as a comment at the meeting in which he called for the code to be brought before the corresponding city commission to receive public comment before it was proposed. His reasoning being that it changed the code that preceded it in both “subject matter” and “geographic area.”

“I guess what I’m really annoyed about is how it was shoved through in the middle of the night,” he said. “Without really having this discussion about well, ‘Do we have to expand it to the entire Village walk? Do we have to include bicycles and scooters?’”

Griswold said his email was not read at the Oct. 12 city council meeting and the council introduced an ordinance including the updated code. 

At Tuesday’s city council meeting, the agenda listed an amendment to allow bikes and “skateboard, roller skates, and scooters with braking devices” along certain parts of Mountain Avenue. The revisions also clarified that mobility devices for persons with disabilities would not be included in the ban. 

During the deliberation, Mayor Jennifer Stark PZ ’98 clarified that the ordinance is “not saying no scooters in the village, it’s saying that these types of wheeled ways of getting around are welcome and should be able to be safe to use on the streets. And if they’re not then that’s a whole other issue because we don’t want to have sidewalks not be safe for other people who need to be on the sidewalk.” 

One council member raised concerns about students commuting from the Oasis KGI Commons to the rest of the Claremont Colleges without marked bike lanes or being able to use the sidewalk. 

“That is an inconvenience to the students,” Councilmember Corey Calaycay said. “It’s a lot to ask them to go back out to Cambridge [Avenue] if that’s the closest connection [to the schools] to avoid getting cited under this ordinance. At this point if we move forward on this I’m going to be a no-vote.”

Calaycay also said it would be detrimental to visitors arriving at the metro station who might want to use these modes of transportation and asked for the proposal to first move through a review commission. 

Mayor Pro Tem Jed Leano pressed for a more holistic review of the city’s street ordinances to keep sidewalks safe for pedestrians while also making it safe for wheeled transportation on the roads. 

“The issue, though, is that if the sidewalk is the appropriate place for pedestrians and we want people to be using alternative modes of transit besides vehicles, then we ought to be aiming to find a way to make those alternate modes of transportation safer,” he said. “This is a larger policy issue that we need looked at in a much broader sense by our transportation commission.”

Councilmember Sal Medina echoed Leano’s call. 

“While I agree with the spirit of the ordinance, my concern is that seeing as there are this many concerns with council on second reading, in a short amount of time, is this an ordinance that we should be prepared to move forward when we still have questions that need to be answered?” he said. “Or is this an ordinance that we should allow the commission process to play itself out to get those questions answered before we actually approve the ordinance itself?” 

The council ultimately decided to send the ordinance for further consideration at Thursday’s Traffic and Transportation Commission meeting.

Correction: This article has been updated to remove mention of “a new sign outside of The Café” at Harvey Mudd College restricting vehicle usage. The sign is not new. TSL regrets the error.

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