Pitzer Impounding Poorly Parked Bikes

Pitzer has recently increased its effort to impound improperly parked bikes on campus. The increased bike use on campus means that Pitzer has found itself struggling to keep up with the expanding bike population.

In the past five years, the bicycle population at Pitzer has exploded. This tipping point may be explained by the success of the Green Bike Program (GBP), a program at Pitzer that is dedicated to making sure students have access to bicycles as well as access to the maintenance necessary to keeping those bikes in great shape.

Sick of finding their bikes accidentally locked to a stranger’s or dealing with the overcrowded bike racks near the dorms, Pitzer students have gotten creative. They park their bikes around light fixtures, benches, or stair rails, among other undesignated parking spots. This free-for-all method of bike parking, however, has been deemed hazardous and inconvenient by Pitzer’s administration and has recently encouraged them to do something about it.

Pitzer College has always had a printed rule stating that bikes should be parked only on bike racks that have been set up around dorms and academic buildings. Now, with more bikes on campus and an increasing number of bikes parked in places that impede traffic and cause fire hazards, the administration has begun to enforce a rule that allows bikes not parked at specified racks to be impounded.

The bike impoundment rule applies to all bikes locked at the bottom of outdoor stairwells, to trees, and around signs, among other places that have been deemed to cause a potential hazard. Bikes found locked to undesignated places will first receive a note advising the owner not to park there again. If the note doesn’t work, the bike will be cut off the inappropriate parking spot and transported to the GBP for the student to retrieve.

This new rule has already created a small uproar in Pitzer’s biking community. Eric Stahl-David PI ’11 said, “We did not support the rule because essentially it is a way of turning a blind eye to the problem that there is just too little bike parking at Pitzer. The railings don’t get used because the racks are empty, the railings get used because when people lock to the racks, the racks get so over crowded that their bikes get damaged in entanglements, or accidentally locked to other bikes.”

Dean of Students Jim Marchant was involved in writing up the rule and is one of its primary supporters.

“There are health and safety issues. It’s an inconvenience,” he says of bikes locked in hazardous places around campus. “It’s blocking the path of traffic. There are 350 bike rack spaces on campus. There’s more than enough bike space for our students. We’ve added so many racks; it’s no longer an issue.”

Pitzer recently added several new bike racks to the campus in response to the exploding bike population. Ramon Martinez PI ’09 critiqued the placement of the new bike racks, saying, “It took them months to order crazy expensive racks and when they finally put them in, they did so in a way so that most are up against a wall, cutting their capacity in half, or are placed at locations that fluctuate throughout the day. Racks at the dorms are packed at night, empty during the day, while those near the academic buildings are the opposite.”

Not all students are completely opposed to the new rule. Some say they understand the concerns of the administration and are willing to work together to come to a compromise. This includes helping to educate Pitzer students on how to properly lock your bike.

“One idea that we had was to send out some e-mails on how to lock bikes in a way that makes for more room on the racks. For example, locking your bike wheel to the racks because handlebars take up more space than they need to when they are shoved in between loops,” said Sylvie Froncek PI ’11. “Another issue is that students don’t seem to know of the locations of bike racks on campus.”

Elliott Dumont PI ’10 also realizes the importance of coming to an effective compromise. “I think a solution on both ends is needed. The administration needs to be prepared for supporting the movements that it preaches for and the students need to realize that, by riding a bike, it does not mean they don’t have responsibilities to look out for one another by not blocking pathways and locking their bikes up as efficiently and safely as possible.”

Chris Brunelle, Director of Residence Life at Pitzer College, hopes that students and the administration can work together to create a safe and convenient policy for bicycle parking.

“One of the great things about Pitzer is that we can make these policies then work with the students,” he says in response to the student outcry. “My hope is that this policy will go into effect and then get to an alternative that works.”

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