Trying to park your bike on campus can be as painful as trying to park your car downtown. Finding a space can feel like winning the lottery. Many students are forced to lock their bikes to poles, fences or trees, resulting in fines, impounding or booting. Over this coming winter break, or this upcoming summer, the University should push for installation of more bike racks around campus, concentrating on regularly overcrowded areas, in order to better support its biking student population and maintain its reputation as a bike-friendly campus.
In January 2017, the 40 Acres was ranked number one in Best College Values’ list of bike-friendly university campuses in the U.S. We have the bikes. Now all we need is an adequate number of bike racks.
Journalism senior Connor Leech has been biking to campus from West Campus every day since sophomore year. During the especially busy hours of the day, Leech said he struggles to find a place to park his bike on campus. “At peak class times, anywhere from 11:00a.m. to 3:00p.m., there’s little to no room,” Leech said.
Leech can think of several areas around campus off the top of his head that could use more bike racks, but one area in particular stands out to him — the courtyard behind McCombs at the intersection of West 22nd Street and Inner Campus Drive.
“Right over there’s a nightmare, and there’s like two bike racks, so you oftentimes see people illegally parking their bikes out of necessity,” Leech said. “I often have to as well, where you just lock it to anything that somebody can’t pick up and walk away with.”
Leech’s frustration isn’t unwarranted. In many areas around campus, there’s plenty of room to install more bike racks, but so far there has been no move on the University’s part to remedy the lack of space.
Jeremy Hernandez, the bicycle specialist for UT Parking and Transportation Services, said while PTS does not directly have the authority to install bike racks around campus, they are constantly communicating and working with event and building managers to create more bike parking.
“Every building has a building manager to oversee location and quantity (of bike racks) allowed to be placed,” Hernandez said via email. “If there is a congested space, I would advise contacting the building manager to inquire about adding more bike racks.”
Hernandez made no mention of any current effort by the University to install more bike racks around campus. When asked about the feasibility of the University pushing to install more bike racks around campus over this upcoming winter break, Hernandez said while winter break would be possible, installing more bike racks would most likely occur over the summer. “Planning and communication to decide on specific campus locations does take some time,” Hernandez said.
There are other areas around campus in addition to the courtyard that Leech mentioned earlier that could benefit from the addition of more bike racks and already have the space to accommodate them. One is the area at the far end of East Mall between the Jackson Geosciences Building and Patton Hall, and another is outside the William Randolph Hearst Building and the Jesse Jones Communication Center on Whitis Avenue.
If UT truly wants to encourage more students to bike to class and cater to those who already do, it needs to install more bike racks. The University should focus on both the areas that can afford more racks and, more importantly, on the areas that warrant more of them.
Caldwell is a Latin American studies and journalism sophomore from College Station.