STAFF EDITORIAL: UH must increase bike security to develop cycling culture
Lucky students at the University of New England and Ripon College are getting a break from the daily chore of finding a parking spot – they’re given free bikes.
Incoming freshman are given a free $480 bicycle when they switch from four wheels to two, the New York Times reported Sunday.
Being the commuter school it is, UH sees only a few bikers rolling across campus. Most students make the long treks from their homes in their cars and across campus on their feet.
But most students also fight for a parking spot each morning, often trailing slowly behind a student walking to his or her car to ensure they find one. If the number of bikes on campus increased, it’s likely the number of students late to class as a result of this exhaustive search would decrese.
But UH has a bigger problem to tackle before it considers handing out bikes to hundreds of students.
So far this month, 11 incidents of bicycle theft have been reported on the UH Police Department’s crime bulletin, though the lone appendages lining bike racks tell another story. Single wheels lie tethered to bike racks and, in some cases, only the bike frame is left. The lack of cyclists on campus can certainly be attributed in part to the distance many travel to get here, but it may also be because students don’t feel safe locking up their bikes.
The police department does, however, offer bike registration and says on its Web site "officers regularly confiscate bicycles from theft," but unless officers know who the owner is, a bike cannot be returned.Students should take advantage of this resource, as UHPD also enters the information into a nationwide stolen-item database.
Wary students may question whether no longer having to face a parking battle outweighs the risk of getting their bikes stolen. It’s a hard question to answer. While there is a great deal of theft on campus, there are also students who ride their bikes, lock them securely and have no trouble. And if what UHPD says is true, there’s a good chance that even if a student’s bike is stolen, he or she can get it back so long as it has been registered.
Factor in the good bike riding does for the environment, the money it saves on gas and the exercise it offers, and the "pro" side of the list begins to grow.
UH may also be wary to hand out bikes to students, and if that’s the case, perhaps it should consider loaning them. The school could keep bikes registered and allow students to check them out, much like books at a library.
UH should encourage bicycling among its students, but its first step toward doing so isn’t free bikes – it’s making sure the ones students have bought are safe.