UH lacks in racks for the cycling population
At UH, students are known to walk, run, skateboard, longboard, scooter and bike their way from class to class.
For the most part, students are accepting of these differences; however, when it comes to the bicyclists, some are less accepting. Some students can often be heard expressing their feelings of contempt for these riders. Cyclists are sometimes seen as an inconvenience for the rest of the student body.
Students who walk from class to class see bicyclists as rude drivers who haphazardly speed around innocently meandering students. Some cyclists see walking students as inconsiderate people who refuse to share the sidewalk that appears to be wide enough to share.
There is a divide, and perhaps it is because of this divide that our campus is lacking in one amenity: bike racks.
While bike racks can be found, the ratio of racks per building and racks per population of said building is unbalanced. Some buildings on campus do not have their own racks, and the buildings that do often have their racks overpacked.
For our most populous areas — such as the M.D. Anderson Memorial Library, the University Centers and on-campus housing — the racks are often so overpacked that bicycles fight for a chance to be latched to the nearest metal post.
In addition, there was some understandable delay of installed bike racks with the grand opening of the New UC. With the doors opening Jan. 15, bike racks were unavailable until sometime after.
With the lack of racking space, students are forced to find more innovative places to dock their green-friendly mode of transportation. Cyclists are often heard complaining of the yellow parking violation slips that they find on their bikes.
The UH Department of Public Safety website discourages students from latching their bikes to particular places on campus to avoid theft and impoundment. From this warning list, one can see that students are attempting to find any possible place to latch their bike, such as sign posts, fences, trees and shrubs and stair rails.
The apparent need for the UH DPS to proclaim that these places are unfit places to lock one’s bike shows the complete lack of options in the most heavily needed places.
On any given day, one can walk by the library and see the rack overflowing with spokes and gears that are being violently clashed together.
Petroleum engineering freshman Vinh Ha is familiar with this congested sight.
“I see them hooked to fences or posts due to lack of space in other locations,” Ha said. “People will park their bike around trees or whatever they can find because there are no bike racks near there. (Having more bike racks in those areas) would be more helpful to cyclists.”
The first step for fixing this lack of bike racks is to bring this issue to the attention of administrators. If the administration understands that this is an issue for many students, they might feel the need to provide accommodation; however, if this option is proven futile, there is always the more creative option.
Pre-business freshman Eric Pena said he believes if the University is unwilling to provide, creating bike racks of a new kind would be a great addition to the campus.
“This reminds me of something I heard about a year or so ago,” Pena said. “An artist named David Byrne was involved in doing these art bicycle racks in New York City. He would design a rack and install it all around New York. Maybe we could do something like that here and get people interested in designing a bike rack in a symbolic or artsy way.”
According to his website, David Byrne is a visual artist who works out of New York City. He worked with the NYC Department of Transportation to create a series of unique bicycle racks that were installed around the city.
Across the city, nine silhouettes stand to aid cyclists in their parking endeavors. Standing as a tribute of originality and creativeness, these racks add character to different sections of the city.
However, Pena’s idea of bringing artistically functional racks does not only include campus, but also the surrounding Houston area.
“We could install them all over Houston. We could get people involved from the community while also solving the bike rack problem. If you wanted to get the community involved, we could contact student organizations or get a mentor for the project, like an art teacher or something,” Pena said.
“You could go over to the arts building and get people interested in something like that. Then you could contact a company in Houston that designs bike racks and see if they would be interested in doing something for the community.”
If the University were to bring various philanthropic clubs and colleges together, we could create an innovative and fresh way to showcase the character of our school while also providing space for the many cyclists of our campus.
Gaining traction for this project may be as simple as acquiring interest from the School of Art. Some funding may be required, but having functional pieces of art scattered about campus would be well worth it.
Obtaining awareness from the students who do not ride their bicycles around campus would be the next step.
I have been on both sides of the spectrum. Once a bike owner, I remember the stress of muttering, “Excuse me,” as I tried to ride around the students who had formed a barricade-like line across the width of the sidewalk.
However, I also am aware of the sometimes over-aggressive cyclists who whiz too close to students who are trying to get to class without fear of being trampled. There is a quiet rallying among the student body that will probably continue, but there is no need to limit the ability of cyclists to park their bike.
Having more bike racks on campus is ultimately beneficial to everyone.
If unable to get the University to fund more racks, I am in favor of seeing creative structures erected around campus that will help show our uniqueness and our diverse Cougar intricacies.
That is a seat that everyone should hop on.
Senior staff columnist Kelly Schafler is a print journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]