OPINION: Bike ban at USC Village reflects misplaced priorities on DPS’ part

Yasmin Davis | Daily Trojan

On Sept. 16, the Department of Public Safety began issuing citations to students caught violating USC Village’s bike ban. While the policy banning bikes, skateboards and roller skates is as old as USC Village itself, its full implementation only began last month, causing student confusion.

DPS stated that its intent for enforcing the bike ban was to create a safer environment for guests in USC Village, citing multiple complaints of “close call” collisions. Traffic congestion remains a campus fixture even after a decade of community dialogue efforts, and the University should continue to take steps to address it. The bike ban, however, is misguided on so many counts that it ought to be overturned altogether.

For one, USC Village’s bike ban has caused a disparity in police presence between the area and the rest of campus. USC Village has up to six scooter-mounted officers on patrol at any given time, but Trousdale Parkway has no stationary officers to monitor the traffic hotspot there. Even the Ronald Tutor Campus Center, where another bike ban is in effect, is devoid of regular patrols.

The bike ban forces DPS to prioritize USC Village despite its personnel shortage, which means that the majority of bikes — and thus potential traffic accidents — are not being supervised. This is inherently counterproductive, especially for an organization which claims that its primary mission is to “provide a safe and secure environment on campus and in the local USC community.”

In addition, the bike ban was not communicated nearly as well as it could have been. While officers did hand out flyers and put up A-frame signs in the area’s central courtyard, awareness of this regulation is contained to the quad. DPS has not yet informed the entire school via email or text message, and as long as it does not do so, confusion will remain.

It’s strange how DPS came to the conclusion that bike safety means no bikes, as the popularity of bicycles and personal transportation vehicles among students is a documented phenomenon. In 2012, USC News reported that roughly 10,000 students rode bicycles on the University Park campus, and that number has likely grown since then. Bicycling is a key mode of transport for USC students, it is absurd that University policies do not account for the possibility that some of those bicycles would attempt to access USC Village.

The only rational conclusion is that this particular ban is primarily intended to serve guests, not students, who are the most important stakeholders in USC’s welfare. In the words of DPS training coordinator Michelle Velasco, “We’re trying to create that safe environment for all the guests of the Village in that quad area, because of all the restaurants and businesses and people out there.”

These remarks from a Daily Trojan article on Sept. 12 are especially revealing, as the University places guests and retail employees first and foremost, only mentioning students as parties targeted by this rule. The bike ban is yet another regulation maneuver to make USC Village feel more exclusive.

Instead of banning personal transportation, DPS ought to account for its usage. A useful compromise between safety and accessibility would be the creation of bike lanes. While their effectiveness on Trousdale is questionable, USC Village’s smaller size and intersections make it uniquely suitable for designated biking areas. DPS can also ensure bike safety by including mandatory bike safety courses for incoming students. It also needs to continue encouraging pedestrians to be alert and not glued to their phones.

Bikes and other personal transportation vehicles have always been a part of campus life and will remain so as long as people need to go places quickly. The University must recognize this and revise its policy at USC Village to reflect this reality.