UC Irvine’s transportation policies are not only pitiful and embarrassing in regard to lack of rationality and practicality, but are also illustrative of the sissy nature of American society as its institutions cave in to a fear of being sued for nearly anything under the sun. While a certain level of transportation policy enforcement is vital to the safety and functionality of the campus, we have reached a level of enforcement far beyond any rational justification of “community safety.”
On a campus that constantly professes progressive (and sometimes over-the-top) ideals in areas like stem-cell research, bio-fuel and cage-free eggs, it is surprising how limiting and regressive our campus policies on student transportation have become. You’d think a place like UCI would jump at the chance to combat global warming and obesity in the same breath with flexible biking and transportation policies, but apparently, self-defeating practices are more entertaining.
One example of the ridiculousness of the bike policy occurred in Feb. 21, 2008. Erik Rosenow, a third-year business economics major, was riding his bike on Pereira Drive in the against-traffic street gutter, since a large number of pedestrians were using the sidewalk and fast-moving cars were passing by on the road. “It seemed safer than cutting across traffic twice,” Rosenow said.
According to Rosenow, a UCI Police Department SUV appeared behind him, flashing its lights and announcing on its PA system, “Man on the bike, you need to pull over!” The UCIPD then asked him for the make, model and year of his bicycle while looking up the proper citation code for five minutes, ultimately citing Rosenow for riding on the wrong side of Pereira Drive and issuing a fine of $118.50. One might think a campus promoting Zipcars and “green thinking” isn’t going to rally much support by throwing out hefty fines for petty infractions.
The ever-growing number of UCI students and the rising cost of gasoline have caused some students to look for alternative means of transportation. Combined with the iron-fisted patrol of bicyclists trying to get to class, this situation has created an environment of confusion and frustration for the UCI community. On the one hand, students want to avoid parking in lots that are already maxed-out and super-expensive, and on the other, they must worry about getting fined for breaking one of the dozens of minute campus guidelines. The only other option seems to be a shuttle bus system that only services a few of the housing communities near the school.
Perhaps the most hilarious element of UCI’s transportation policy is that it allows Segway devices – 125-cc motor vehicles that travel up to 12.5 miles per hour and cost around $4,000 – to be ridden anywhere on campus, and golf carts – 1,000-pound vehicles that travel up to 15 miles per hour – to be driven all around Ring Mall, both of which are faster, heavier and drastically more dangerous than a small aluminum bicycle traveling at 8 miles per hour.
This editorial is not an effort to belittle the UCIPD. The department is commissioned to keep our campus safe and regularly provide valuable services to our student body by protecting free speech, providing emergency services, etc. What most students don’t realize is that policies like the revamped transportation and bike policies are not initiated by the police, but rather by UCI’s own administration. According to Section 900 of the UCI Administrative Policies and Procedures, UCI transportation and bike policies are initiated by UCI administrators and are approved through the chancellor and vice chancellor’s offices before receiving input from the UCIPD and Parking and Transportation Services.
Two of the New University’s editors have experienced the bizarre side effects of these transportation policies firsthand. One was clipped by a golf cart driven by a UCI faculty member and had his foot wedged underneath one of the cart’s tires (apology withheld), and another received a jaywalking ticket while crossing Berkeley Street across from UCI in February 2008. When issued the $121 citation, the editor was told by the officer, “Sorry, but the UCI Chancellor has asked the Irvine police to begin issuing jaywalking tickets around here because students have been getting hit by cars.”
The UCIPD and Parking and Transportation Services office have been mature enough to act kindly while enforcing these policies. They have also helped create detailed maps for student bicyclists, as the few signs that contain bike rules on campus are barely visible enough to be reliable. Even with such aid, though, isn’t it a bit ridiculous that by hopping on a bike near UCI, students are expected to have an entire slew of maps and regulations memorized while they try to make it over to History 101 at 8 a.m.? The situation is beyond unrealistic—it is completely absurd.
In 1986, James Fitzgerald, Sr. won a $4.5-million lawsuit against UCI and a few of its students after his son suffered a coma from a bicycle accident at the university. This event still seems to resonate in our campus policies. When policies are updated out of fear of being sued instead of for concern for the safety and efficiency of our campus, something has gone wrong … although a society that blames McDonald’s for serving its coffee too hot may have a larger issue than one UC campus. It is a sad day when students can’t even ride their bikes to class without entering a complex world of legalities and bullshit.
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