I belong to a small, elite club. There might be six of us on campus, or at least it seems that way. We are a rare breed in this region and few people have had the pleasure of seeing us in person. I am a UC Irvine biker.
My lifestyle choice would be considered entirely normal on almost any other college campus, but here it is bizarre and foreign. Biking provides me with a great number of benefits, yet due to general attitudes and policies on campus it weighs me down with disadvantages.
My day begins with a slightly earlier wake-up call. I live in University Hills, a two-minute drive from campus. Yet on the “pedaling machine,” it takes me 20 minutes to get to my classes, depending on what part of campus I must reach.
I loathe the engineering section since it sits on top of a hill. The thing I don’t loathe, however, is waking up early in the morning, especially since I can begin the day with exercise. Besides the numerous physical benefits, exercise has proven to be psychologically beneficial as well. And by biking, I’m both helping my body and helping the environment.
The journey has a few hiccups despite the pleasant morning ride. Mornings can be chilly; typically, I am almost killed at least twice on my way to school alone, and Irvine drivers can rarely see me from their gas-guzzling SUVs.
The most dangerous part of my trips to and from school is always crossing the street. Cars rarely, if ever, look for pedestrians as they make the right turn. I once saw a mother simultaneously yelling at her children, swinging the steering wheel wildly to the right and reaching her arms to the steering wheel. It was a yoga exercise performed by an idiot on wheels.
Upon reaching school a variety of other problems arise. On campus, there are almost no routes devoted solely to bikes. For reasons never revealed, bikes are not allowed on Ring Road. I assume this is because of some ill-conceived form of racism against the number two: the number of wheels on a bike.
The campus was also designed exclusively for the walking crowd, meaning I need to lug my bike up and down steps at virtually every turn. Aldrich Park has a brand-new bike lane, but it barely stands wider than my shoulders. Sure I can fit, but barely. It also makes passing other bikers impossible.
As if this alone wasn’t difficult enough, walkers almost constantly flood what few bike lanes we do have, prompting a feud between the two groups.
After lugging my bike up and down stairs, swerving around my fellow students and walking my bike like an idiot along Ring Road so that I am not chased after and fined by patrolling police officers, I can finally make it to class. Unfortunately, the troubles do not end there. I need to find a place to lock up my only mode of transportation.
Bike racks are few and far between and are almost perpetually full because bikers find it so difficult to carry their bike and other belongings around the campus that once they park their bikes they never want to move them again.
Eventually, the day ends and I go through my morning routine in reverse. I love the bike ride on my way back. It provides my brain with a much needed respite after the midterms and quizzes – a chance to feel the breeze in my hair as I zip back home.
I roll along guilt-free as I know the only carbon I produce comes from my lungs. This feeling of bliss doesn’t come without a price, though – I am also almost killed an additional two times.
Biking is one of the best ways we can help our environment and yet our campus refuses to help those who partake in it. It is virtually impossible to get around on a bike. While the school has gone to special efforts to keep bikes off Ring Road, they have never made any attempt to keep pedestrians out of bike lanes. UCI is always ready to brag about “going green” and yet they have given an enormous, metaphorical middle finger to bikers.
Despite the fact that UCI has gone out of its way to take a dump on the idea of riding a bike around campus, I encourage you to at least try it for a few days. Despite all the problems, one can reach the medical school from the Humanities area in 10 minutes. It’s a great source of exercise and it’s a practical way to help the planet.
Environmentalist groups roam the campus trying to rally support, but I believe that simply hopping on a bike can help the environment much more than signing a petition to save the whales.