Navigating an Obstacle Course


With UCSD’s main campus occupying approximately 1,200 acres of land, getting around campus in a timely manner can be a troublesome task. Though some students take the campus loop shuttle, or tolerate walking to classes, others opt for speedier modes of transportation by picking up their own set of wheels. Bikers, skateboarders, roller bladers, longboarders and scooter riders alike roll through campus on a daily basis. But this hasn’t come without complaints or objections from the many students on foot who feel endangered by these wheeled individuals.

For many of these pedestrians, Library Walk — the main, routinely crowded pathway that connects our vast campus — is a point of concern when it comes to encountering those on wheels. Though biking is prohibited on Library Walk on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (skateboarding is never allowed on Library Walk) according to the UCSD Bicycle and Skateboard Guidelines, these rules are often ignored.

“There’s the occasional cyclist that doesn’t warn you before trying to squeeze through the crowd [on Library Walk],” Revelle College senior Serena Sadat said. “If you stop, and they can’t stop, you just know there’s going to be an accident.”

Skateboarders get a bad rap as well, even among fellow wheeled students.

“Skaters are the worst,” a UCSD student who goes by “MattieF” on Reddit posted in a thread discussing the habits of cyclists and skaters. “They never travel in a straight line. When trying to pass them on a bike, it’s practically impossible to predict when they’ll actually leave room to pass.”

Thurgood Marshall College sophomore Corey Clay noted that the bike lanes on some of the surrounding streets provide small and indirect routes around campus, but drivers, on occasion, disregard these bike lanes, thereby giving way to potential accidents.

“I was going down [Thurgood Marshall Lane] and turning right when a car coming from the opposite direction blocked the bike lane,” Clay said. “I ended up flying over the handlebar.”

Reported incidents suggest that bicyclists and skateboarders are more likely to injure themselves than they are to injure the pedestrians that cross their paths. Of the two bike-related injuries recorded by the UCSD Police Department in the last month, one involved a bicyclist colliding with a parked vehicle and the other involved a skateboarder colliding with a bicyclist. 

But avoiding accidents isn’t the only matter that students who choose to bike on campus have to worry about. Reported incidents of bike thefts on campus largely outnumber those of bike accidents. In the last month alone, 19 bike thefts were reported to campus police. In 2011, only 4 percent of reported bike thefts at UCSD were recovered, according to the most recent annual crime statistics given by the University of California Police Department.

“I once saw someone sawing off a bike chain in broad daylight,” Sadat said. “I didn’t know if I should do or say anything, because no one around me was saying anything. The guy just took the bike and left.”

According to the UCSD Policy and Procedure Manual, bikes operated on the UCSD campus must be registered with the state of California. This can be easily done at the Campus Bike and Skate shop in the Student Center. The UCSD Bicycle and Skateboard Guidelines even list registering one’s bike as a means of preventing bike theft.

But bike thefts and accidents aren’t the only factors that hinder students on the move — the campus’ physical layout presents another challenge.

“The campus is pretty big,” graduate student Julian Bui, who bikes regularly on campus, said. “With back-to-back classes, some people don’t have enough time to get to their next class, which may be on the other side of campus.”

Though acquiring wheels likely ensures students’ punctuality to class, riding through campus, according to Clay, is like navigating an obstacle course. Thurgood Marshall College senior Garrett Ulrich, who traded in walking for skateboarding this school year, seems to agree.

“The campus is built on a hill, so navigating the campus can be difficult,” Ulrich said. “It is also huge. I cannot believe I used to get around by walking, especially since I park off campus.” 

Whether wheeled or not, the general consensus among students appears to be that better infrastructure for bicycles and skateboards would alleviate a lot of tension among both parties and increase campus safety.

Newly elected A.S. Council President Andy Buselt is a strong advocate for promoting a more bike-friendly campus. He hopes to push for establishing more bike paths and bike-sharing programs on campus.

“Ideally, [the campus] would have a few dedicated bike paths with lane markers and no pedestrians on them,” “MattieF” posted. “I think that would make everybody happier — cyclists, skaters and pedestrians.”

While paths designated for bicyclists do exist on campus, some students feel that they lack an ease of accessibility.

Clay said that he’s aware of what’s called the “wheeled bypass” — a path that cuts through the eucalyptus grove — but doesn’t utilize it because he has difficulty ascending up the wooded area on his fixed-gear bike. He suggested making the path more bike-friendly.

On the other hand, Bui, who commutes to campus on his bike, suggested adding bike lanes on Gilman Drive.

“It makes no sense to me why the school would ban biking and skateboarding during the day but not add a bike lane to the on-campus part of Gilman; it just invites people to ignore the rules,” Bui said. “I avoid the roads because it’s much more dangerous for me with the narrow lanes.”

Last year, UCSD’s Physical & Community Planning Office published a Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Planning Study that examines the needs of cyclists and pedestrians and suggests projects with the intent of making future improvements to our campus. The study prioritizes both Clay and Bui’s suggestions within its top five proposed projects, which also include repaving the Hopkins Lane walkway by Geisel and fixing the crossing at Warren College Voigt Drive. PCPO estimates that these prioritized projects will cost around $1.7 million in total if the university were to execute the plans. However, implementation of any proposed changes falls under the jurisdiction of UCSD’s Resource Management and Planning department. 

But the study goes beyond the confines of our campus — it also aims to find ways to make commuting by bike more appealing, thereby softening demands on shuttles and parking. Given the recent trouble with regards to transportation, with cuts to public transit on the horizon and parking permit prices on the rise, some students are in favor of this goal.

“Getting more students to ride bikes would go a long way towards reducing demand on the shuttles to the UTC area,” “MattieF” posted. “[But once on campus], it is impossible to get between most parts of [it] without riding somewhere bikes/skateboards are forbidden, or on a road without a bike lane. For a campus our size, that is just unacceptable.

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