Stanford Report Online

Stanford Report, August 8, 2001
New campus bike coordinator kicks cycling into high gear


When Ariadne Scott talks about biking, she speaks from miles of experience.

For four years, Scott, who started work last in June as campus bicycle coordinator, commuted from her Palo Alto home to a job with a bicycling manufacturer in Morgan Hill. Every morning Scott carried her bike aboard CalTrain, transferred to a light rail train, which she took to the end of the line in south San Jose, and then cycled the rest of the way in to work, another 15 miles.

Getting to her desk at the Office of Parking and Transportation at 340 Bonair Siding takes Scott 10 minutes by bicycle. But shaving three hours and 20 minutes from her daily commute isn't even the best part of her new job: With an estimated 14,000 cyclists, lots of free bike parking, bike-friendly shuttles and public transportation, and cash incentives for leaving a car at home, Stanford is ideal for cyclists, she said. "It's so rare you could come into a community like this, where an active bike culture is already in place. And with the volume of cyclists, it's like Amsterdam."

Scott is the second person to hold the bicycle coordinator post. John Ciccarelli managed a bike program from 1995 to 1999, when the program folded. Administrators at the time said the program had met its goals: Among its accomplishments were the launch of a successful anti-theft program, the addition or improvement of 3,000 bike parking spaces and the addition of biking information to campus maps.

Scott's hiring is a signal the bicycle program is kicking back into gear, said Parking and Transportation Manager Brodie Hamilton, who came to Stanford last December from a similar position at the University of California-Davis. Davis is known as the "Bicycle Capital of the U.S." and the UC campus there is considered one of the most bike-friendly campuses in the nation.

"There's been a continued interest in the bicycle program," said Hamilton. "There's a great infrastructure already in place."

There's also a powerful incentive to support campus cyclists. The General Use Permit approved last December by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors set conditions for academic and other development on campus land requiring that the university add no "net-commute trips" -- or allow additional numbers of cars onto campus -- over the next 10 years. And Scott has blue-chip experience in encouraging bike commuters: She started a national "Commute Cup" challenge for the bike industry.

Scott's resume is packed with similar accomplishments at the local, regional and national level. She's served as a project manager for the California Bicycling Safety Network, has organized Women's Cycling Summits (including one at Stanford) and sits on the boards of four nonprofit bicycling advocacy groups.

Her first professional contact with a bicycle came, however, when she didn't even own one.

Scott was working in a Portland, Ore., backpacking store that offered cycling tours through the Pacific Northwest when the person who regularly guided the tours got sick. Scott filled in as trip leader, covering 50 miles every day for a week. Scott not only pulled it off, she converted to the two-wheeled way of life. Back in Portland, she immediately bought a bicycle. She hasn't owned an automobile for the last 22 years.

Scott's first priority at Stanford will be to put together a strategic plan to encourage and support cycling, she said. She's been spending part of her days cruising around campus on her bicycle to check out campus bike lanes and paths and watch how cyclists, motorists and pedestrians interact.

Her first impressions? Too many bare heads on bikes. "I'm surprised how many people don't wear helmets. Helmets save lives," she said.

She also has noticed cyclists not stopping at stop signs, not using hand signals, weaving haphazardly through open spaces like White Plaza and passing pedestrians on the right, all violations of common cycling courtesy, if not the California Vehicle Code. On the part of motorists, she has seen what seems to be a heightened awareness and consideration for cyclists following the death of Katherine Pope, an intern at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center who was struck by a motorist on Sand Hill Road while commuting to her summer job.

Scott, who serves on three municipal and regional bicycling advisory committees, said she is optimistic that she's seeing the beginning of a movement leading toward more cooperation between cyclists and motorists. The city of Palo Alto, for instance, recently launched a "Share Our Streets" campaign.

"It's easy to blame motorists, but we're all sharing the road and we all have to get along," she said. "There has to be a concentrated focus on education."

Scott is currently working on a biking education program for student cyclists that she'll present during freshman orientation. The program will focus on safety, riding etiquette, how the California Vehicle Code pertains to cyclists and how to survive without a car. (That's where her 20-plus car-free years will come in handy, she said.) She'd like to develop cycling education programs for staff and faculty, perhaps as a Health Improvement Program class, she said.

Scott said she sees education as the critical component to bicycling safety, particularly since Stanford police lack the power to cite students on the privately owned campus core for going too fast, riding on sidewalks or cutting off pedestrians. On the publicly owned Davis campus, cyclists are ticketed for exceeding speed limits, riding within 10 feet of pedestrians and parking bikes anywhere other than designated areas.

Stanford police can and do cite cyclists on public roadways, said Lt. Laura Wilson. But the force is understaffed and isn't using its cycle patrols, she said. With a patrol car, it's harder to stop cyclists, she said.

A cycling safety report, recently completed by a committee that included students, Wilson and Stanford Bicycle Coalition member Richard Swent (see sidebar), suggested that the university ask Santa Clara County for the power to create enforceable on-campus cycling regulations. Scott couldn't comment on the plan, since she hadn't yet digested its recommendations, she said.

Part of her job will be to make sure cyclists' needs are being met both on and off the road, she said. Although there currently are plenty of bike rack spaces on campus ­ 12,000 by Scott's count ­ older racks will gradually be replaced by racks that hold bicycles upright and make it easier to lock both the frame and the wheels to the rack, she said.

Scott will work with the planning department to make sure cyclists' safety and parking needs are considered in all capital improvements, including during construction. Acting on a tip from Swent, Scott arranged for cautionary signs to be installed and for daily cleanup of gravel at a construction site that bisected a path traveled by bicycles. "Safety is the number one priority," she said.

Scott has only begun to make her assessment of campus bike lanes and traffic patterns, but some have suggested she has a formidable task ahead. A draft copy of a 1995 "Stanford University Comprehensive Bicycle Plan" ­ written before Ciccarelli was hired ­ concluded that the campus had unacceptable levels of conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians and cars, as well as unacceptable levels of congestion and confusion.

Conditions haven't gotten appreciably better since then, Swent said. "It's chaos in certain parts of the campus."

Scott seems up to the challenge. The first line of her resume reads: "Faster than a speeding bullet. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound."

"This is a dream job -- 100 percent of my time devoted to promoting bicycling as a valid transportation option and making it a safe option for the Stanford community," she said. "More than ever in Silicon Valley -- with its endless gridlock and congestion, high gas prices, the cost of living and the focus on being energy efficient ­ cycling is a healthy choice."

Ariadne Scott, the campus' new bike coordinator, is utting together a strategic plan to support cycling and preparing an educational program for incoming students. Photo: L.A. Cicero