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Bike racks first phase of new program to increase safety, security

STANFORD -- More than 2,000 new bicycle parking spaces will be installed on campus this spring as the first phase of a major initiative aimed at improving conditions for the university's 17,000 bicyclists.

The new bicycle racks are the upside-down “U” variety, similar to those at Green Library, except that they are grouped together on rails and then bolted to the ground, said Jeffrey Tumlin, project manager with the office of Transportation Programs. Some prototype test installations are already in place at the Track House parking lot, outside Ginzton and at Building 530 (Mechanical Engineering).

The new racks are being placed at locations facing the most severe bicycle parking shortages, such as the Law School, the Main Quad, Cubberley, Durand, Herrin and the Medical Center. By the end of spring, Tumlin said, new racks will be added to more than 100 different locations around campus. In many cases, existing, lower-quality racks will be relocated temporarily to other locations.

The installation began on Feb. 22 and is expected to continue through April.

The total cost of the bike parking project is $200,000, or about $100 per space. (Older, less effective parking cost upward of $250 a space.) Funding for the project is through the Stanford Infrastructure Program (formerly known as GPI) transportation funds, the source of money for new roads, parking and transit systems.

The advantages of the new racks are that they:

  • Support the bike by the frame, not a wheel, making them more secure.
  • Allow the cyclist to lock the frame and a wheel to an immobile bar with a U-lock or cable.
  • Are mounted securely to the ground or a wall.

Because of the current rack shortage on campus, many bicycles are merely locked from wheel to frame to immobilize them. According to Dan Smith of the Stanford Police Department's Special Services Unit, thieves often simply load those bicycles into trucks or vans, and deal with the locks later, in a garage or workshop.

There were 643 reported bicycle thefts on campus in 1994, and 27 in January of this year.

Bike report published

The design and the locations of the new racks are based on recommendations in the recently published Bike Plan Report. The report is the result of a two-year study directed by the Planning Office and Transportation Programs with input from Facilities Operations and Public Safety (thye police). A team of landscape architects, transportation planners and engineers and cycling program coordinators drafted the report, and the San Francisco landscape architecture firm of Merrill & Associates published the final document.

The report identified the following goals: to improve safety and security; to restore balance and order to campus circulation; and to acknowledge, support and promote cycling as an effective means of transportation.

The report suggests that improving the Stanford cycling environment will require a comprehensive approach based on "the four E's": engineering and planning, education, encouragement and enforcement. Such an integrated approach recognizes the need to carefully balance physical improvements with training and encouragement, Tumlin said. Enforcement will be used as a backup.

"People park their bikes at stair railings because there's nowhere else to park, and they don't think it's a problem," Tumlin said. "First, we've got to provide adequate parking. Then we need to explain that parking at railings endangers pedestrians - especially those with disabilities. That should take care of it. If it doesn't, we may need to impound a few bikes."

The report identifies major campus bike routes and recommends a variety of improvements. Foremost among these recommendations is that bicycles should be treated as vehicles, that they should travel in streets, and that pedestrians should have separate sidewalks.

"The trouble with the Clock Tower intersection," Tumlin said, "is that bikes and pedestrians are coming from all different directions at once. The pedestrians don't even have a curb to wait at until it is safe to cross."

Other recommendations

Other key recommendations include:

  • Completing a bike lane network on major streets and arterials, such as Arboretum Road and Campus Drive.
  • "Calming" local streets so that cars and bikes can mix comfortably. ("Calming" is a planning term that means redesigning and/or realigning streets to make them more effective and safe thoroughfares, not only for motor vehicles but also for bicyclists and pedestrians.)
  • Providing sidewalks and curbs along "streets" in the pedestrian zone where walkers can be safe from cyclists.
  • Testing roundabouts, such as those used successfully on the University of California-Davis campus, at some intersections and clarifying right-of-way at many more.
  • Improving the type, quantity, security and location of bike parking; and setting standards for parking at new facilities.

The report also recommends that Stanford implement comprehensive and consistent safety education, encouragement and enforcement programs. The programs would be aimed at all campus cyclists, including faculty, staff and students. They would all be consolidated under a Bicycle Programs Coordinator within the office of Transportation Programs.

"We're creating the position right now," said Julia Fremon, manager of Transportation Programs. "We hope to have someone on board in the next few months and creating programs in time for the fall quarter."

Total number of bicycles on campus (estimated): At least 17,000

Percentage of employees who ride their bikes to work: 21%

Among all staff and students, percentage who walk or bike to work or class: 58%

Total bicycle thefts reported, 1993: 829

Total thefts reported, 1994: 643

Thefts for month of January 1995: 27



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