The Bike Lane Brush-Off
Less than two weeks after the tragic death of Cal Poly Pomona student Ivan Aguilar on Kellogg Drive, the administration at Cal Poly has revealed its opposition to any suggestion that bike lanes be installed on the road where Ivan was killed. In a recent article in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, a campus administrator essentially dismissed calls for bike lanes on Kellogg Drive.
“Kellogg Drive, to handle the volume of traffic that’s on it, needs to remain a four-lane road, two on each side. Right now, there’s no room for additional bike lanes.”
Never mind that there isn’t currently a single bike lane anywhere on campus (a fact which led blogger CLR Effect to write last week that he was “shocked” at the virtual absence of any bike infrastructure on campus), so one wonders what “additional” bike lanes the university is talking about. It makes it sound as though greedy cyclists already have plenty of bike lanes on campus, but want more. The University also implicitly dismissed calls for measures that would appreciably reduce traffic speeds to make the roadway safer.
“We set the speed [on Kellogg Drive] based on the recommendations based on the traffic that needs to travel on that road. The 45 mile per hour limit was put in on that road based on that recommendation.”
Both statements indicate that Cal Poly administrators’ primary criteria for their roadways is to maintain the volume and speed of automobile traffic on campus arterials (and perhaps to shield the university from lawsuits). The safety and accessibility of campus for bicyclists barely registers in their minds. Regardless of administrators’ comments, which are revealing enough, the design of the campus’s roadways speaks volumes. When roadways are engineered exclusively, or even primarily to maximize the volume of high speed automobile traffic, that is precisely the way they work. To use that as an excuse not to change when it is proven to be dangerous, however, is unconscionable.
According to the article, the campus might consider widening Kellogg Drive to accommodate bike lanes at some point in the future, but the likelihood of that happening any time soon, given the perennial budget crunch in the CSU, is virtually nonexistent. Moreover, simply painting a bike lane along a 45-mph four-lane arterial would still be unsafe, unless traffic speeds were slowed and/or a physically separated bikeway were constructed.
The university’s message is clear: bicyclists will be tolerated as long as they do not take an inch of roadway space from cars—and so long as they do not require any motorist to lift his right foot ever so slightly from the gas pedal on the way to the campus’s multimillion-dollar parking garage. While I am not surprised that bicyclists’ safety got the brush off, I am somewhat surprised at the bluntness of the brush off. The university’s statements in the press reveal its mindset about campus transportation. Bikes are for Euro-wimps, eco-freaks, fools, and poor people. “Real Americans” drive cars to school, and drive them fast.
What is perhaps most distressing about this 1950s transportation mentality is that it comes from an institution of higher learning that looks to the future in so many other ways. Today, in cities and at universities all over the country, mobility is being re-thought outside the auto-centric perspective of the post-WWII era. A growing number of transportation planners and city planners are realizing that we cannot continue to design our roads as if cars were the only legitimate mode of transportation. All over the U.S., “complete streets” are being redesigned to accommodate multimodal transportation alternatives.
After the death of Ivan Aguilar, I assumed the wisdom of transportation redesign would be apparent to the well-educated people who make decisions at my university. I should know better than to assume.