Life beyond the automobile in Southern California

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.

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13 thoughts on “The Bike Lane Brush-Off

  1. A. Rider on said:

    There’s not even a way to get to the Cal Poly Pomona campus by bike from the north. You have to go pretty far to the east or west to find a way across the 10 Freeway. I’m not sure how much of the blame for that oversight falls to the university, but it’s nonetheless another example of the general indifference that planners of that area have had toward cyclists.

    • A.R.: Thank you for your comment. Yes, I completely agree that the surrounding area is not very bike-friendly, and that needs to change. However, people are already bicycling to campus and we need to make sure they’ve got safe routes, and when San Jose Creek bike path opens in a couple of years, there will be even greater need.

  2. Brandon on said:

    Well put.

  3. Pingback: Today’s post, in which I offer a few helpful corrections for the Newport Beach PD | BikingInLA

  4. Cal Poly has never been very supportive of alternative transportation. This goes back to when they kicked the buses off the campus ten years ago, because the buses were allegedly ruining the pavement on Kellogg Drive. While this might have been a case, and Foothill Transit actually offered a compromise by routing only one route, the 480, onto campus, Cal Poly continued to dig their heels in, even after receiving Federal funds to repave some of the roads in the area. The unremoved bus shelters across from the parking structure are a testament to this.

    You also have to remember that, just ten years ago, there were no traffic signals on the Cal Poly campus proper. Now cars speed down Kellogg Drive in order to make the lights. While campus officials are correct in that Kellogg Drive gets a lot of cut through traffic destined for Mt. Sac and the warehouses and factories in the City of Industry, it is a campus roadway, and should be designed for the purpose of the campus community. Drivers have plenty of parking surrounding the campus and should park in the closest lot to their entrance. Possibly reconfigure East Campus Drive to be bidirectional and accessible to both north and southbound Kellogg Drive could also redirect cars destined for the freeway away from central campus.

    • Henry, thank you for your comment. Yes, I remember well the old bus stops on campus. Much more convenient for bus riders than having to walk all the way out to Temple Ave. I’ve been trying to get the admin to use the new bus stops by the parking garage, but as yet to no avail. I’ll keep trying. Cars, it goes without saying, get first class treatment.

  5. Considering Cal Poly is pretty much a commuter campus, you’d think they’d want to find ways to bring in as much alternative transportation as possible. Can’t just keep building parking structures, after all.

    • Stephen, so true. And, when the San Jose Creek bike path gets completed in a few years, it will make it possible for many more to commute by bike. Meanwhile, more students are living on or near campus, and many of them ride bikes. Bike lanes are a heck of a lot cheaper than parking structures.

  6. Bicyclists have a right to the roadway, according to California Vehicle Code 21200. Always nice to hear from a motorist who respects the law and human life.

  7. Bruce Emerton, University Library on said:

    Great comments: as a faculty member I only ride my bike to campus during the Summer Quarter, too nervous the rest of the year to deal with the traffic. Speaking of traffic, the second they extended Kellogg Drive through to Valley/Holt, the road became a shortcut highway, something other presidents tried to avoid but this president embraced in order to promote his real estate ventures and innovation village. History has it that President Hugh LaBounty opposed an exit from the 57 freeway onto campus out of concern that the campus would become a shortcut and endanger student safety, would that the current president be more concerned with student safety and less concerned with rental properties!

    • Bruce, thanks for reading and commenting. Your historical context for the growth of high-speed automobile traffic volume on Kellogg is very interesting and worth consideration. It’s a shame that people should fear riding their bikes to a university campus that prides itself on environmental sustainability. The city of Pomona bears some responsibility for this, too, since main arterials approaching campus like Holt, Valley, and Temple currently lack safe bicycle infrastructure such as bike lanes. Clearly there is much work to do to make Cal Poly and the surrounding area bike friendly.

      • Bruce Emerton, University Library on said:

        Yea, Pomona is part of the problem. Less than a month before Arturo Aguilar was killed on Kellogg Drive, another cyclist was killed on Valley / Holt near Innovation Village and Kellogg Drive

  8. Pingback: Charge filed in death of bike-riding Cal Poly Pomona student Ivan Aguilar; is the university really at fault? | BikingInLA

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