by Sam Bohne, Contributing Writer
Columbia’s new and much-hyped bicycle parking lot at 754 S. Wabash Ave. is getting little use, as shown by random checks of the lot.
On Oct. 3, the number of bicycles parked in the lot—which is intended to provide added bicycle storage space and security—ranged from one bicycle at approximately 8 a.m., five bikes at noon and eight at 3:30 p.m. Numbers throughout the rest of the week stayed roughly constant, reaching a maximum of 10 bicycles parked on Oct. 4.
Robert Koverman, associate vice president of Campus Safety and Security, said he could only think of one reason the lot—which can accommodate an estimated
125–150 bicycles—has seen such little use.
“I think if you’re able to find a parking place for your bicycle outside of the building that you’re in and it’s convenient for you to do that, then the students will do that, as opposed to parking on Wabash Avenue,” Koverman said.
He expressed his desire that more people would use the lot.
David Dolak, codirector of C4Cycling, a Chicago-based cycling association that started as a Columbia club, agreed with Koverman.
“[The bicycle parking lot] is sort of in the middle of campus, so if somebody is not going to be going between buildings, maybe they would rather park closer to one building [where] most of their classes are in,” Dolak said.
Dolak, a senior lecturer in the Science and Mathematics Department, said he thinks it is good that the new lot was created because of the increasing popularity of cycling. He said overall, there have been fewer places to park bicycles, but there are more people riding bicycles on campus.
“I’ve been at Columbia [for] 12 years,” he said. “I can say that there are certainly more bikes around than there were 12 years ago.”
Although Dolak believes there are more people riding bikes to campus, he agreed that only a handful of Columbia community members have taken advantage of the new parking lot.
“The one time I walked by in the last couple [of] weeks, I think there were maybe six to eight bikes there,” Dolak said.
He also said he thinks the lot has gotten little use because it has not been publicized enough. He has only received one announcement via email about it.
Alicia Berg, vice president of Campus Environment, said she has noticed that in the past with various improvements, students slowly accepted them, and she hopes this one will be the same.
She said the department has worked with student publications and the Loop communications system to spread the word about the bicycle parking lot.
“We wanted to create a space where folks could park their bikes in a safe location,” Berg said.
She added another goal was to encourage more people to ride bicycles to campus instead of driving.
The new lot is intended to let Columbia’s bike-riding community store and secure its bicycles to racks located in an enclosed space that requires an access code for entry. This lot is only available to those associated with Columbia.
Berg said the bicycle parking lot adds an extra layer of security to on-campus bicycle storage that is not available with the racks provided by the city of Chicago.
“I think [the lot] offers an alternative to putting your bike on the sidewalk or attaching it to the closest post you can find, and it provides a secure space for your bicycle, so certainly, I think it’s a great advantage,” he said.
The lot also gives student riders an alternative place to stow their bicycles in the face of a new campus policy prohibiting them from bringing bicycles into academic buildings and limiting faculty and staff’s bike storage privileges.
The new policy states that faculty and staff who have room in their office to store a bicycle may not transport their bikes in and out of academic buildings during the “rush periods” of 8:30 – 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 – 5:30 p.m., with the exception of bicycles that fold up.
Other policies prohibit faculty and staff members from carrying bicycles in the stairwells and evacuating the building with bicycles during an emergency.
Students may obtain the lot’s access code by logging into IRIS (The Administrative Portal), selecting Campus Environment, then clicking on “Useful Links” and “Bicycle Policy.”
To keep the bicycle parking lot secure, Berg advises students to not give out the code to anyone not associated with Columbia.