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  • Malak Habbak

Students Voice Concern Over Cyclist Safety

Cal Poly Pomona’s uneasy relationship with advocates for alternative transportation widened Tuesday at Bike Week’s protest and roundtable discussion when the students’ frustration mounted in response to a lack of changes made since last year’s Bike Week.

Bike Week is an annual event coordinated by Associated Students, Inc., the University Cycling Coalition, and the CPP Cycling Club that promotes bike culture. As part of the fifth annual event, 30 students and faculty walked or rode bikes in protest, carrying signs and chanting for more bike lanes, safer routes to school and alternative transportation to save the planet and reduce CPP’s carbon footprint. Passersby showed support by honking their car horns.

The protest began at University Plaza and went past memorial sites of pedestrian Matthew Myers and biker Ivan Aguilar — killed by motorists in 2005 and 2013, respectively — to Parking and Transportation Services. The deaths inspired the rally and reminded concerned students and faculty that current transportation infrastructure at CPP needs improvement.

Olivia Offutt, a second-year urban and regional planning transfer student, had a dual role in Bike Week: She is both the founder of the University Cycling Coalition, CPP’s first bicycle advocacy organization that started last year, and one of Bike Week’s organizers. 

Offutt’s mission is grounded in the Federal Highway Administration’s Complete Streets design to make streets more amenable to all modes of transit — not just cars. 

“We’re working to really push the envelope, and this is the first year we’re having a protest or rally because we’re not stand for a standstill anymore,” said Offutt.

Third-year gender, ethnic and multicultural studies student Laura Hasbun feels unsafe riding her bike to campus because some parts of campus lack adequate lighting and lanes for pedestrians and bicyclists.

“How many lives is it going to take for administration to make safer routes for people who are trying to commute to campus?” said Hasbun. 

Associate Vice President of Facilities, Planning and Management Walter Marquez said the idea that the streets, in particular Kellogg Drive, are not safe is a “pretty vague statement.”

 “The road is to code to all state and city standards,” said Marquez. 

Marquez said the administration would prefer that the bikes travel through the campus bike path, which stretches from Parking Lot B to up behind the Bronco Student Center, instead of going onto Kellogg Drive, which is where most bicyclists are concerned for their safety. 

There are already established bike routes at bus stops in Pomona, University Village, South Campus Drive and the “academic core of campus,” he said.

Along with safety concerns, students are frustrated by a lack of campus action.

Offutt and Adams pushed for a bicycle master plan and committee for over a year, but efforts have been “continuously sidelined by facilities.” 

Marquez responded that a bicycle master plan is not something that can happen on its own, but will need to coincide with the campus master plan.

When asked about a campus master plan revision, Marquez said the California State University office put a hold on master plans in 2010 because of pending litigation in the California Supreme Court regarding a lawsuit for San Diego State University.

However, Stephanie Thara, a public affairs communications specialist at the CSU Chancellor’s Office, said the office has been “proceeding with all campus master plans,” and that “one campus master plan has nothing to do with another.”

The bicycle and campus master plans aren’t the only items in standstill: The bike lane infrastructure on campus has also remained unchanged, as the proposed bike lane extension linking the BSC to Camphor Lane has not yet begun.

“At this point in time, I haven’t received any funding for the university for ,” said Marquez. 

“ resources are limited and there are significant demands for good things on this campus, it’s a matter of prioritizing.”

One of the benchmarks in CPP’s 2007 Climate Action Plan is for 40 percent of campus population to use alternatives to Single Occupancy Vehicles. Students had hoped for a change of transportation solutions, yet the focus remains on motorists through the construction of a new parking structure in Parking Lot K. 

After the roundtable, several community members were still frustrated.

“We’re a green campus, we have great ratings on a bunch of different sustainability scales and factors, yet it’s green-washed,” said Michael Adams, a fifth-year engineering technology student and former Associated Students, Inc. secretary of sustainability.

“There seems to be a gap in communication and vision,” said Bike San Gabriel Valley Program Coordinator Andrew Fung Yip referring to the administration. 

“What do they want the school to look like in 5-10 years? That’s not really established.” 

Some participants at the roundtable discussion featured representatives from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works and CPP’s Green Team. 

Members pointed out that the absence of PTS showed a “fairly relative disinterest” in the cause.

PTS declined to respond to a phone call and emails seeking comment on the perspective of the department on transportation alternatives and the university’s future plans for transportation.

Offutt is convinced her next step is creating an informal committee of students, faculty and other interested parties in order to determine who would build, fund and maintain various projects that push for alternative transportation.

One of the reasons previous alternative transportation efforts on campus have been unsuccessful is because students have not engaged in direct political action, said Professor of Regenerative Studies Dan Yuhasz. 

Yuhasz said that a new committee could make the effort.

“We can’t just politely knock on doors,” said Yuhasz. “No change is going to happen.”

Public Coordinator for L.A. County Department of Public Works Mateusz Suska, who attended the roundtable discussion during Bike Week, said the department is applying for funding under the Active Transportation Program for the Temple Avenue project, which has been used by many cyclists riding to and from CPP.

John Lloyd, a CPP history professor and cyclist, said he would like to see the campus issue a letter of support for this plan to make Temple Avenue safer through bike lanes and better sidewalks, which will make it “more likely to happen.”

“I think it’s very stressful to ride a bike on many of the streets around campus — even for me,” said Lloyd, who runs a blog about biking issues. 

“I’m an experienced cyclist, I’m not comfortable riding my bike on Temple.”

Current CPP administration has shown a commitment to public transit. University President Soraya Coley voiced her support at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning’s Stand Up 4 Transportation event on April 24, where she stated in her opening address that improved transit access for students was important and could be achieved.

Since then, Foothill Transit has received “nothing but positive support from the CPP administration, specifically from President Coley,” according to Foothill Transit spokeswoman Felicia Friesema. 

Efforts between Foothill Transit and CPP are gaining momentum and talks of launching of a class pass program, similar to what Mt. San Antonio College offers, would significantly reduce the cost for students taking mass transit via all local buses and the Silver Streak.


Journalist & Photographer

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