On November 12-13, the UIUC will hold the Fall 2014 student referendum. Among the policy issues students get to vote on is the creation of a $1 semesterly Bike Fee to fund bike-related projects at the university.
Biking forms an important part of the UIUC infrastructure. 42% of students say that they bike at least once a week. At 43,603 students currently enrolled, that means there are – at the barest minimum – at least 18,000 ‘rides’ currently happening weekly on the campus. That number underscores both the wear on existing bike infrastructure and the need for the further development of this infrastructure. Grace Kyung, the student spearheading this initiative notes that UIUC has an interesting history with respect to creating a bike-friendly campus, “… [W]e are the first university to install bike paths on its campus but one of the campuses who have made the least improvements to it.” The aim of the Bike Fee is to keep UIUC at the top when it comes to creating an environment that is conducive to biking.
Current funding for bike-related projects at UIUC is minimal and scattered. Some things do exist: bike paths, some bike repair centers, and the Campus Bike Center. The latter, however, has faced the constant threat of losing its funding and being shuttered – actually the catalyst for proposing a Bike Fee. The main issue is that, despite constant increases in the number of students biking, there has not been an equal increase in the University’s development of its biking infrastructure. A simple, but important example is shown below. There are simply too many bikes for how many parking spaces there are on campus for them. This forces a lot of bikers to lock their bikes to less-than-ideal objects, often putting them at risk of being stolen or cut down by Campus Maintenance and hauled off to the Bike Prison by Assembly Hall.
So with all this whining about what the University isn’t paying for, what should they actually be spending and for what? The Bike Fee will be used to fund a number of important projects related to biking on campus, among them: maintenance and improvement of existing bike paths, creation of new bike paths, funding the Campus Bicycle Shop, starting a bike-rental program, creation and dissemination of bike educational materials, expanding bicycle parking, and the hiring of a Bike Coordinator. This will not only make your biking experience better, but also push others to take up biking, creating a healthier, less polluted community.
The idea for the Bike Fee was created by a number of students. Although it was originally set to be voted on in the Spring 2014 semester, the referendum was pushed back to the Fall because of ridiculous internal political issues within the various organizations that oversee student referendums. Over 2,400 students signed a petition in the Spring of last year to even get the Bike Fee on the referendum. These are passionate and driven students who – through their research into how to make UIUC more bike-friendly – have come up with some interesting statistics about the UIUC bike infrastructure. For example, below you can see the distribution of different bike rack styles on campus.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Bike Fee referendum, check out their Facebook event page. As Kyung remarks, “Help us make history November 12-13 and vote YES for the bike referendum. We are only as strong as our unity in numbers. So let’s make this the largest voter turnout the University has ever seen for a Fall Ballot and show that the students are ready for change and we will not sit here aimlessly waiting for the University to get to our level. It is time for our voices to be heard!” I’d like to add that even if you’re not a student (like meee!!!!), you can do your part and harass other students to (a) vote and (b) vote YES.