Bike permits miss sustainability target

Column by Mahan Ellison

On behalf of a quiet collective of bike commuters, I would like to express frustration with Parking and Transportation Services (PTS) new implementation of required registration for bicycles. I write for the collective of conscientious and law-abiding commuters, and we are not a group to be overlooked. We lock our bikes to bike racks, we stop at stop signs, we bike in the sun and the rain and snow, and by not driving cars we provide an important benefit to the UK.

Bicycle and pedestrian traffic represent flexible and sustainable modes of transport. They cut down on campus congestion and contribute to the long-term health of both the community and its residents. By encouraging modes of transportation that do not rely on fossil fuels, UK can leave a green footprint that extends beyond our campus and town.  Likewise, the individual health benefits are obvious, and a healthy student and employee body will bring with it a healthier UK and Lexington. The benefits that cyclists and pedestrians contribute to a campus are self evident, but what remains is the question of how to encourage more of the population to consistently participate in such habits. I am afraid PTS’s current method of mandatory bicycle registration achieves the opposite effect.

It is for these reasons that I do not appreciate being punished in the form of a paying registration that PTS is planning for the near future. PTS is, in effect, punishing a habit that it professes to encourage. This approach does not make sense.

In all honesty, I offer the benefit of the doubt to PTS. Perhaps my frustrations stem from bad PR, but they are not unfounded. I admit there is little hope for change without consistent and honest cooperation between institutions and the public, and PTS must be transparent in its plans and its motivations.

I understand and share the frustration with people who lock their bikes to doorways and ramps and those who flagrantly disregard traffic rules, but I do not buy the argument that bike registration will help to curtail these behaviors. I also find faulty the argument that registration will help with bike recovery if my bicycle is stolen.

Responsible ownership implies that one keeps their own personal records of serial numbers, photos, receipts, etc that would help to identify stolen or impounded bicycles. Proper locking mechanisms and procedures also drastically decrease the possibility of bike theft or impoundment. In short, I believe that these problems could be solved through bicycle education. Bicycle registration is not necessary.

Bicycle registration, as currently implemented, only shows that PTS can flex its muscles and bully cyclists, and this reflects the aggressive, anti-bike sentiment that we bike commuters struggle with on the roads of the city. PTS is behaving like the SUV that has so often pulled out in front of me; it controls the road because it is bigger than I am, and does not need to pay attention to my concerns. It is disheartening that the university does not respect its students and its bike commuters, but instead prefers to intimidate them into compliance with an irrational policy.

That said, I have registered my bicycles. I did so because I feel that I have been bullied into doing it, and have been left with little option of voicing my concerns. I did so because, at the end of the day, I don’t want to have to worry whether my bike will be on the rack where I left and not impounded. The only justification that bicycle registration brings is the promise of more pro-bike infrastructure and services on campus. Because I have conceded, I will hold PTS accountable to it’s end of the deal. PTS must live up to its promises.

In the same breath, I would like to commend the Wildcat Wheels program and the bicycle co-op. It has provided valuable services to me personally and the campus as a whole and they have helped to raise bike awareness in important ways. Its emphasis on bicycle education and availability are examples of positive movements taking place on campus. It represent one of the greatest resources to the campus cyclist, and they have earned my respect. Wildcat Wheels and the bike co-op empower cyclists by teaching them to safely ride and maintain their bikes. PTS, in contrast, has emphasized its own authority and made cyclists such as myself feel insecure and alienated.

I encourage PTS to work with or simply to learn from Wildcat Wheels to find ways to make UK a more bike friendly campus. I offer PTS the opportunity to change my mind. Convince me my bicycle registration was worthwhile – and not just through the scare tactics of threatening to impound my bike.