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UCLA Bicycle Academy’s proposal aims for better biking safety, access

By Fiona Kirby

Jan. 30, 2014 4:14 a.m.

The UCLA Bicycle Academy – a group of UCLA faculty and staff focused on promoting bicycling conditions – drafted a letter to Chancellor Gene Block this month in response to a perceived lack of bike safety in the area around the UCLA campus.

The letter, which was submitted on Friday, currently has 68 signatories – a mix of professors, staff members and students. It suggests the creation of a Healthy Campus Access Initiative, which would work with UCLA groups and the local community to improve bicycle access to campus. The letter also calls for the creation of safe bike lanes into UCLA, opening certain areas around UCLA to bike riding and sidewalk repair.

David Eisenberg, a professor of genomics and proteomics who was involved in drafting the proposal of the Healthy Campus Access Initiative, said he thinks the first step is to have an active group on campus that would meet with stakeholders to get a consensus on what can and should be done.

Block has asked Administrative Vice Chancellor Jack Powazek to look into the possibility of creating the Healthy Campus Access Initiative, Eisenberg said.

Powazek said he is currently trying to set up a meeting with the UCLA Bicycle Academy.

Eisenberg said he expects the committee would work with homeowner groups and local politicians as well as conduct work independently.

Eisenberg said he hopes the completion of the extension to the Expo Light Rail Linein Westwood, slated for 2016, will prompt more students, staff and faculty to bike part of the way to UCLA during their daily commute.

Signers of the letter hope that a bike-safe infrastructure already in place would help increase the number of students who commute to campus by bike.

David Walter, a fifth-year mechanical engineering student who signed the letter, said he has commuted from both Culver City and Santa Monica. He said he signed the letter because the lack of continuous safe bike lanes in his commute to school is dangerous.

“It’s just a gauntlet to get to school,” he said. “I’ve been hit by cars two times.”

Eisenberg said he thinks it is important to mitigate biking dangers by marking bicycle routes and, if possible, separating them from the street by a barrier.

In the past two years UCLA has improved biking conditions on campus, adding a bike lane in the Strathmore tunnel and looking into painting lanes brightly in other parts of campus.

Westwood Boulevard, one area in which the letter proposed bike lanes, has been a source of contention for some Westwood residents.

Jerry Brown, the president of the Westwood Neighborhood Council, said he thinks bicycle lanes on Westwood Boulevard, starting at the future Expo Stop, would be unsafe because of already heavy traffic along Westwood Boulevard, and that bicycle lanes would take away parking, hurting Westwood businesses.

He said it was possible there were other streets in Westwood that might support bike lanes, but felt that the Westwood Neighborhood Council would oppose any on Westwood Boulevard, along the segment running from Santa Monica Boulevard to UCLA, which lies within the council’s boundary.

“The huge flow of bus and auto traffic along that segment, and particularly north of Wilshire, seem to me to make that stretch especially unsafe for cyclists,” he said.

“You’re endangering a lot of people with riding bicycles in that area, and its not particularly safe for bicyclists,” he said.

Ryan Shickman, a fourth-year psychobiology student, said he bikes to campus from his apartment in the North Village. He said there is a safe bike lane into campus in the Strathmore tunnel, but it is more difficult to leave campus because there is no accompanying bike lane out.

He recently got a bicycle citation from a policeman because he was biking on the sidewalk along Gayley outside of Gardenia Way. He said he was biking on the sidewalk because he thought it would be dangerous to bike on the street, considering the section of Gayley is very narrow, with cars parked on the side.

Eisenberg said he soon hopes to see the creation of the Healthy Campus Access Initiative.

“Just think of what it could do for UCLA, and L.A. as a whole, if we became more of a human-powered society,” he said. “If we could greatly increase the number of human-powered commuters that would just change the whole atmosphere of the place.”

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Fiona Kirby
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