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UCLA Transportation reintroduces Earn-A-Bike program

Pictured are bicycles on the UCLA campus. UCLA Transportation brought back the Earn-A-Bike program, through which employees and graduate students can trade a parking permit for a bicycle, on Oct. 16. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Leyton Breese

Oct. 27, 2023 10:26 p.m.

UCLA Transportation announced Oct. 16 that it is bringing back its Earn-A-Bike program, which will allow employees and graduate students to trade their parking permit for a free bicycle.

As part of the program, participants may purchase one of four bicycle models worth up to $900 at two stores: the Bike Center and Helen’s Cycles in Santa Monica. The annual policy, first launched in 2016, is intended to promote biking to campus, healthy exercise, savings and sustainability, according to UCLA Transportation.

UCLA Transportation said in an emailed statement that Earn-A-Bike is one of the most commonly requested programs it offers and that it is seeing increased registration in comparison to last year. It added in the statement that UCLA bicyclists have saved over 11,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere since August 2022.

Mark Pampanin, a first-year law student, said that while he personally lives too far away to make biking reasonable, he is interested in an offer that contributes parking permit payments to other forms of public transportation more commonly used by graduate students.

“They could use some of the parking fees rather than our student fees to pay for the transit option,” Pampanin said. “There’s already enough cars in Los Angeles, so any reason to not drive would be good.”

Donald Shoup, a distinguished research professor of urban planning, said he thinks the program is a welcome first step in UCLA’s environmental goals, adding that it will reduce carbon emissions.

“If people switch from driving to biking, which is important especially for young people … who are more worried about global warming, … it will give people exercise and health,” Shoup said. “It’s much cheaper to give a student a bike than to provide a parking space for them.”

Raag Agrawal, the North Westwood Neighborhood Council’s graduate student representative, said he thinks the program could become very popular with graduate students, but it also might have setbacks.

“I think the issue is that the requirements are actually quite weird,” Agrawal said. “It requires you to have a parking permit for a certain number of quarters, and I don’t know how many graduate students actually have a parking permit for that number of quarters.”

Agrawal added that parking spaces are a larger contributor to pollution than most people think, as concrete and asphalt not only require a lot of energy to make but also take up space that could be used for other purposes such as student housing or research buildings.

He also said UCLA has a lot to improve on in terms of bike accessibility, as many roads on campus lack bike lanes, and those that do exist are unprotected.

UCLA Transportation said in the statement that it is continuing to work on improving campus bicycle infrastructure by adding new bicycle lanes, bike racks, speed bumps and repair stands.

Shoup also raised issues with the design of the program, adding that the program is only open to people who already own a car. Agrawal echoed these concerns.

“I think it’s actually quite a small population that’s actually eligible. I wish they made the eligibility criteria quite wider,” Agrawal said. “As it’s currently set up, very few graduate students would actually benefit – mostly staff or faculty benefit.”

Pampanin said he likes the program because it offers an alternative to driving.

“I think it’s a good idea. It’s an interesting question, because I regret getting it (a parking permit),” Pampanin said. “Instead of spending all this money on a parking pass – (if) you have one, try the bike.”

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