Here are some of the photos I have made recently of bikes locked to the exterior stairwells of SJSU's Clark Hall. These stairwells are used routinely as exits from the classrooms in Clark Hall and would serve as emergency exits from Clark Hall in the event of an evacuation. In addition to the obvious safety issues, I am concerned about the barriers these are for people with disabilities.
I have tried to get University Police to act on this. My understanding from conversations I have had on this is they are waiting for more bike lockers. In my opinion; to put the needs of bicyclists before providing accessible facilities is a form of discrimination directed at people with disabilities. I think we should be striving to provide accessible physical facilities just as we are striving to provide accessible technology.
When I addressed the issue to the Disability Resource Center at SJSU, Lucille Surdi the ADA Compliance Specialist wrote me back:
The ADA Compliance Office has spoken with Chief Barnes regarding your notification to us of the bikes being locked to the exterior stairwells of Clark Hall. The Chief and UPD are working over the past several months with AS Transportation and FDO to address this situation throughout the campus for the entire campus community. Proposals are being developed for more bike racks and more bike cages. This situation is being overseen with coordination from other university departments and is diligently being addressed. UPD is currently enforcing the issue of unsafe bike parking and has impounded many bikes that create a hazard. You are correct, safety is always the primary concern and please do report any direct safety issues to UPD as soon as possible.
I had a previously scheduled appointment next week to discuss this issue in person with them. In the same e-mail Surdi said:
My office had scheduled a meeting with you and I for next week but I do believe that this matter is being appropriately handled and prioritized and there is no need for a meeting. We thank you for bringing this to our attention and we will be monitoring this situation in the coming weeks.
Sounds like bureaucratic double-speak to avoid doing anything to me. In my opinion providing safe emergency exiting of buildings as well as accessible facilities is more important than having people be able to park bikes all over campus. I am a cyclist myself, I rode my bike to work this morning. It amazes me how many abandoned bikes there are in the bike lockers and chained to poles on campus. Perhaps these can be removed if we really need more on campus bike parking.
UPDATE: March 11, 2009
Yesterday University Police Chief Andre Barnes came over and spoke with me and looked at the problem personally. I really appreciate that! He explained to me some of the issues they have been having with dealing with impounding bicycles and enforcing regulations regarding the parking of bicycles on campus. In my opinion this is not about impounding bicycles or creating new demands on scarce resources.
The cyclists I have spoken to who were parked there. seem to have not been aware they were creating a hazard. Perhaps something as simple (and as cheap) as campus foot patrols or CSOs posting notices on bikes informing bike owners that they are blocking fire exits, as well as creating barriers to people with disabilities, could go a long way to mitigating this situation and improve safety as well as accessibility. Maybe if you just ask folks to park elsewhere, they will. This does not have to be expensive.