USC Bans Bicycles on Bike Lane, More Restrictions to Come

Yesterday at USC Dr. Charlie Lane, associate senior vice president for Career and Protective Services, announced at a bicycle safety forum that the school is enacting a bicycle ban on Trousdale Parkway and Childs Way, the two major pedestrian thoroughfares on the USC campus.  With near 80% of USC students self-identified as bicyclists (another survey estimated up to 15,000 bicyclists on campus), the effects of this new measure could be quite drastic.  Given better planning and educational efforts, this situation may have been avoided.

A thing of the past? USC bans bicycles on major pedestrian thoroughfares.

No Bikes in the Bike Lane

The areas currently under ban for bicycle riding are Trousdale Parkway and Childs Way (map), the primary north-south and east-west thoroughfares through campus, each almost half a mile in distance.  Trousdale Parkway is currently listed as a bike lane in Metro’s new bike map and is listed as a bike path facility by google.  As of Tuesday September 14, bicyclists must walk their bicycles on these two thoroughfares from 9AM to 4PM.

Pushing Bikes to the Periphery

USC’s Depart of Public Safety (DPS) has decided that conditions have become so hazardous on campus that a ban needed to be put in place.  In a survey of USC students, a majority had reported being struck by a bicycle 2 or less times in the past year.  DPS blamed the safety problem on the enormous growth in bicycles over the past few years and attributed the rise in accidents to bicyclists “texting and sipping a latte while riding through campus”.

What's the problem here? Hint: it's not the bike

The plan calls for the creation of bicycle parking facilities on the very edges of campus, making the campus core a pedestrian-only zone.  The Department of Public Safety cited the expense and manpower involved in appropriately supervising bicycling on campus as a reason for needing to push bicycles to the edge of campus.  Although Dr. Lane claimed that students also considered bicycles a problem on campus, it was later shown in his presentation that a majority of students considered bicycle congestion to be either “average” or “not a problem”.

Further recommendations for the school include encouraging incoming freshman not to bring bicycles and stronger enforcement of bicycle restrictions.

Bikes on Campus – What’s the Real Problem?

While Dr. Lane and DPS seemed to classify bicycles themselves as the problem at USC, it is the school’s response to date (i.e. none) towards a growing bicycle culture which has caused the problem.  The growing popularity of bicycles is a trend that should be embraced, not shunned; alternative modes of transportation should be encouraged at all times. By relegating bicyclists to the edges of campus, bicycles are being de-legitimized.

Other cities, like Copenhagen, have found innovative ways to accommodate high volumes of bicycle traffic

The Problem – Recontextualized

The problem, it seems, is not that a large number of bicycles are being ridden on campus, but rather the behavior of those bicyclists and the consequences of that behavior in relation to pedestrians.  While DPS rightfully claims that they do not have the resources to police bicycle behavior, providing proactive solutions like education and infrastructure (rather than DPS’s currently reactive solutions) provide a low-cost, long-term solution to bicycle congestion on the USC campus.


Currently, USC has no training, information, or classes on safe bicycle riding beyond a website mainly concerned with registration and parking.  Inserted as an educational element during orientation or as an online seminar, USC could educate incoming students on how to not only ride safely on campus, but also the bicycling laws of Los Angeles and California.  Because many USC students come from either out of state or even out of the country, they often don’t know what is expected of them as bicyclists.


USC also has no on-campus infrastructure for bicycles.  With nowhere clearly marked for bicycles, it is no surprise that bicycle/pedestrian conflicts have arisen as bicycle culture has become more popular.  While instituting pedestrian-only areas within campus can be a sound safety measure, it needs to be coupled with equal bicycle-only infrastructure on campus.  By providing space for bicycles, conflict with pedestrians can be minimized.

Berlin offers an unobtrusive, aesthetically pleasing option for creating pedestrian and bicycle space in the same area

While it certainly is true the there are limited opportunities for traditional bike lanes on a built-out campus like USC, there are still many creative solutions which would improve bicycle and pedestrian safety.  On the current streets on the USC campus, bike lanes or Sharrows could be installed to give bicyclists greater confidence to use those roadways rather than pedestrian areas.  On wider thoroughfares, aesthetically pleasing treatments could be applied to delineate space for pedestrians and bicycles which could easily fit into the campus’ architectural theme.

Bicycle Parking

Bike racks don't have to be ugly

Another complaint against bicycles was the overflow demand for parking and the ugliness of existing bike racks.  The idea that bike racks are ugly, however, is something of a dated concept.  Art racks have been installed in major cities across the world and can add to the beauty of an area rather than detract from it.  Even in Los Angeles there are examples of art racks which contribute to the street aesthetic.

"Bike" racks in front of Caltrans headquarters

Pennyfarthing racks at the LA Times Building

Additionally, providing U-racks at dormitories can function as longer-term or night-time parking for bicycles, freeing up the existing day-time racks on campus that currently get used for long-term purposes.

Going Forward

We hope that USC will reconsider its plans to marginalize bicycles on campus.  With an innovative approach, bicycle/pedestrian conflict can be minimized at little cost.  We also hope that USC will reach out to regional bicycle organizations like the LACBC or LADOT – Bikeways when considering how to accommodate bicycles on their campus.

0 replies
  1. Damien Newton
    Damien Newton says:

    Last year USC was ticketing cyclists for riding in crosswalks (which is legal) and now this. The people running the public safety program at USC are really anti-bike and way behind the times. I can’t even imagine a campus encouraging students not to bring bikes to campus.

    I wonder if the administration even bothered asking its planning department what it thought.

    • Jared
      Jared says:

      Just to clarify, USC/DPS has never ticketed anyone for riding in crosswalks. The LAPD were doing the ticketing and “training” DPS on that proceedure.

      After meeting with Capt. Carlisle of DPS last year and going over the codes from the CVC and the LAMC, DPS and the LAPD reveresed their original plans for enforcing crosswalk riding. This is promising because they are open to outside input and willing to change policies that are already in place if they are deemed incorrect or unpopular.

      I’m pretty sure the planning dept was not involved but I am pretty sure the “traffic safety task force” was consoluted. They had been discussing the idea of banning bicycles in the center of campus.

      On a side note, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Bicycle Policy at USC is managed by DPS and not the Transportation Dept. That should tell you all you need to know about how the administration views bicycles.

  2. Rach Stevenson
    Rach Stevenson says:

    What the hell is going on at USC? How did that happen? How can they think that discouraging freshmen from bringing bikes will result in a happy, healthy, productive student body?

    Chris, can you post anything on how this decision was made? Did it require a vote from a committee? Presumably the DPS has to get approval from some higher-ups before enacting short-sighted reactionary bans.

    • ladotbikeblog
      ladotbikeblog says:

      My impression is it was the recommendations of a “task force” assembled last year to examine what they considered to be a bicycle problem on campus. We’re currently in communication with Dr. Lane, and we’ll keep you updated on any developments.

      • Eric B
        Eric B says:

        The issue with the task force is that it was formed to address the “bike problem” on campus instead of creating a circulation plan for the campus. It’s all in the framing.

        If bikes are the “problem” to be solved, then a bike ban is the solution.

        If the problem being is how to move 30,000 students plus 10,000 faculty and staff safely and efficiently in a 1 square mile campus, then you start to think about creative solutions.

        I went to the planning school there. The university is notoriously bad at tapping into its students’ creativity and problem solving skills. The university never even asked for help.

  3. bikerdude
    bikerdude says:

    The bottom line is they can’t make money on bike parking or riding…USC wants more cars parking, more parking tickets which means more money in the USC Transportations pocket. USC has never encouraged bicycling on campus and/or students to ride from off campus to campus. They want students to take those USC buses and they want to eliminate the competition (bicycles) for space. I went to USC and they just ignored bicycling as a transportation option. Bicyclists get No respect at USC.

    What’s the new President’s name? I’m going to write him a letter.

  4. bikerdude
    bikerdude says:

    Thanks for the new President’s name…..
    “No” cars on campus, I get that because there is no more car parking space. This is why they can charge $100 + a month for parking your car on campus unless you parked your car in that parking garage on the other side of the freeway for $50(when I was there).
    That’s why I started riding my bike, but again, I was pushed to use the USC buses.
    Transportation, PS and Admin view bicyclists as a nuisance. If they would think about accommodating them instead of banning them it would make the USC campus more useable and safer for all modes of transportation.

  5. graciela.
    graciela. says:

    I went to UC Davis where bicycles and the town go together like peanut butter and jelly. There are paved roadways in the core of the campus that are shared by school vehicles (including buses) AND all the student cyclists. Sidewalks are also there for peds. So if my lowly state school can accommodate cyclists then I don’t understand why USC can’t.

    Plus, this business of leaving bike parking on the outskirts of the campus just sounds like awesome news to bike thieves.

  6. Alex
    Alex says:

    I’m a USC employee, and from my perspective, a much bigger concern is the explosion in the use of electric carts by various departments across campus. For a long time it was only the facilities and maintenance folks who would drive the four-wheeled maintenance carts around, but in the last five years nearly every administrative unit has invested in their own mini-fleet of these cars.

    I get that the campus is large, especially as operations continue to expand beyond the original University Park footprint, and I know from experience that it can take 10 or 20 minutes to walk to some of the far reaches of campus, but there is absolutely no central coordination or oversight of the purchase, maintenance or use of these vehicles. Each department is free to use their own budgets to purchase their own carts, and anyone who can grab the keys can drive them — there’s no training of any sort.

    At the same time, the DPS and Transportation departments that are cracking down so hard on bicycles have turned their backs on any enforcement of training, parking or operational regulations for these street-ready vehicles — cars that are much more dangerous than some frat boy on a beach cruiser. That’s the real campus traffic safety concern, in my opinion.

    • ladotbikeblog
      ladotbikeblog says:

      Good points, Alex.

      Dr. Lane did address the electric carts issue in the forum as well, though we didn’t include it in our article as it didn’t seem as germane to the subject of the bicycle ban. From what we remember, Dr. Lane said the task force was considering banning carts from certain areas of campus, requiring identification numbers for reporting improper use of carts, and installing devices on the carts that will cap the maximum speed at which a cart can travel.

      • Alex
        Alex says:

        Thanks for the clarification. As the morning goes on and my brain marinates a bit more on the topic, I’ve thought of two more aspects of this:

        * At the least, an innovative University would use this as an opportunity to invest in some secure bike storage solutions across campus, rather than the cheap, ugly and inadequate metal bike racks sprinkled here and there. How about a Bikestation or two?

        * In as little as seven months, USC is going to be right next to the new Expo Line. The new administration should embrace the opportunity presented by this investment, and move to integrate transit (including cycling) into its orientation toward transportation on campus. Yesterday’s developments aren’t a good sign in that regard.

  7. Marcotico
    Marcotico says:

    UCI, the other power-house southern california school 😉 banned bikes from its ring road a few years back. Hopefully they have addressed how to provide better bike connectivity since then.

  8. Dennis Hindman
    Dennis Hindman says:

    Huell Howser of PBS visited the UC Davis campus three years ago. You can see this show by clicking on the link below and chose Windows Media Player or Quicktime just below the authors name at the top of the page. Huell talks about bicycling about 16 minutes into the show. Interesting that a professor and writer he interviewed state that there are accidents at the beginning of classes when riders are just getting used to bicycling on campus. Also notice that all of the people bicycling have both hands on the handlebars.

    • graciela.
      graciela. says:

      I remember a few people would fall off their bikes and there would be collisions early in the year but with practice, students get it down. There are also campus police on bikes ready to hand out tickets to people who don’t follow the rules so that gets you riding safely in a zip.

  9. Dennis Hindman
    Dennis Hindman says:

    A problem I can see with the picture of the guy riding his bike in the above picture, while using the phone, is that the bike has no brakes. That’s certainly not a good idea when your trying to manuever amongst pedestrians while moving on the bike.

    Oh, and in my post above about UC Davis I stated that all of the people riding having both hands on the handlebars. Well, actually it’s most of the people. The problem of people riding and not paying attention has probably increased greatly since Huell Howser filmed that piece on the UC Davis campus.

    I would suggest that USC implement a certification program to test bike riding skills of students who have not riden in years and to insure that their bike meets safety requirements before allowing them to ride on the campus. That would reduce accidents considerably and provide for a smoother, more harmonious transportation on campus.

  10. graciela.
    graciela. says:

    I work in an office campus and USC takes up one of the buildings here. Their bike rack is usually filled with employee bikes. I thought that was pretty cool. So it’s sad that they’re going this route with their students.

  11. sbpewsaw
    sbpewsaw says:

    I went to UC Davis for ungrad and currently go to USC for their graduate planning program and I literally fear for my life whenever i walk around campus. Bikers at SC lack common sense! They bike against traffic, don’t stop at stop signs, bike on inappropriate paths, the list goes on and on. The sad thing is that looking at USC’s University Park campus Master Plan, biking is not even addressed! Bike parking is extremely limited on campus with bikes quadruple parked outside of popular campus facilities like the new Ronald Tutor Campus Center, and Leavey Library.

    UC Davis has done an excellent job accommodating bikes, but even they have no-bike areas, like in the courtyard that lies between the Quad and the MU. At Davis, biking and transit are actually more convenient than cars to get to campus. They’ve done this by making sure parking structures are relegated to the periphery of the campus. The center of the campus is reserved for 2 transit terminals (MU and SILO), streets for university vehicles, bikes, and sidewalks for pedestrians. And oh yes! they actually have people enforcing the laws! With all those security guards USC hires, I struggle to believe that they don’t have the personnel to address their bike issue.

  12. PlebisPower
    PlebisPower says:

    Several years ago, I corresponded several times with USC DPS about the prevalence of students cycling against traffic on Hoover (the main n/s that feeds into a campus north gate). I mentioned not only that it was dangerous, but that these students were easy pickings for the cops and their ticket books. Happened all the time.
    DPS was at first unresponsive, but when pressed finally sat down to hear my concerns then brushed me off to some sort of an advisory group. After a meeting to two I left. I doubt anything was done about any student complaints.
    DPS was much more on the ball with their transportation survey, with which they bombarded students annually, and until you threw in the towel. I suppose they were trying to qualify for some funds. Not to be too cynical about it…
    What was surprising about their resistance was that my request for a campus email, or a flyer, or an ed component, or anything at all to hip students (many of them international) to the law – and the danger. Nothin’ doin’ for those DPS folks.

  13. bikerdude
    bikerdude says:

    I wrote and emailed President Nikias and encouraged him to reevaluate the ban and instead develop a mandatory Pedestrian, Bicycle and Auto safety course online for all USC students, staff, and faculty. USC is always striving for excellence and the best way to complete this goal is by education, debut, planning and implementation.
    USC online safety training should focus on auto, bicycle and pedestrians responsibilities: overview, road safety, hand signals, night riding, equipment, laws, bicycle safety, common courtesy and respect for each mode of transportation.
    Involve Student Affairs, Parking and Transportation (LADOT, LACBC, and METRO websites), Public Safety (they should see the one LAPD has on bicycles. Do they have one yet? I know they were talking about it.)
    Plus, USC should develop maps, posters, parking information and a safety check list, etc.
    Simply banning something does not encourage education and responsible behavior.
    Write to President Nikias and by pass DPS altogether!

  14. Amy
    Amy says:

    I go to USC and am not a bicyclist. However, I have to agree that the bike ban seems a bit ridiculous. After reading through the comments, I had a few things I wanted to bring up. It is important to understand that only half of Trousdale is bike-free, and that is mainly because we have various career fairs, student involvement fairs and other events held on Trousdale during the day. DPS blocked off that section of Trousdale to ensure that there is no congestion or bike accidents considering the concentration of students in this area.

    There needs to be some sort of bicycle education because there are some students who don’t exactly know how to ride bikes, or at least ride them responsibly. I remember seeing this girl accidently hit a pedestrian on her bike, but she didn’t even notice and rode off without even apologizing. She was so wrapped up in her text conversation that she didn’t even realize she had hit a person, which is ridiculous. I witness at least one bike accident a week, if not more. Not everyone at USC is like that girl, but these are the people that have given bicyclists a bad name on campus.

    Bikerdude, I am glad that you are taking action and that you wrote a letter to President Nikias. However, I am not sure if an online education course is the best idea. For instance, freshmen are required to take an alcohol education course online, but most of them don’t read the slides and just keep clicking “next”. I believe in bike education, but feel that students won’t take the online course seriously and it won’t solve the problem in the long run. A bike safety talk during orientation or welcome week might be more beneficial. This session could be followed by students registering their bikes with DPS right outside to ensure that everyone’s bikes get registered, which has also been a growing problem. In any case, the bike ban is not the best solution.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] My involvement with the blog came a month or so after I started at DOT. I was reading a post about USC’s proposed bike ban on campus and was just enthralled by the comment thread. People were sharing their personal […]

  2. […] fact, a full 80% of USC students consider themselves cyclists. Which has reportedly led to the usual, seemingly inevitable conflicts as riders and pedestrians […]

  3. […] riding on the USC campus. The LADOT Bike Blog has chimed in on USC’s attitude towards bikes in a previous post here. We are encouraged to see USC taking steps towards effectively planning for bicycles. More on […]

  4. […] on the USC campus. The LADOT Bike Blog has chimed in on USC’s attitude towards bikes in a previous post here. We are encouraged to see USC taking steps towards effectively planning for bicycles. More on […]

  5. […] Ce crezi despre interzicerea folosirii bicicletei în unele zone din campusul University of Southern California? (Vezi detalii despre această reglementare) […]

  6. […] LADOT Bike Blog has a number of comments, all of which strike me as making a big fuss where none is needed. Here’s the actual rule: The areas currently under ban for bicycle riding are Trousdale Parkway and Childs Way (map), the primary north-south and east-west thoroughfares through campus, each almost half a mile in distance. Trousdale Parkway is currently listed as a bike lane in Metro’s new bike map and is listed as a bike path facility by google. As of Tuesday September 14, bicyclists must walk their bicycles on these two thoroughfares from 9AM to 4PM. […]

  7. […] Continuing Its Tradition of Blaming Bikes, USC Bans Bikes from Campus (LADOT Bike Blog) […]

  8. […] lot of people learned this from LADOT, in the form of the LADOT Bike Blog – a collaborative effort of the PR office and Bikeways.  In […]

  9. […] lot of people learned this from LADOT, in the form of the LADOT Bike Blog – a collaborative effort of the PR office and Bikeways.  […]

  10. […] not that careless riding isn’t a problem. In fact, in a story about the ban, LADOT Bike Blog reports that a majority of students surveyed claimed to have been hit by a bike two or less times […]

  11. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Hebb E-Bikes, Rach Stevenson and Rach Stevenson, Rach Stevenson. Rach Stevenson said: USC bans bikes from parts of campus, inc. A BIKE LANE: #bikeLA #wtf […]

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