Student perspective: Campus bike parking needs makeover

Mike Bek

If you think parking a car is tough on campus, try parking your bicycle in a snowbank.

Mike Beck
Mike Beck

There are almost no accessible bike racks or secure posts to lock bikes up on campus in winter. In front of nearly every building, drifts of snow block the bike racks. Piles of snow block access to light poles, signs and other things to throw a lock around. I ride to building after building on campus, only to be confronted with no secure place to lock my bike.

I took a shovel to dig out my parking at the PEIF last week. Even the impractical vertical bike rack in front of the library is snowed in.  It’s no fun lifting a 40-pound bike over your head when you’re balanced on top of an icy snowpack. Try it and you’ll realize how sub-par Northern’s winter bike strategy is.

Marquette is a winter city. NMU is a winter campus. Winter biking is on a roll, if NMU administration hasn’t noticed. How many years will slip by before NMU recognizes Marquette is one of the winter bike capitals of the world, and starts planning for bikes on campus year round?

I wrote about this issue in The North Wind last year, I’ve  brought it up to ASNMU representatives and in an ASNMU general meeting. The progress, glacial.  Even if you never ride a bike to campus, bike traffic cuts down on parking congestion. Bike riders make it easier for drivers to find a parking spot.

I saw great promise when movable “wave” racks popped up around the buildings last year. These are designed to be easily moved or dragged out of the way of snow clearing devices, even if bikes are attached overnight. A lot of the buildings have aspects  kept largely free of snow by the prevailing wind flow around buildings. These sheltered pockets make great places to position movable racks.

Bike riding is cheap. I keep more money in my pocket the more I ride instead of drive, and I usually arrive at campus in a far better mood than after the hunt for a parking space in my car.

Bicycle parking on campus shouldn’t be fair weather only.  NMU students choosing to ride bikes in the winter deserve far better access to bike parking.

Occasionally repositioning the racks during the winter is an easy fix. It might require a little coordination among building staff and mechanized snow clearing staff, but surely a manageable endeavor to  help make Northern into a true, all-season bike friendly university. If no one’s noticed, it snows around here, and people ride bikes year round too.