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Student cyclists shift into high gear

Bicycling has long been a trend on college campuses, but it is only in recent years that it has become popular at Mills College. It is not uncommon now to see bicyclists making their way around Toyon Meadow, down Richards Road, or even up the hill to Ethel Moore and Mary Morse residence halls.

Bikes in the popular Ethel Moor rack. (Carrol Page)
Bikes in the popular Ethel Moor rack. (Carrol Page)

So, what accounts for the increase in bicycle activity? For some, the answer is as simple as speed.

“I can leave my room and be anywhere in three minutes,” said sophomore
Ashley Shaffer.

“I hate walking, and I’m a slow walker. I can keep up on my bike,” said Julia Gache, also a sophomore.

Both students agree it’s easier getting around campus on a bike, especially the main part of campus which is virtually flat. Neither of them, however, ride
off campus.

“I don’t feel comfortable riding around this area, and I don’t know how to put the bike on the bus,” said Shaffer.

According to Assistant Director of Public Safety, Niviece Robinson, many students, especially commuters, do use their bikes as part of their daily trips to and from Mills. Both the Mills shuttle and AC Transit buses are equipped for transporting bicycles and both can hold two bikes at one time. Bikes are also allowed on BART trains.

Recently, there has been a plan in the works to encourage biking between the Mills campus and the nearby Laurel District. Biking there currently is virtually impossible due to the intersection with the 580 freeway ramps. A grant was approved last year to create a bike path going from the campus to the Laurel.

Gache and Shaffer said they would “definitely” use this if it became available.

One problem students have had is finding bike parking on campus. Some dorms including Ege, have no bike racks or a bike room for storage. Both Dache and Shaffer admit to leaving their bikes chained to a tree or pole in front of their residence halls.

Students say some of the bike racks that do exist on campus are inadequate.

“We need more bike racks, real bike racks. Not just little pieces of metal that can be picked up. They need to be attached to the ground,” said Shaffer.

According to Robinson, students can request bike racks from the Facilities staff at Mills, but it may take some time to implement them.

There have been no safety issues regarding bikes on campus, and no bike thefts have been reported, according to Robinson, despite the fact that a surprising number of students, who did not wish to be identified in The Campanil, leave their bikes unlocked around campus.

Public Safety encourages bike use on campus, but recommends securing ones bike. Another helpful tip from Public Safety is to register bikes through the city of Oakland, which requires bikes to be registered every three years. This can be done at any local fire station. The closest fire department to Mills is located at 3344 High St.

So far there have been no reported injuries regarding bicycles on campus, although some riders have had issues with the bumpy roads and potholes.

“Some of the roads need a serious redo,” said Shaffer.

“Some parts are super bumpy. You have to hold on tight,” said Gache.

In the end, many students just ride their bikes because it’s fun and relaxing.