Everything you need to know about bike safety, accessibility and theft protection

Zara Morgan, Contributing Writer

For students with classes that are far apart from each other, bikes are a great way to get to class faster. Owning a bike can allow students to save money by being able to get around the University without having to wait for buses or pay for Ubers or Joyrides. With that being said, it is important to discuss topics like bike accessibility, safety, maintenance and prevention of theft.  

Sophia Kyemba, a freshman majoring in computer science, rides her bike regularly on campus.  

“I chose to ride my bike because it’s a lot faster than walking, and sometimes I don’t have time to walk all the way across campus,” Kyemba said. “Before college, I used to bike only on occasional weekends whereas now I bike almost every day.”  

Compared to other college campuses, The University of Alabama has a great campus for biking due to its relatively flat terrain. 

Clif McIntosh, the assistant director of the Outdoor Recreation program at The University of Alabama runs the bike shop, which provides repair services and rentals.  

McIntosh said the campus is accessible and safe if both bikes and cars follow the rules set in place by Alabama’s bicycle laws. 

Another frequently forgotten precaution is making sure the bike is properly locked up in order to prevent theft.  

“About 190,000 bicycle thefts are reported each year in the United States,” according to SoCal Cycling. 

McIntosh said properly locking up one’s bike is the best way to ensure that theft does not occur; so, students need to be using a quality bike lock.  

“Cable locks are great, they’re easy to use, but you can get through them with a basic pair of pliers with some of the cheaper models,” McIntosh said. “I recommend either going chain or the U-locks. Those are way more secure [and] way more expensive, but they will secure your bike a lot better.” 

In addition to having a proper lock, McIntosh stressed the importance of using the bike lock properly, making sure the lock loops through the bike’s frame, and at least the back wheel and strong point on the bike rack. This is because in many cases, bikes have a mechanism that allows the wheels to be easily taken off.  

“If it’s just attached to a wheel, it’s easy for a thief just to pop off that wheel if it does have a quick disconnect and run off with a frame and the other wheel,” McIntosh said.  

McIntosh said ensuring that one’s bike is locked at a bike rack in a well-lit area is also a crucial step in preventing bike theft.  

“Seats are a common thing to get stolen on campus,” McIntosh said. “A lot of the bike seats will have a quick disconnect on them.” 

Brooke Maurer, a freshman majoring in computer science, said the University could be better about increasing the number of bike racks and bike lanes.  

“The locations of bike racks are not particularly convenient,” Maurer said. “I would like to see some more outside of libraries.” 

The University of Alabama had several bike racks that were previously located in the front of buildings that were moved in 2013 towards the back in order to discourage bike usage on the sidewalk.  

Instead of moving the bike racks to different places, Maurer said the best way to decrease bike usage on the sidewalk is to increase the number of bike lanes on campus.  

“If they want people to use bikes on the roads more, they’re going to need to add bike lanes because the drivers here are nowhere near careful or responsible enough for anyone to feel safe outside of the bike lane,” Maurer said. “It’s simply not a safe situation if I do not have at least about a meter on the side of the road for a bike.” 

In addition to having a desire for better bike lane and rack placement, Maurer also said the University would benefit from better placement of the VEO bike stations. One location they believe isn’t the best is the station near Lakeside Dining.  

“There’s not really an option to take those VEO bikes from that location without traveling on a sidewalk past a relatively crowded area outside the dining hall. And that’s not really the best thing,” Maurer said. 

With bike accessibility and theft prevention in mind, it is also important to note that safety is the ultimate priority. 

“I know they’re not very popular but wear a helmet. I hear reports occasionally of somebody getting nailed by a car. So, wear a helmet please. They’re there for a reason,” McIntosh said.