The Associated Students Bike Committee is in the process of retracting its fee initiative from the Spring 2014 ballot after the UC Office of the President suggested withholding the initiative and having the University provide the funds instead.
The initiative originally called for a $2.18 per quarter fee over the next 12 quarters, including summer. It would have funded the construction of a roundabout at the northwest corner of the Student Affairs Administration Services Building next to the tunnel between the Recreation Center and Campbell Hall. The proposed roundabout would replace what the Bike Committee calls the “triangle of death.”
According to Emily Littleworth, chair of the A.S. Bike Committee, the decision, made after the initiative was reviewed by the UCOP, who maintained that the University should fund this project since it is a “safety issue on campus.”
“We knew that we had to take that advantage of the opportunity to have the University fund this,” Littleworth said in an email. “It makes a lot of sense. Students shouldn’t have to pay to make the campus a safe place.”
UCOP’s recommendation to withhold the fee initiative is partially attributed to potential repercussions that may come from acknowledging the zone as a “safety issue,” according to Littleworth. If acknowledged by the administration, accidents at the intersection could become a legal liability for the campus.
“If there was a major accident at an intersection documented as ‘unsafe’ that the university hadn’t taken care of, there could be an expensive lawsuit,” Littleworth said in an email.
During the 2012-13 school year, the A.S. Bike Committee began the project after receiving complaints from students about the intersection and hearing about bicycle and pedestrian accidents occurring in that area. Since the conception of the idea, the Bike Committee has spent approximately $76,000 on manager fees, design fees and concept sketches for the proposed roundabout.
Initially, during its campaigning period, the initiative did not garner enough signatures to make it onto the Spring ballot. But in March, A.S. Senators voted to forgo this and allow the initiative on.
Off-Campus Senator Jimmy Villarreal, who voted for the initiative to be put on the ballot, said he wanted to give students the freedom to choose whether or not they wanted to improve the bike path intersection.
“I think the students should be able to decide what they’re paying for,” Villarreal said. “I wanted to give them the option to build it.”
According to A.S. Bike Committee Vice Chair Mac Kennedy, every year the UC Police Department receives about 30 to 40 bike accident reports per year while Student Health assists hundreds of accident victims a year. In light of these statistics, Kennedy said University administration should be responsible for student safety on the bike paths.
While the process of retracting has only just begun, Kennedy said he and the Bike Committee feel confident that the University will choose to fund the project.
“After communication with UCOP, they said it doesn’t make sense to fund it, so we’re pursuing university funding,” Kennedy said. “We’re confident that they’re going to understand this is a strong public threat to our safety on campus. We’ve already pretty much decided, and it doesn’t cost the university much money at all.”
Kennedy said he anticipates that the final decision will be made by the end of this week. Currently, the Bike Committee is in collaboration with Vice Chancellor Michael Young regarding how to approach the project. Members of the Committee plan to meet with Marc Fisher, Senior Associate Vice Chancellor and Administrative Services and Campus Architect, next week to continue the discussion.
Amber Munoz, a third-year comparative literature major and Vice Chair of the Isla Vista Community Relations Committee, said the unsafe intersection may damage UCSB’s reputation as a bike-friendly campus. She also said the area needs renovation regardless of whether or not the initiative is retracted.
“I’ve seen so many near or close accidents that have happened at that intersection, especially because there are so many students,” Munoz said. “Biking is a really intimidating factor for people who are coming to visit UCSB and the area should be seen as safe.”
Littleworth said she is eager to begin negotiations with University administration regarding the funding of the project. She said she hopes to see the proposed roundabout completed before fall quarter of next year.
“I look forward to the negotiations and hope to see this project completed during the summer,” Littleworth said.
Rilla Peng contributed to this article.
A version of this story appeared on page 5 of Thursday, April 17, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.