Facilities and Services teams with Illinois Student Senate to fund repainting campus bike paths

By Megan Jones

After hearing many students’ concerns over the state of the campus’ current bicycle transportation system, the Illinois Student Senate at its Wednesday meeting allocated $6,000 as subsidy to Facilities and Services to repaint three miles of existing bike paths during the Spring 2014 semester. 

David Mischiu, senator and senior in the FAA, said Facilities and Services lacks a unit for bicycle-related planning; therefore, the department struggles every time an allocation for funds arises, as they do not know who will pay for the repairs.

The resolution passed with a vote of 26-1 with three abstentions.

After Amelia Neptune, the department’s previous bicycle coordinator, left her job, Facilities and Services has yet to hire a replacement. In the meantime, the department is working with students who previously worked with her in order to help “transition us until we can find a replacement,” said Stacey DeLorenzo, Transportation Demand Management coordinator. 

All funds for bike paths are allocated from the Transportation Demand Management budget, which currently does not have enough money to repaint University sidewalks, Mischiu said. He added that Facilities and Services is asking for the senate’s allocation out of necessity. 

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    “Their budget right now is $130,000, and they need $124,400 just for street painting within the coming year, which would leave them with ($5,600), which is not enough to even pay their employees’ paychecks,” Mischiu said. 

    Facilities and Services has already invested $16,000 into its 2013 Campus Bicycle Network Master Plan project this summer; signs were posted around campus, and 3.1 miles of bike paths were repainted. However, additional funds are now needed.

    “There’s a bucket of money from (Transportation Demand Management) for all the projects that we need to take place, but that includes all the streets, stripping and the signs,” DeLorenzo said. “So there’s nothing at this time specifically just for the bike program, but we hope to get to that eventually.” 

    In 2010, the University wrote its Illinois Climate Action Plan, iCAP, which works toward creating a carbon-neutral campus by 2050; iCAP identified a severe lack of funding in the area of bicycle-related infrastructure and planning, according to the resolution. 

    “This is a question of students getting along and finding it easier and safer to travel to class without worrying about a biker hitting them or a pedestrian accidentally walking into their path,” Mischiu said. “I myself have noticed the bike lanes on this campus, and a lot of them are faded, unpainted and in disrepair.” 

    The idea of bike path renewal began last year when Mischiu sought something meaningful for the senate to positively impact campus life. He began thinking about how bicycle transportation is important in terms of encouraging carbon-neutral forms of transportation. He began working with Amy Liu, a sophomore in FAA and the chair of the senate’s Environmental Sustainability Committee.  

    Liu said the University has experienced higher instances of bike usage when bike lanes are present, and many students do not feel comfortable riding their bikes alongside cars on the street. “Students are obviously tight for money, and they need the freedom to get to places they need to be without a car, so bikes are a very good method for that,” Liu said.

    DeLorenzo said Facilities and Services has not spent a lot of money on bike path maintenance in recent years, which is why the department currently needs the allocation.

    “Given the context of the chorus robes last week, the financial affairs committee has been behaving really differently, particularly with these multi-thousand dollar allocations,” Mischiu said. “Unlike chorus robes, these improvements will benefit the entire student body, not just one (registered student organization).”

    Parliamentarian Christopher Boidy added that this will benefit the severely visually impaired, and reminded senators that the University is a disability friendly campus. 

    Facilities and Services is currently updating an “extensive” campus bike plan, which is in its final draft. DeLorenzo said she doesn’t think they will ever be done making improvements due to the nature of maintaining bike paths and lanes.  

    Brian Siegel, the only senator who voted no, said it’s important for Facilities and Services to reprioritize their budget for bike path improvements, as he believes more students travel by bike than by car. While he is for repairs toward bike paths, he does not believe the student fee money should go toward this project. 

    “They need to make bike lanes more of a priority rather than coming to the senate,” said Siegel, senior in Media. “The 1.2 miles will not even finish the whole project. It’s important for F&S to come forward with bike lanes as a priority with a grand plan to the senate.”

    Mischiu said not being able to see the paint on bike lanes makes all the difference.

    “I ride my bike around here, and the network has got a lot of distance to go before it’s really functional in my view, but the least we can do is paint these bike lanes because it is a safety issue,” Mischiu said.

    Megan can be reached at [email protected].