Referendum opens today with bike fee proposal

Thane+Fowler%2C+Sophomore+in+General+Studies%2C+president+of+BikeFace+fixes+bicycles+on+the+main+quad+to+raise+fund+for+making+human+power+nut+grinder+on+Oct.+23%2C+2013
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Referendum opens today with bike fee proposal

Thane Fowler, Sophomore in General Studies, president of BikeFace fixes bicycles on the main quad to raise fund for making human power nut grinder on Oct. 23, 2013

Thane Fowler, Sophomore in General Studies, president of BikeFace fixes bicycles on the main quad to raise fund for making human power nut grinder on Oct. 23, 2013

Thane Fowler, Sophomore in General Studies, president of BikeFace fixes bicycles on the main quad to raise fund for making human power nut grinder on Oct. 23, 2013

Thane Fowler, Sophomore in General Studies, president of BikeFace fixes bicycles on the main quad to raise fund for making human power nut grinder on Oct. 23, 2013

By Estefania Florez

Students can answer a proposed $1 student-initiated bike fee referendum question online from Wednesday to Thursday at midnight. 

Grace Kyung, graduate student in urban planning, proposed the $1 fee to be required of students each semester and to be spent on bicycle-related projects.

According to the referendum question, “the funds would include but not be limited to creating better bike infrastructure, expanding bike parking, creating safety courses and materials for bike encouragement and education, and creating a bike rental program.”

Kyung has been working on this fee since the spring. Due to several communications issues with the Campus Student Election Commission, a group that runs student referendums and elections, her question was not placed on the ballot until now.

However, even if the fee passes, Kyung may have to wait another year to see its implementation, depending on the approval of the Student Fee Advisory Committee and the Board of Trustees.

Her question is the only one on the fall ballot, and she believes it is time for the University to start focusing on funding more bicycle-related projects.  

Kyung said she wants to start an education campaign informing all students of where to ride bikes on campus, even for those who don’t ride bikes. 

“Even if you don’t ride a bike it will be beneficial for you as well because pedestrians will get the information of knowing what are bike lanes and where you should be walking or not,” Kyung said.

Kyung said there has been very little funding put in place to fix bike infrastructure, and she believes the University needs to advance its efforts to become a more sustainable campus. 

“To me it is more of a statement: that students are willing to tax themselves to make changes happen. So, what is the University going to do in response to listen to us?” Kyung said. 

To Thane Fowler, junior in LAS who works at the Campus Bike Center, this fee is very important to campus. Fowler serves as president of the registered student organization Bike Face and helped Kyung gather signatures and organize a voting campaign.   

“The fee is important because as of now, the only money allocated toward bicycle-anything on campus is for bike racks, which are needed, but we also need funding for bicycle programs and infrastructure,” Fowler said. “Increased bicycling reduces carbon emissions and improves quality of life and makes transportation on campus safer.”

Fowler also feels it is important for students to vote because the more they vote the more weight the referendum will have.

“Bicycling on campus matters to students, and if we have high numbers of voter turnout, the University will see that,” Fowler said.

Shawn Gordon, graduate student and chair of the elections commission, explained that referendum questions allow students to vote on a type of University action or policy. 

“Students need to vote to have their say,” Gordon said. “If it is their fee, they need to vote to see if they will continue to have those fees and how those fees should be used. The University takes referendum questions seriously and they do their best to implement the outcome of any question as best as possible.”

For the first time, the commission will track voter turnout online, showing how many students actually cast votes out of 43,200 eligible voters. 

Gordon also said the voting process is easy. Students sign in online at vote.illinois.edu with their Net ID and password to vote. 

Voting is open for all graduate and undergraduate students and will remain open until midnight Thursday. 

Estefania can be reached at [email protected]