Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 4
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Wheeling into the Future: Pedaling Through Policy Changes

On Nov. 16, Whitman students received an email from Sarah Williams, Whitman’s Sustainability Manager, announcing a major change in Whitman’s bicycle policy

With the winter months fast approaching, Williams and her team have determined that pausing rentals until the spring, and recalling all currently rented bikes, is the best course of action. According to a Nov. 16 email by Williams, this included bikes rented for free under the College’s bike share program.

The College also updated a number of other policy areas as well. 

“The biggest change in the bike policy this year is that instead of having to bring in a third party – a.k.a. the City of Walla Walla and the [police department] – we’re just doing the licenses ourselves,” Williams said. 

Another change is how staff now determine the criteria for labeling a bike as “abandoned.” The Whitman bike policy defines this as a bike that has been left “in the same position and location for at least 49 days,” or if the bike has been left in a residence hall over summer break “without proper tagging.” 

“Before there wasn’t really a defined amount of time, it was just sometime between six to nine months in storage, so we have given that a definite seven months from when we store the bike. Most commonly these are bikes that are held within the storage spaces inside residence halls,” Williams said. 

Williams said if they are unable to reach an owner of an abandoned bike, the bike share program in the Sustainability Department will take the bike, or it will go to the Outdoor Program.

Williams sees this as a positive and organized change given the multiple places bikes can go to be repurposed, but worries many students may not be entirely familiar with the registration process. 

“It’s actually fairly straightforward,” she said. “There are tons of QR codes in many places, I do believe there are also flyers in the residence halls, we’ve sent the Google forms link through quite a few listservs, and I know in Whitman Today there was a bike registering reminder, and of course, anyone can email me at [email protected].” 

Williams also added that although lengthy, the form asks for many specifics for the sake of accuracy. 

“[The form] asks for information about your bike model, the main color, the trim color, your tire size, if you have lights on it, it has a lot on there … we want all of the different identifying features on your bike so that if it gets lost there’s no doubt that when we find it we’re returning the right bike,” Williams said. 

Junior Levi Crandall said the registration process with Whitman was a breeze, but registering his bike with the Walla Walla Police Department was significantly more difficult. 

“First off, [WWPD is] kind of far and the bike lane on the way wasn’t super safe. So, I went in the first time and they told me I had to fill something I don’t even remember out online first. I did and then I filled out a paper copy that was essentially the same thing but I needed to pay like 5 or 10 bucks in cash and I only had a card, so I had to leave and come back again another day,” Crandall said. 

A common concern that both Crandall and Williams share is bike theft on campus. Crandall highlighted some unseen class differences that put the working-class community in Whitman at a disadvantage when theft occurs. 

Crandall said that after spending upwards of $800 at Allegro [Cyclery], his bike was almost immediately stolen. 

“I took pictures of the cut lock and emailed it to security as well as the student digest, but I think security didn’t have much to say other than calling the police to let them know,” Crandall said. “It really felt though that there wasn’t much support or care after my bike got stolen which sucked. Especially as a working-class student, that was a lot of money for me and I felt like I was disregarded and kind of grouped in with the rich kids who can just go buy another.” 

Whitman Security did not respond to a request for comment prior to publication.

Williams was happy to add that under the new policies, registration and licensing of bicycles is now completely free. 

Crandall expressed mixed feelings about the new policies, but said he understood the importance of the steps being taken to improve and optimize the program, particularly on the topic of bikes in residence hall basements, though he’s sad to see the bike share program go into hibernation. 

“I think the pausing of the rental program is kind of sad, I relied a lot on that program over the summer to go get groceries [and] go fun places with friends. It’s also what kind of inspired me to buy myself a new bike for the semester just with the amount I used that program,” Crandall said. “But also, if it’s only a pause for the winter, then it might make sense to pause just with the snow and everything else; it might not be safe.” 

Crandall says he wasn’t incredibly aware of the new bike-share program policy, and sophomore Paige Royal, student aide to the Sustainability Manager at the Office of Sustainability, agreed. 

“I haven’t really heard much from the student perspective about people being particularly worried about bike policy and abandoned bikes. I think people tend to care less unless they’re involved in the biking scene,” Royal said. 

Williams talked about her hopes for further sharing policy changes, but explained that she was having challenges reaching the broader campus community. Both new policies are already in effect, and the Office of Sustainability is urging anyone who may still have a rental bike to return it to Facilities Services

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