Monday, September 12, 2005

Texas A&M Discriminates Against Motorcyclists

If you ride, you are not to be accommodated at Texas A&M. On-campus students paying hundreds of dollars for a parking space are not allowed to park their motorcycles in the garages, even if the bike is their only form of transportation. If you chose to park your properly registered motorcycle in a car parking spot in any lot on campus, you will be cited. If you are a visitor to A&M on a bike, you can ride around campus, but heaven help you if you should actually want to get off and go walk around for a while. Texas A&M Transportation Services is just waiting around the corner (on scooters no less) to whip out a ticket to offenders.

(According to mollo, this is the whiny part, but how do you sound when you are on your soapbox?) Motorcyclists aren't second class citizens any more than anyone of any given race or creed. How long would this sort of behavior be tolerated if it were blacks or hispanics banned from using the garage? How about if they banned trucks or SUV's? Catholics? Talk about a can of worms.

Parking is a high commodity in Aggieland. Seeing the phenomenon of the parking lot shark is a remarkable behavior. Some students leave 2-3 hours before class to secure an adequate parking spot a mile and a half from their classes, nevermind the fact that they only live 3 blocks from campus.

I don't attend Texas A&M anymore. I used to. Parking used to be more flexible. They used to let motorcycles park next to the bicycle racks. You only needed to be sure you bought your parking sticker. Unfortunately, as already indicated, I can't visit since I can't park anywhere. I don't have an A&M parking sticker since I am not an A&M student, they don't accept Blinn parking passes, and I can't pay for a garage space because they won't let me. I can't even park long enough to go to lunch with my wife on campus.

That said, I have recently made a few trips to parking garages in Houston's Medical Center. They allow free parking to bikes if they can go around the parking arms and park in special areas marked off for bikes on every level. Each motorcycle parking spot is about 20'x20'-ish. Not very much space, but there were 5-6 bikes in each one. Some levels had two areas. That's quite a space savings.

Motorcycles and scooters are recognized the world over as a congestion reducing alternative to public transportation. Bikes take up less space in traffic and are allowed to move through clogged traffic. Motorcycles also cause less wear and tear on road surfaces. Many European countries recognize this by allowing bikes on toll roads at no fee. Try telling that one to an American toll road authority and watch them laugh.

If you want to drive into London's rather congested downtown area, you must pay a toll. This program was implemented a few years ago to tame the snarling traffic and encourage more to take advantage of the excellent public transportation. Since bikes are so space efficient and economic, they are allowed into downtown at no fee.

Texas A&M doesn't necessarily need to offer free parking to bikes in the garage, but paying customers shouldn't be turned away on the basis of what vehicle they operate.

Texas A&M isn't the only body out there doing this sort of thing. Here's an example taken from a high school.

AMA members and other active motorcyclists in Crisp County, Georgia, are working to reverse a policy that prevents students from riding motorcycles to the local high school.

The issue arose when the principal at Crisp County High School denied a student's request for a parking permit because he wanted to ride a motorcycle to school. The principal then went to the school board and the board passed a policy banning students from riding motorcycles to the high school, even though students have been allowed to do so in the past.

Also, the policy does not apply to faculty and staff, who can ride to the school. The ban didn't seem right to AMA member James Musselwhite, himself a 1962 graduate of the same school.

"It kind of made my blood boil," he said.

Musselwhite and other motorcyclists in Crisp County are working to overturn the ban. One of those is Jim George, the president of ABATE of Georgia, who happens to live in Crisp County, a small, rural county in south-central Georgia. Both Musselwhite and George spoke against the ban at a subsequent school board meeting. "The school principal made the statement that this policy was not discrimination," Musselwhite said. "A motorcycle in the state of Georgia is the same as a car, with all the same regulations. And we feel it is discrimination."

Musselwhite said he has talked personally to the members of the school board to try to convince them the policy should be reversed, but he's fighting an uphill battle, even though some of the board members ride motorcycles themselves. That other riders would go along with such a policy was the biggest surprise, and disappointment, to Musselwhite.

"In cases like this, the best approach is grassroots action," said Terry Lee Cook, the AMA Government Relations Department grassroots manager. "Local elected officials pay attention when their neighbors, the people who vote them in and out of office, let them know they're doing something wrong. And that's what motorcyclists in Crisp County are telling their school board."

The AMA will continue to work with local motorcyclists on the issue.

© 2005, American Motorcyclist Association

How 'bout them apples? I hope Texas A&M 's newly recognized motorcycle club can *ahem* coax some sense into these folks. It amazes me how many long-bed duallys are driven a few blocks to class. Do you know how many bikes can park in that kind of space? If a quarter of the driving student body switched to riding bikes, the parking lot sharks would become extinct. Well, only if Texas A&M started letting bikes park in regular lots. And then there's the gas savings...


MHN for short said...

That suprises me. It's a shame really. They are cutting off a potentially large portion of the student & alumni body. Don't they realise that alot of the people driving the Harleys are doctors and lawyers who can afford to give liberally to the alumni fund???

mollo said...

I'm sure there are a lot of alumni that would think that this is a hokey policy. But it's not like they inform them of all the weird stuff going on around the place.

The fact is that most motorcyclist will double and triple up with other motorcyclist in parking spaces. So their complaint isn't even valid half the time if you ask me.

Also, TAMU lets students with giant dualies by two parking passes because they are so big that they overflow into a second space. Isn't that the weirdest thing you ever heard!? They do not allow motorcyclist because they are small yet allow giant trucks.

P-Ratt said...

The state recognizes bikes to be the same as cars. It has to in order to get the federal $$$. Technically, only two bikes can be parked per space. But TAMU completely forbids bikes to use "car" spaces, inside or out.

mokru said...

"They allow free parking to bikes if they can go around the parking arms" Honestly, I think they expect you to pay... not squeeze through the gaps.

P-Ratt said...

The arms are actually cut a couple of feet short so a bike with its wheels near the curb will clear it. I have spoken with the parking attendants about it.