U to start booting bikes

by Elizabeth Cook

Roving University patrols will begin “booting” illegally parked bicycles beginning at the end of May as part of a monitoring program intended to curb unsafe parking.

Student bicycle monitors will use their own version of a vehicle boot, a Kryptonite lock, or issue a citation equivalent to the cost of a vehicle parking ticket, said Lt. Troy Buhta of the University Police Department.

Students illegally park their bicycles by blocking the entrances to buildings. Bicycles chained to trees or shrubs or seen bringing the bicycle into a building will be issued warnings during the first two weeks of May, and fined $34 during the third week and after, Buhta said.

This is the second spring the bicycle monitor program will be patrolling, issuing citations and trying to reduce the number of bicycles being stolen on campus. The program is an extension of the security monitor program, which is made up entirely of University students.

People complained that they were unable to get into buildings, or they were tripping and falling because illegally parked bicycles were in the way, Buhta said.

If the bicycle is blocking an entrance or exit, the lock will be cut and the bicycle will be impounded at the University Police Department, Buhta said.

“If it’s not a bicycle rack, you’re taking a chance,” Buhta said.

For bicycles locked to trees or bushes, monitors will put a “boot” – which has the phone number to the University police on it – on them. Similar to the vehicle immobilization device programs, students call that number and a monitor will arrive with the ticket and explain why they received a citation, Buhta said.

Dan Farrar, assistant program manager for the security monitor program, said monitors issued 120 citations last spring.

Buhta said the citations were given all over campus, with a concentration at Smith Hall and Middlebrook Hall.

Aside from citations issued, the program helped reduce bicycle theft almost 35 percent from 2004 to 2005, Buhta said.

“(Bicycle monitors) are a great asset,” Buhta said. “They’re the eyes and ears of our police department.”

Even though monitors can issue Hennepin County citations, they must call police if they see a bicycle theft in progress or suspicious activity near the racks, Farrar said.

The bicycle monitors will work 8 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, but on weekends there will be supervisors out and the chance to get a ticket is still there, Farrar said.

Monitors will place stickers and pamphlets around campus in coming weeks, Farrar said.

Toward the end of this week, the bicycle monitors will begin their training, Farrar said.

“The (previous) training was very difficult,” said Jeff Waltz, a mortuary science junior and a veteran bicycle monitor. “But it was fun.”

Waltz said the training consisted of obstacle courses – like riding in circles, making tight turns and taking a long bicycle ride through downtown – which help in being able to ride through crowds without hitting people.

To be a bicycle monitor, Farrar said, a student needs to be a security monitor first. Of the 100 security monitors, 12 to 15 are picked to go through training.

“We want people who are able to deal with confrontation and feel comfortable issuing a student a citation,” Farrar said.

Waltz said students get angry sometimes when they get a ticket, but he’s never been physically assaulted.

“I’ve had people yell at me and swear at me,” Waltz said. “But no one’s ever touched me physically.”