Overstack of the rack

Investigating the impact of bike rack overcrowding


Angela Zhang

Junior Vatsel Srivastava lifts his bike over other bikes to move through the racks.

Brandon Xu and Angela Zhang

Since the start of this school year, finding space to park bikes has proven more of a challenge than in years past. According to a survey of 196 students, 71% of respondents felt that the bike racks were overcrowded in the beginning of the school year. For junior Krishna Nathan, not only has finding parking space become a more difficult task but even moving through the bike racks is also a struggle. 

“When I’m biking into school and I’m entering the bike rack, I have to get down from my bike really early because there’s just a ton of bikes just crowding the entrance,” Nathan said. “I can barely even find a place to park my bike since there’s so many bikes, and [getting] my bike inside the bike rack is difficult because bikes are blocking all the walkways.”

When Nathan started biking a year ago, he had no problem finding a spot to place his bike, which he says is a sharp contrast to the current conditions. Other students, such as freshman Mariam Mansour, voice similar opinions, pointing out that bikes get in the way of pathways. 

“Sometimes [students] put chains on the gateway [of the bike cage], so it’s hard to navigate through it,” Mansour said. “It’s because the bikes are out [in the pathway]. I almost tripped on some because holding a bike and going through [the bike cage] is hard. Some people have to lift their bikes to get out. Yesterday I overheard some people saying it was hard to navigate.”

Graphic by Brandon Xu

At the FUHSD Board of Trustees meeting on Sept. 22, Interact Club’s Cycle for Change team presented their findings on biking trends across all five schools. One of the problems that they identified was the “lack of bike racks” at MVHS given the increase in bikers.

To explain the influx in bikers, Nathan believes that the recently changed bell schedules caused an increase in traffic, making biking more convenient for students. Nearby schools Lincoln Elementary School and Kennedy Middle School start at 8:10 and 8:20 a.m., respectively, coinciding with Monta Vista’s new start time of 8:30 a.m. and creating additional traffic.

Junior Vatsel Srivastava is one student who bikes to avoid traffic. Srivastava acknowledges that he is able to travel to school multiple minutes faster when biking compared to driving. However, after seeing the bike rack situation this year, he believes the main reason for the increase in bikes is because the number of freshmen bikers this year is higher. 

“More freshmen are biking,” Srivastava said. “That’s the real reason. I’m also seeing a lot more e-bikes on the bike racks, so people are finding that as a nice convenient way to go to school.”

Mansour has recognized many other freshmen using the bike racks at school and agrees that a surge in new bikers could have contributed to the overcrowding. In addition, she feels that all students have been more inclined to bike due to increased safety precautions, such as the barriers that have been constructed around bike lanes.

In order to address the overcrowding, Student Conduct Liaison Thomas Michaelis rearranged the bike racks to include multiple columns of racks instead of a long line in the front in the beginning of September. After the bike rack reconfiguration, 58% of the survey respondents felt that the bike racks had improved since the beginning of the school year. Although Srivastava believes the new arrangement has made getting in and out of the racks easier, he still thinks that a larger bike rack area is needed.

The bike racks have been reorganized into shorter columns to create more space for students to walk through. Photo courtesy of Alexander Chu

“There’s no situation where bikes get in front of each other and no one can get out [anymore],” Srivastava said. “I’ve usually been able to get a slot pretty easily, but some days it’s more crowded. It just needs more space. I think the configuration is as good as you can get it in that space.

According to Clausnitzer, adding a new bike rack is no easy feat. The current bike rack location cannot be expanded because the road next to it is already at the minimum width of 22 feet, in accordance with the fire code for fire trucks to pass through. One possible location for new bike racks that Clausnitzer proposed is behind the pool to replace the bleachers that used to be there. Clausnitzer described possibly partnering with Safe Routes to School or Cupertino Rotary to figure out the logistics involved with installing bike racks.

Principal Ben Clausnitzer had an idea for new bike racks to be installed in the space behind the pool, if they could meet the fire code. Photo courtesy of Alexander Chu

“Maybe students coming from the Fort Baker entrance would go straight down that D building access road and head towards the pool,” Clausnitzer said. “That could be the type of solution somebody like Safe Routes could help us take a look at, but we’d have to do some measurements to [see] if it would be allowed per fire code.”

Despite the adjustments needed to adapt to the influx of student bikers, Clausnitzer notes the overall positives of having this problem.

“If we’re a school of 1,750 [students], and we’re still feeling the number of bikes in the bike rack, that would tell me that the percentage of bike riders has gone up,” Clausnitzer said. “That’s a good problem to have in the context of less students in cars, in terms of the climate [and] traffic.”