the good

5 03 2010

Right now, there is a lot of confusion regarding Pratt’s bike policies–Example:  In a printed student handbook, it says that you can not ride a bike on campus however as EL explained, that statement is incorrect.  This policy doesn’t actually exist.

On the Pratt website, if you’re looking for policies on bikes, good luck finding them easily.  It took a couple of searches and deep down on Security’s page, there is a blurb about biking and a couple of good/useful links   (check it out here).  If you go through other campus websites such as Columbia, or US Davis, you can easily find clear and concise policy information.  There is no grey area when it comes to their policies.

That is why I have been working with some key people (AG-K from NYPIRG, CW from SGA, my advisor CJ and EL with Student Affairs) to clarifying the current campus bike policies.  Once we have a clear understanding of the current policy, we can modify, add policies that are more effective and beneficial to everyone.  We’ve put together a draft and we’re planning to send it off to the Security Office so they can fill in the blanks (literally) to the policy.


Abandoned Bike Policy

If a bike is continuously parked in the same place for two weeks without being moved, Security considers it abandoned. If a bike is deemed abandoned, a tag with a timestamped warning will be attached to the bike. If the bike is not relocated to an appropriate bike rack within__________minutes/hours/days of being tagged, if will be removed and confiscated. In the process of removing and confiscating a bike, Security will, if necessary, cut and discard the lock, chain or security device. Pratt Institute is not responsible or liable in any manner for lost, stolen, or damaged bicycles, or for the replacement cost of locks, chains, or other security devices.

The black is what currently exists on the website, the red is the information that needs clarification.  These are simple modifications but they would greatly improve the current policy.

The goal is to have this information printed and available on Green Week’s “Transportation Tuesday” (see the events page for details). And I will also have the policy information posted on this site.  Eventually, we hope the Security Office will replace their existing text with what we’ve put together.  If that happens, it would be huge.  It would mean that we (those who attended the design jam and those who have provided significant input into this process) worked with the administration to provide students with accurate, useful, and transparent policy information.  That is what I would call “collaborative planning” and at Pratt–that would be a Campus Area Biking success!

the bad

5 03 2010

I’ve decided not to do the ride.  I actually feel  at peace with my decision and this is why:

First, I know the chances are slim, but I would like to avoid being sued.  TA gave me a a sample liability form however, should (by the unlikely chance) something horrible happen, I might be removed from liability but would need be required to pay any legal costs.  At this point in my life, I’m not willing to take that risk.  What’s problematic with this is that the university, an Institute with insurance and the means to fight a lawsuit would rather I fight that battle rather than support their student.  If I wasn’t made fully aware of the risks by the people supporting me with this project, I would have blindly taken that chance–and Pratt would have happily stood back.  I never want to be in a situation where I feel unsupported in the work I am doing for that person or that organization.

The second reason I’ve accepted my decision is this– I can go for a ride with my friends anytime.  The point of this ride was to do something for the Pratt Community with the full support of Pratt’s administration.  I could have tried to get a third party to host the ride and take on the liability, but that means Pratt benefits from it all and, if something happens, they can wash their hands of it entirely.  For a ski trip, that makes sense but for a community bike ride–to me, it makes no sense at all.  Unfortunately, I didn’t receive the support I needed from those who have the power to approve the work I’m doing because they weren’t convinced that it was a risk worth taking.  I need to work a harder to prove to Pratt’s administration that this is important not only to me and the students, but it is important for the Institute itself.  It is clear I haven’t been successful in this yet and I have two more months to work a little harder at that.

My next step is to try and meet with Dr. Schutte (I’m much better working with people in person).  I don’t know how likely it will be to arrange for a meeting and honestly, it might not be a good idea to go above ER but–I have nothing to lose with this one–no one can sue me in this situation.  I have heard (though I haven’t confirmed) that Dr. Schutte (Pratt’s president) has wanted to organize and lead a bike ride with the students but for whatever reason, it hasn’t happened.  If I meet with him, I hope to speak with him about the walls that I’ve come up against and ask how he thinks we can work around the “liability concerns”.  More importantly, I can talk with him about how important this project, Campus Area Biking, is to fulfilling the commitments he has made (on behalf of the Institute) to Mayor Bloomberg’s sustainability initiatives.  I hold firm that without this project, Pratt will only make small steps to achieving its stated sustainability goals.  Maybe then we can have an end of the year ride or something–you never know.

to ride or not to ride (this is a long post–sorry)

2 03 2010

When I received word from Pratt that I could “do” the ride but that Pratt would provide no insurance coverage, I was under the impression that I could still move forward with it as a Green Week event but just had to write up some liability waiver and call it a day.  I don’t quite get what Pratt has insurance for since they basically quash everything because of “liability”.

I’ve learned that this is the strategy with Pratt’s policies–make them a vague as possible so they can wash their hands of everything without having to state where they stand on a particular issue.  As I’m working with others to define appropriate policies that will ultimately benefit the campus administration and the community as a whole (inside of outside of the campus gates), I’m learning that every policy is left so undefined that when there is a violation, people are so confused by it all, they just give up and accept whatever they are told.  So–to give you the full picture, the following was the response I received from ER:

Upon review of the proposal I find that because of liability issues the Institute is not inclined to provide support for the proposed Green Week Bike Ride. Individual parties interested in participating in a ride of this nature are certainly free to engage and do the ride, however, they will not be provided any insurance coverage from the Institute.

Basically, Pratt is telling me to take on all the liability myself.  If someone get’s hurt, don’t sue the school (who has insurance!), sue the girl (read: me) who tried to do something to benefit the entire campus community.  Sue the girl who has nothing but debt accrued receiving graduate degree—at Pratt.

When I got the response above, I was left wondering if I could still advertise the event as a Pratt Green Week event–if I could do that, then it was still in the hands of Pratt.  It wouldn’t just be student’s getting together–it would be a legitimate event. I asked AP for clarification and received the following response:

At your request I sought clarification on this matter and was advised that this is not being viewed as a Pratt Green Week Event. It is a self organized bike ride which has not received approval by the institute and is not being provided insurance coverage by the Institute.

It is really a shame.  It is a shame that Pratt Institute does not and will not support events so promising of promoting and enriching the campus community.  People who strive, like myself, to build a better community are forced to take on the responsibility of organizing, creating, promoting, doing ALL of the work to make ANYTHING happen at Pratt–and are then forced to naively take on the liability should something happen.

Unfortunately, when I was told “this is not being viewed as a Pratt Green Week Event”, it meant that the ride would no longer serve it’s original purpose–to bring students/staff/faculty together in a new and exciting way that was sponsored by and supported by the Institute.  I wanted to demonstrate not only to the students but to administrators like ER that we could create something positive around biking that would bring people around the university together.  Now–If I am to hold the ride, it would serve a different, more defiant purpose–an “I’m going to do it no matter what you say” purpose that yes, may be effecting in some aspects, but really just let’s ER justify to himself that cyclists and students are defiant and obnoxious and are only to be considered a liability.

And that’s ultimately what I’m struggling with.

I got some advice from TA’s general council that informed me how I can be removed from the liability but it still means that I am promoting an event that is for Pratt–that will start on the campus and will benefit the campus community–that might even get advertisement on NY1–yet Pratt (as an Institute) essentially wants nothing to do with it.

So do I write up a liability form and promote it–or do I cancel the ride and say forget it and just blog about how much it sucks and write a letter to the President of the university and end it there.  If I say forget it–I’m doing what every other person at Pratt who’s tried to make a difference has done–they quite because people like ER get in the way.  If I do the ride and it’s successful, then maybe I’ll prove my point that way?

I don’t even know if I have the energy anymore.  I mean sometimes I really wonder—what’s the point?

it’s ON!

24 02 2010

Confirmation from AP within ER’s office says that we can go ahead with the first ever Campus Area Bike Ride.  The school will provide no insurance coverage so I must draft up my own liability form (so no one sues me) and then we can move ahead with planning.  This is very exciting!

I will provide new details on the ride as well as Transportation Tuesday which will be held March 30th during Pratt’s Green Week.  As long as the weather is right, we’ll head out to the Unisphere, do a little picnicking and relaxing and set the precedent for holding a school bike ride event.  This is a big win for the CAB initiative.  Now–we must advertise!

I’ll be adding an events page to the blog to house the flyers and details for the Transportation Tuesday events as well as create a sign up form for students to sign up for the ride.  I’ll also add the liability form for them to download, fill out and submit to me upon the day of the ride.

I’ll be taking this weekend to organize this information so keep an eye out for new blog posts and updates to the page.

Right now–I’m preparing for the policy meeting tomorrow and writing the article for GCPE newsletter.  There are a lot of exciting things with CAB this month–stay tuned!

bike from pratt to the unisphere

28 01 2010

I am happy to report that the first (hopefully) annual Campus Area Bike Ride will take place April 1st at a time TBD.  Thanks to a suggestion of my good friend JS, we’ll ride from campus to the Unisphere in Queens.  About an 11 mile ride–nothing major.  For those students who aren’t confident enough to get back on their own, we’ll have some people stick around to ride back to campus with them.  I think it’s perfect.

I spoke with the woman who handles the insurance/liability issues at Pratt and she didn’t see it to be a problem, though I’ll know for sure next week.  If it is a problem—we’ll just figure out a way to do it on our own…