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Scooters, motor bikes and bicycles are increasingly a fire hazard on campus

By Julia Werth
On January 23, 2014

  • A UConn Fire Department truck is shown above. The department has faced an increase work load due to scooter, motor bikes and bicycles parked incorrectly. Mic Johnson/The Daily Campus

Throughout the last semester, motor bikes, scooters and bicycles have become an increasing fire hazard at the University of Connecticut, adding many hours of work to the fire department's already busy schedule.
According to Lieutenant Heidi Vaughan, the fire department knows "that bicycles and scooters are a common mode of transportation but they are becoming a problem when they are parked incorrectly."
The regulations for motor bikes, mopeds and scooters as well as the regulations for bicycles prohibits such vehicles from parking "in areas designated for larger or at bicycle racks...loading zones, on sidewalks, disabled access aisles, driveways, lawns, within 10 feet of a fire hydrant or in areas used for special events." However, the fire department is most concerned when students park in "common areas inside residential or university buildings, breezeways, hallways, student rooms, entranceways, building overhangs [or] immediately adjacent to campus buildings," which is also against the regulations.
In recent months more and more vehicles are being found inside buildings or directly outside entrances/exits which endanger the safety of all persons within the building if a fire were to start.
"If a vehicle is found to be parked in a manner that creates a life safety hazard then we will cut any locks or securing cables, and we will immediately move the vehicle to a safe location," said Vaughan. Once the vehicle has been moved to a safe location the responding personnel would chain up the vehicle and complete a red violation tag. The tag explains what happened and has a phone number on it. "You would have to call the number for us to come back out and unlock it," Vaughan said.
By forcing students to call the fire department in order to use their vehicle again the fire department is given an opportunity to explain to the violator what the real problem is with how they parked their vehicle.
Many students, however, experience difficulty finding a safe parking space for their bicycles. "There are so many people with bicycles and one building may only have one small rack so I end up chaining my bike to a lamp post or whatever I can find. It would better if there were more spaces," said 2nd - semester biological sciences major Himakshi Bhatt. With limited bike racks and sidewalks, parking lots, fences, grass and buildings all off limits her frustration is quite understandable.
In response to the growing complaints Vaughan said, "we may need to go higher up in the university or to facilities and see about getting more bike racks put in."
In addition, gas cans and battery operated bicycles have also become a reoccurring problem for the fire department. No one is permitted to store gas cans inside or near buildings for the obvious fire hazards these cause. Vaughan said, "any gas will just be confiscated and not returned."
Battery operated bicycles also are considered a fire hazard and the fire department would like to remind students that these vehicles are "not allowed to be charged in resident halls."

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