Student motorcyclists struggle with inconsistent road conditions during winter months

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Pavement paint at the BYU Smith Fieldhouse Y-lot. Motorbike parking stalls across campus are often available. (Alice Gubler)

As students return for the fall semester and navigate limited campus parking options, those who ride motorbikes are considering the difficulties of riding during the winter months.

According to a 2021 US News report, only 17% of total BYU students live in on-campus housing. This leaves the remaining 83% of students with in-person classes to find means of transportation.

Students with cars and motorbikes pay $60 every semester to park in “Y” lots located on the outer edges of the BYU campus. The BYU Parking Handbook includes both motorcycles and mopeds as motorbikes.

According to Carri Jenkins, Assistant to the President for University Communications, BYU has 11,577 student vehicle parking spaces on campus, with 1,110 of those reserved for motorbikes. BYU currently has 19,805 active vehicles registered to students this fall.

The disparity between available student parking spaces and registered student vehicles means not every student is guaranteed a parking spot on campus. While there is not data about how many motorbikes are registered, motorcyclists are more likely to find parking at BYU and to find convenient spaces off campus due to their size and mobility.

A screenshot of available parking for students is mapped in yellow. Student lots are placed on the outskirts of the BYU campus with available motorbike and car parking for students who pay a monthly fee. (BYU Parking)

BYU student Nick Bell rode his motorcycle in the cold months of January earlier this year. He said there are multiple benefits to motorcycling to campus, including being able to easily maneuver and avoid traffic, as well as being able to find adequate on- and off-campus parking.

During the winter months, Bell said he does not find manny issues in riding to school, but explains there are precautions to take.

“If the roads are plowed and salted, it’s okay to ride, so it’s not very often that I can’t ride my motorcycle all the time,” Bell said.

BYU senior Emily Savage rides her moped to work every day at 7 a.m. She explained that while her moped provides a similarly reliable mode of transportation to a motorcycle, she does not use it to get around BYU campus or Provo during the winter months due to inconsistent road conditions. 

“What worries me is when the roads are covered in snow … when the winter months come and it gets really bad,” Savage said. “I ride until I feel super unsafe.”

After the roads become too slippery for Savage’s morning commutes, she is left to find other modes of transportation. 

“I will most likely end up carpooling this winter,” Savage said.

According to City of Provo Public Works, neighborhood streets in the Provo area are likely to be plowed secondary to the main roads. Plowing takes an average of five hours to complete with large storms, causing longer plowing times of 12-14 hours to complete. 

Because different parts of Provo are plowed at different times, students with motorbikes as a main source of transportation may encounter unplowed roads in their neighborhoods or on their commute to campus.

A map of the Provo Public Works Street Maintenance for priority snow plowing. Arterial Roads marked (in red) are plowed first, and local roads (marked in yellow) are plowed third. (Provo Public Works)

Adam Forbush, a BYU student who rides his motorcycle to school in the winter months, can make the commute to campus just fine when the roads are plowed, but says cold weather driving requires an investment in proper winter clothing.

“That was like the main reason I always opted to go in a car because it was just cold. You have to invest in a lot of equipment like jackets and safety stuff,” Forbush said.

While there are usually available parking spots for motorcycles on- and off-campus, students choosing to motorbike are encouraged to look into proper gear and use the main arterial roads for transportation, especially during the winter months.

“If you want to brave the cold, go for it,” Forbush said. “But you gotta take precautions.”

If students with motorbikes are limited in their transportation options during the upcoming winter months, they are encouraged to use the RYDE shuttles. RYDE is a free campus shuttle available to students in the fall and winter semester. Students can track buses and campus routes online and through the Campus Shuttles feature on the Y-app.

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