Bike Ticketers Face Daily Complaints

By By Jennifer Mitchell

By Jennifer Mitchell

“Bike Nazi.”

That is what one student wrote under “position desired” on an application to parking services this semester.

The popular term is hardly spoken under breaths around campus, and?while the parking patrol (the “Bike Nazis” themselves) are well aware of their nickname?they aren’t taking it too hard.

Shawn Sheppick, assistant field supervisor for parking services, knows that he and his bike staff, “don’t make your day.”

What then, would motivate someone to hold a position that brings such contempt? Great pay? Tuition benefits? A free parking pass and authority to park wherever you want?

“I like being outside,” Tyra Ayres, a parking patrol woman, said about why she took the job.

Since those on the patrol make a moderate wage, are seldom eligible for tuition benefits, pay full price for permits and are ticketed for parking just like everyone else, getting to work outside seems to be the main draw.

“I don’t see riding a bicycle as something to loathe,” Ayres added.

For Chad Bevan, also on the patrol, “getting to ride around on a beautiful day,” makes his job seem more like recreation. That isn’t to say, though, that it is any leisurely bike ride.

“Parking is serious business,” Bevan joked. “I had one girl who I gave a ticket start crying. She said she was late for her final and wasn’t going to graduate. It was kind of sad.”

Others are less sad and more angry. Take the time a man threatened Bevan with his job after he cited him for parking in a handicap stall.

“It’s my job to get yelled at,” Bevan said.

“I’ve stopped answering to ‘Hey you’ or ‘Jackass,'” Sheppick said. “People just scream at you from across the lot?at least they could address you as ‘Hey, Sir.'”

Someone yelling across the parking lot, however, is minimal compared to other experiences the parking patrol has faced.

“There have been at least 20 incidences I can recall that I never would have believed could happen,” Sheppick said.

In one of his “favorite” past incidences, he had to physically detain an older woman from attacking the driver of a vehicle parked in her reserved spot.

Sheppick hesitated to tow a vehicle that the owner of the spot wanted removed because a handicap permit was hanging in the car.

When the student returned to her car, limping because of a recent knee surgery, the spot owner, “jumped out of her car yelling, ‘You f****** b****,’ and took off after the owner of the vehicle. I had to hold her back and threaten her with arrest before she would calm down,” Sheppick explained.

He went on to tell about a woman who, after having a boot put on her car, dropped onto the grass and, “started kicking and screaming like a small child. She was so hysterical even after the boot was removed, that I made her wait to drive until she calmed down,” he said.

People will go to great lengths to avoid a ticket, coming up with excuses that range from, “I just had to run a paper in,” to “my so and so said it was OK.” Some attempt to avoid a ticket in the first place, constructing their own, highly creative parking passes.

One student hung the front of a cardboard Robitussin bottle on his mirror, apparently convinced that it looked like an E Pass. Other students have made passes out of construction paper, or modified their old pass with “white out.”

And then there are the students who refuse to obey the parking “regime” more boldly. Parking services has a picture of a vehicle’s dashboard with a ticket and a note reading, “There’s not a f****** place to park on this whole campus, so I am parking HERE. I f******* dare someone to give me a ticket TODAY.”

Such hostility doesn’t faze Sheppick, who feels the students should realize that in a large commuter campus such as this, “you are going to have to walk a little.”

Students should feel fortunate, he added, noting that on some campuses, students and faculty pay upwards of $1,000 to park three to five miles away and take shuttles to campus.

Students at the U feel far from fortunate, but Sheppick doesn’t seem to mind being the campus bad guy.

He does feel, though, that students don’t understand how little control parking services has over the actual situation.

“The administration makes the rules, we enforce them,” he explained.

While taking the brunt of student complaints over shrinking parking availability, parking services has no part in decisions to cut lot space.

“Many students were angry with us over the lot closing around the Institute, when the church actually owns that property and the cuts were their decision,” Sheppick said.

Another misnomer is that university funds go toward parking services’ budget.

Travis Pierson, who has worked in parking services for five years, points out that the department is an, “entirely self-funded auxiliary.” Money acquired through permits, tickets, the transportation fee, meters and visitor parking pays for far more than staff salaries.

As Parking and Transportation Services, they foot the bill for, “maintaining shuttles, driver’s salaries, building of new lots, maintenance of already established lots, lights, snow removal, clean up and so on,” he explained.

Sheppick wants parking services to be seen for what it is?a service. Many are not aware that they provide jump services and assist those who lock their keys in their cars.

Most of all, they serve those who have paid for a parking pass by keeping those who haven’t out of their lot.

“I’ve suggested that we don’t patrol for a week?it would be awful,” Sheppick said.

By that rationale, parking patrolman Ted Main commented that he and university motorists share a, “love-hate relationship.” No one wants a ticket, but no one wants the guy without a pass in their spot.

Sheppick acknowledges that for the most part, people will not resolve that very issue.

“I feel that it is my job to put up with people. If parking was easy, we wouldn’t have jobs,” he said.

The “Bike Nazi” stigma may never go away, but Sheppick, representing most of his patrol, doesn’t let it get to him.

“I have been called the ‘F’ word so much that for a while, I thought it was my name,” he joked. “You can’t take it personally, but there is a limit to what we will tolerate, and patrons of the U should respect that.”