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Bike riders get a break on tickets, but not on the rules

By Dave Jones on October 27, 2011 in University


The bike safety video, shot on campus and in downtown Davis, includes interviews with students, and you will know it was made especially for UC Davis when the narrator introduces a lesson on “the most horrifying obstacle” for some bicyclists: the traffic circle.

The video also addresses:

  • How to avoid face plants — The video describes them as “messy, painful and generally not recommended.”
  • Speed limits — The posted limits on campus are 15 to 35 mph, but bicyclists also must know when to adhere to the “safe” speed limit; i.e., you must slow down for your safety and the safety of others, for example, in fog and rain, in construction zones, and in the presence of pedestrians and marching bands!
  • Hand signals — Just like the signals you learned in driver education, except you have the option of using your right hand to indicate a right turn. Also, you need not remove your hand from the handlebar if you cannot do it safely.
  • Right of way — If you are approaching a crosswalk, and a pedestrian is already in the crosswalk, the pedestrian has the right of way. This is just one of the right-of-way rules covered by the video.
  • Streets, bike paths, sidewalks and crosswalks — Streets are for wheels, bike paths are for bikes, sidewalks and crosswalks are for walking.
  • Making yourself visible at night — The California Vehicle Code requires, at the front of your bike, a white light visible for 300 feet to the front and to the sides.
  • Other safety gear — Including gloves (to save your hands when you use them to avoid a face plant) and helmets (to keep your head from suffering the fate of a watermelon when someone in the video drops the melon to the ground).

TAPS sets up bike repair stations around the campus.

By Dateline staff

UC Davis has come up with a way to lower the cost of tickets for bike-riding infractions, while at the same time beefing up efforts to educate bike riders on the rules of the road.

Up to now, citations cost $200 or more — and police officers hesitated to issue them, particularly to students, out of sensitivity for their financial circumstances. Instead, officers preferred to give out warnings, except for the most egregious or repeated violations.

This fall quarter, with the approval of Yolo County Superior Court, the Davis campus launched the Bicycle Education and Enforcement Program, or BEEP, under which you can clear a bicycle ticket by paying a $70 fee and completing an online bike safety course, akin to traffic school for tickets you get while driving.

BEEP, which applies to all moving violations except riding under the influence, gives you 14 days to pay the fee and complete the course. Do this and the Police Department will forward your ticket to the court with a request for dismissal, thus keeping the ticket off your driving record — and we do mean your “driving” record, reflecting the fact that bicycle laws are part of the California Vehicle Code.

If you fail to complete the course within 14 days (and pay the fee at the same time you take the course), the court will process your ticket as normal, subjecting you to the full fine.

Superior Court approved the citation “diversion” program for the UC Davis campus only. Off campus, regular fines apply, although the court has expressed interest in extending the program countywide.

The Police Department, which enforces bike laws, developed BEEP in collaboration with Transportation and Parking Services, or TAPS, which runs the Bicycle Program. “BEEP reduces the fines to a reasonable level,” Police Chief Annette Spicuzza said.

More important, BEEP offers offenders a healthy dose of bike safety education — benefitting the bicyclists as well as the pedestrians and motorists who often find themselves in conflict with cyclists on campus streets and paths.

David Takemoto-Weerts, Bicycle Program coordinator, said: “It’s easy to avoid getting a ticket while bicycling. The same laws apply to bicyclists and motorists, and as long as you obey those rules, use required lights and reflectors at night, and have working brakes, you should be able to stay out of reach of the long arm of the law.”

The Face You Save May be Your Own

The online bike course starts with a video, Bike Right: The Face You Save May Be Your Own, a collaborative effort of the UC Davis Bicycle Safety and Injury Prevention Program, and the California Office of Traffic Safety. The video is more than 15 years old, but the information is as important today as it was then — if not more so, given increased bicycle and pedestrian traffic on campus.

Everyone in the campus community is welcome to watch the 20-minute video, even take the quiz at the end of the course.

If you are watching the video because of a ticket, you will be prompted to enter your citation number, and you must take the quiz! After that, the bike safety program will tell you how to pay your $70 fee, via an online payment system. The fee goes to the university to help offset the cost of the Bicycle Education and Enforcement Program.

Once you do all that, the online bike safety program will send an electronic notification to the Police Department, which will then ask the court to dismiss your ticket.

With ticket costs having been lowered, police acknowledge that they are likely to start issuing more tickets. But officers will still hand out warnings.

Police officer Ralph Nuno, whose regular assignment is bike patrol, said he and other officers handed out about 400 warnings in the first half of 2011. He gave a list of the most common infractions:

  • Failure to stop at a stop sign
  • Failure to yield to pedestrians
  • Riding with earphones in both ears
  • Riding on the landscape or sidewalks
  • Speeding

You will note that the list does not include texting or talking on the phone — because it is not illegal, even though many law enforcement and safety professionals advise against it.

Nor does the law forbid riding with no hands on the handlebars. However, you must have one hand available to steer at all times. So you may not drink a chai latte with one hand and text with the other while riding a bike.

As for stopping, the Vehicle Code specifies that “stop” means “to cease forward motion.” It does not necessarily mean that you have to put a foot on the ground.

What the police look for are safe cycling practices, such as slowing to a near standstill at a stop sign, signaling, waiting your turn, yielding to pedestrians, etc.

And, make no mistake, officers also are looking for cyclists who blatantly blast through stop signs without regard to traffic conditions or pedestrians, speed across lawns, and otherwise put themselves and others in danger.

Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,