I was sitting around the other day thinking about random things. What would it taste like to spread a butterfly on toast? With all of the bobcats in the Los Padres Forest, wouldn’t it get confusing if everyone went by Bob? Wouldn’t Ice Cube and Ice-T make up the perfect rap duo for a hot summer day? Do loose cattle hang around bars? These are but a few of the topics that flip in and out of my mind as I sit watching the bicyclists zip back and forth through Isla Vista and UCSB. Sadly, my thoughts are often interrupted by the need to respond to yet another bike accident.
Bike collisions, be they with people, cars, other bikes, or even the occasional loose cattle has become an all-too-common problem in I.V. In the 20 years I’ve been here, the number of bikes seems to be growing, and the number of accidents is growing right along with it. Last year. the California Highway Patrol investigated 91 traffic collisions in Isla Vista. Seventeen of those were caused by bicyclists who were riding unsafely. On the UCSB campus, we investigated 18 injury bike accidents during Fall Quarter alone, and those are just the accidents that get reported. If there is any good news to take from these statistics, I am glad at least none of the accidents of late have involved loose cattle.
At UCSB, the Associated Students Bike Committee works hard on trying to improve the safety of the limited bike paths available. The Police Department has created a bike safety program that combines aggressive enforcement in dangerous areas with safety education classes instead of the nearly $200 fines the court charges for unruly biking. This has helped some, but we still have a long way to go with bike safety on campus. Isla Vista is like the Wild West, only with bikes instead of horses. No rules, cowboys and girls and curse them sheepherders!
The CHP has been working with A.S. B.I.K.E.S. on ways of improving biking safety in Isla Vista. The goal is to create a positive educational atmosphere instead of just going out and writing hundreds or thousands of tickets for running stop signs. If there is one thing that I know from experience, no matter how many happy faces I draw on a ticket, it still sucks.
The CHP, A.S. B.I.K.E.S. and UCSB Police will be kicking off their efforts with a bike safety event on Pardall Road near the entrance to UCSB. They are calling it “Brighten Up Isla Vista!” Apparently they didn’t like my idea to call it “Brighten Up the Town!” so they’re going with BUIV, which will be held on Wednesday, April 10 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. In addition to booths that provide safety information, the UCSB mascot Olé and the CHP mascot Chipper will be handing out free bike lights! Yes, free! Give them a dollar, and you get a dollar back in change! The goal is to get people in the habit of using lights at night, reducing accidents and making Isla Vista a safer place to bike.
Call me Kreskin, but I can already guess what your question is going to be: Are they going to be writing tickets in Isla Vista? Not for a while yet but, yup, in a month or two, law enforcement will be starting to write tickets. Sadly that tends also to be an a major factor in encouraging people to ride their bikes more safely as well. For now, the main focus is going to be on education and inspiring safer biking. The worst part about getting a bike ticket in Isla Vista is that it won’t be eligible for the UCSB Bike Safety class. Hopefully those tickets will eventually be allowed to participate in the Bike Safety class. For now, since bikes are required to follow the same traffic laws as cars in Isla Vista, they will get the same ticket as a car. The fines can be brutal too. Figure about $200 for a stop sign or $500 for going through a stop light. Just think how you could have spent that money to go see a movie and get some popcorn. Well, these days, maybe a small popcorn.
I hope to see you all there at the “Brighten Up Isla Vista” event on Pardall Road on Wednesday, April 10 from noon till 3 p.m.! Take advantage of this opportunity to get a free bike light and other cool stuff. In the meantime, if you have questions about biking safety in Isla Vista or at UCSB, you can call Suzanne Perkin at the Dean of Students Office (893-4364) or CHP Officer James Richard (967-1234). And of course you can always question authority at QA@police.ucsb.edu.
Take care and ride safely!
Sgt. Signa knows that safety is inseparable with style … that’s why he glued a cowboy hat to the top of his bike helmet.
Got caught by a cop? Your party popped by the Po-Po? Ticked by a ticket? If you have questions, don’t let it eat away at you — Question Authority! Email me anytime at QA@police.ucsb.edu or call the UCSB Police Dept. at 893-3446.
A version of this article appeared on page 8 of the Monday, April 8, 2013 print edition of the Nexus.