A.S. Senate passes a resolution calling for Santa Barbara police and California Highway Patrol to allow bicyclists to treat stop signs and red lights as yield signs
Ricky Waltman was biking to work early Tuesday morning when he approached a stop sign at the corner of Camino Del Sur and Trigo Road. A California Highway Patrol car was parked on the side of the street, but Waltman didn’t think twice about breezing through the intersection on his bicycle.
“There were no cars on the road and it was 9 a.m.,” said Waltman, a UCSB alumnus. “I slowed down and didn’t stop. I’ve done that plenty of times in front of a cop.”
Moments later, the patrol car’s lights flashed on and an officer cited Waltman for failing to stop — a $270 fine for the first offense, according to the Santa Barbara Police Department.
“‘We are cracking down on it to hopefully make you guys more safe,’” Waltman recalled the officer saying. As Waltman pedaled away from the curb, he saw the officer pull over another bicyclist for running the same stop sign.
While Waltman and other Isla Vistans say there has been an increase in citations for bike offenses, Officer John Gutierrez of the Santa Barbara Police Department said there is no effort by highway patrol officers to write more tickets.
“We’re not told to go out there and write up bicyclists — not at all,” Gutierrez said.
The police department will be hosting a bike safety event on March 2 at the Pardall Center, after which, Gutierrez said, there may be a “ramped up increase” in citations.
Gutierrez pointed to recent bike accidents in I.V., including a two-bike collision on Pardall Road in January that sent one person to the hospital, as evidence of the need for bicyclists to follow traffic signs.
“A lot of people are riding bicycles unsafely in I.V.,” Gutierrez said.
Wednesday night, Associated Students senators voted to send a resolution to External Affairs Committee that calls on campus police, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office and California Highway Patrol “to allow bicycles to treat stop signs and red lights as yield signs.” The resolution will now head to A.S. External Affairs.
Off-Campus Senator Jerel Constantino, who drafted the bill, said because so many students already ignore the bike laws, the bill is designed “to keep the status quo.”
Ashcon Minoiefar, third-year history of public policy major and College of Letters & Sciences collegiate senator, said Isla Vista Foot Patrol regulates bicycle and skateboard laws inconsistently.
“The crackdown on bicyclists is unreasonable, because I.V.F.P. will be very strict on biking rules . . . and then will disappear,” Minoiefar said. “I don’t think the crackdown is about safety, because the rules are not enforced consistently.”
The resolution refers to a 1982 Idaho statute known as the “Idaho stop,” which allows bicyclists to roll through stop signs, after looking both ways, and to bike under red lights after stopping.
“The Idaho stop is not saying you see a stop sign and you ignore it,” Constantino said. “When you see a stop sign, that should be a key to look both left and right and, if necessary, stop.”
Constantino, third-year history of public policy and political science double major, said he bikes to campus from I.V. every day and drafted the bill to protect bicyclists “from a misguided prioritization of law enforcement.”
The resolution also calls for the California State Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown to institute a similar law statewide.
Shortly after Waltman was cited, he posted a picture of his ticket on a popular UCSB Facebook group, warning other bicyclists that officers were enforcing the law.
Minutes later, he was at the center of a spirited debate in the comment section about whether police should ticket bicyclists for failing to obey traffic signs.
While some commenters assumed Waltman disagreed with being cited, he said he “totally deserved” the ticket.
“I know it’s a little inconvenient to stop and go on a rusty old mountain bike, but when you have a culture where nobody stops and people just throw themselves into intersections, it’s dangerous,” Waltman said.
Elena Rovito, fourth-year biological anthropology major, said she often bikes to class and to restaurants in I.V. Rovito said she always follows the traffic signs, but when she walks, she has to be aware of bicyclists who are not following the law.
“You have to constantly be on your toes,” Rovito said. “You’ll see people biking, not looking both ways, texting, and I’ve had to jump out of the way on more than one occasion.”
Sarah Garrett, first-year political science major and copy reader at the Daily Nexus, was ticketed recently for failing to stop at the corner of Camino Pescadero and Trigo Road. Garrett said she plans to enroll in a bike safety course to reduce her fine.
“I didn’t think anything of it because, a couple days before, I had blown through a stop sign by a cop and nothing had happened,” Garrett said.
The officer told Garrett that he was trying to keep her and other bicyclists safe, but she said stopping at some intersections can be more dangerous than passing slowly through.
“I feel like it would be more of a hazard to stop at certain stop signs because no one is stopping and I feel like herds of bikes might run over me,” Garrett said.
Garrett now tries to avoid biking through I.V. by staying on El Colegio Road for as long as possible. When she has to bike through I.V., though, she said she stops at every stop sign to avoid another ticket — or at least slows down and puts her foot on the ground.
A version of this story appeared on p. 3 of the Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016 edition of the Daily Nexus.
[Correction: A previous version of this story said the bike resolution had passed Student Senate. The bike resolution was revised and sent to External Affairs, passed, and sent back to Senate where it awaits final approval.]