Bikers in Isla Vista will have more to worry about than becoming the hood ornament on a car next time they speed through a stop sign, courtesy of local law enforcement’s recent crackdown on bicycle safety violations.
The Santa Barbara division of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and the UC Police Dept. received a $130,000 Pedestrian Safety Grant to fund increased enforcement of bike and automobile laws in I.V. CHP spokesman Don Clotworthy said the CHP has been working with the grant money since the start of Fall Quarter 2004. He said the grant money allows the CHP to put extra officers in I.V. to target bikers that jeopardize pedestrians’ — and their own — safety.
“They ride at night without lights on, run stop signs and bike on the wrong side of the road,” Clotworthy said. “It’s almost common in Isla Vista to ride like this, and it’s not a safe way to ride a bike.”
Clotworthy said while there may be more tickets issued because of the grant, officers have been writing tickets to bikers for years for violating various laws. He said bikers are required by law to follow the same laws as cars and motorcycles.
UCPD Sgt. Mark Signa said the most common bicycle offenses have been bikers running stop signs and failing to yield to other vehicles. Clotworthy said other ticketable offenses include biking without a light, biking on the wrong side of road or on the sidewalk, biking with headphones and biking with people on the handlebars.
Clotworthy said along with increasing enforcement, the CHP and UCPD were increasing education to make sure bikers are alert all the time. He said continuous education efforts are necessary because new residents move into I.V. every year.
“Education is an important part of the grant,” Clotworthy said. “We aren’t trying to write college kids tickets. It’s not the Highway Patrol going after college kids.”
Signa said the UCPD is using a portion of the grant money for education and enforcement in I.V. He said bike safety has been an issue on campus and in I.V. for 15 years, and said violations could potentially go on the violator’s driving record.
Signa said bikers who receive tickets in I.V don’t have the option of taking a class to reduce their fines. He said the bike safety class was only available to students who received a ticket on campus which was was not associated with the grant.
“The UCPD has been stepping up enforcement on campus, but that’s not part of the grant,” Signa said.
Clotworthy said the new enforcement efforts target bikers, but he said the main focus is on automobile safety. He said the CHP increased the number of officers on duty within the last several weeks, and he said there have been at least one or two extra officers on duty in the morning and afternoon, and even more on the weekends.
“We have officers out on Friday and Saturday night targeting drunk drivers and bikers,” Clotworthy said.
Clothworthy said officers were also enforcing school zone speed limits in front of Isla Vista Elementary School, which is a double fine zone.
“We are enforcing the 25 miles an hour limit while kids are present,” Clotworthy said. “The grant allows us to have officers out there.”
Clotworthy said the CHP will not have any data on the number of tickets issued as part of the increased enforcement until the grant period ends a few months from now, but he said the majority of tickets are being written for automobile violations. Signa said he was not certain where the grant came from, or exactly how long the money will last.
Jeff Steinberg, a senior psychology major, said he was recently issued a $110 ticket for a bicycle violation in I.V.
“He wrote me the ticket for wearing headphones while biking, but I also ran a stop sign,” Steinberg said. “I was at the three-way stop by Super Cucas and ran through the sign.”
While Steinberg said he understood why the officer pulled him over, he said he was surprised that police have begun watching for bicycle violations specifically.
“I never stop at that stop sign — it’s kind of the I.V. standard,” Steinberg said. “The cars always stop, but on a bike you lose all your momentum. Usually, I just cruise right through it.”