Lately it seems that one of the more common topics I have been asked about is the increase in bicycle enforcement at UCSB. Some people are happy about us being out there enforcing the rules and encouraging bicyclists to obey the traffic laws. Others feel that this is an attempt by the over-zealous government to instill fear among the peace-loving and environmentally conscious by crushing their hopes and dreams and creating a mind-numbing Orwellian society that replaces freedom with the awesome demagoguery of the State, whose silent black unmarked helicopters circle in a never-ending search of a free spirit to crush.
I don’t know. I just think you should stop at a stop sign to avoid getting hit by a car. And anyway, everyone knows that the black helicopters are flown by the aliens that killed JFK and are searching for the Loch Ness monster that escaped from Area 51 with the help of Bigfoot and the chupacabra. Come on, everyone knows that.
So what are the rules for riding a bike on campus? First and foremost, bikes must obey all signs and signals. Even if you think a stop sign is in a dumb place, you still need to obey the sign. It’s totally OK to disagree with the sign being there, or to feel that it should be for the other traffic or even that the color red clashes and should be more of a pleasing chartreuse. No problem. Our society relies on people disagreeing with the “norm.” However, you still need to follow the rules until you can get them changed.
Next, bike riding and sidewalks are not meant to mix. Unlike the smooth mix of chocolate and peanut butter, whose real danger is the bloated feeling you get after going through an entire Costco bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups while watching a marathon of the first-season DVD of “Scrubs,” bike riding on the sidewalk places the pedestrians at risk. It’s much safer to keep the walkways clear for pedestrians.
And speaking of pedestrians and sidewalks, skateboarders are also considered pedestrians and are supposed to stay on the sidewalks. They are not allowed on the bike paths. That would be like mixing chocolate and mayonnaise. Move over M&M’s, here comes America’s next super taste sensation… or not…
Now what about speeding? Although there’s no set speed limit on the bike paths, the rules do state that you have to ride at a reasonable speed for the conditions (weather, path condition or traffic). Now, before you get visions of cops on motorcycles hiding behind bushes with radar guns, that’s not the purpose of this rule. Its purpose is to prevent both bicyclists who are zipping around cutting people off and those who are going so slow that they are blocking the rest of the traffic on the bike path. For an officer to give a ticket for this, we would be looking for the biker who was nearly causing an accident.
Now I realize that many bikers are frustrated with the idea that the police are out there writing tickets, but this is being done with the goal of trying to reduce the number of accidents we have been responding to over the years. I’ve held too many towels on people’s wounds to stop bleeding while waiting for the paramedics to arrive. Many times, these injuries would not have happened if the bicyclist had stopped at the stop sign, or had been riding on the right side of the road, or just been paying attention to traffic. If writing a few tickets can help prevent that from happening, it is definitely worth it.
Also, the police are helping to mitigate the $124 fine by offering a one-hour safety class that reduces the cost of the ticket to $35. The goal of writing tickets is not to punish people, but to help educate people on the importance of biking safety at UCSB and in Isla Vista.
So, in closing, I just want to encourage everyone to share the bike paths. If there is one thing that can help improve bike safety, it’s just being courteous to your fellow bikers. Watch out for each other and share the limited space we all need to ride and it will go a long way in making biking in our community a greater experience for everyone. Gotta go now. The black helicopter seems to be following me…
Ticked off by a ticket? Party pooped by the Patrol? If you got questions, don’t let it eat away at you. Ask them! Call or e-mail me anytime. Mark.Signa@police.ucsb.edu or the Crime Prevention Office at 893-4063.