Last Friday started off great. After waking up at 8 a.m. to no alarm on a clear, sunny day, I threw on some workout clothes, grabbed my bike and headed out the door toward the Rec Cen. A typical ride through I.V. with few people around, considering most are either asleep or in class at 8:15 a.m. on weekdays. Not much for a cop to do right about now, you’d think.
Aside: If you saw sense in the previous statement, I want you to go find a mirror, look into it and slap that naivety off your face. Do it. Right now. Remember the grimace you make at that point in time, and let it be a reminder to never allow such ignorance back into your head.
As I reached the end of El Colegio Road, I turned left at the crosswalk, about to make a right across Stadium Road. I rode around the bike loop at a good pace and turned toward campus. I looked left, right and left again just as is instructed in both driver’s ed and motorcycle safety courses. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a blue uniform, but it was too late; my front tire was only a matter of inches from the stop sign, and I passed it without having a chance to brake. Knowing there was no way he could have missed my mistake, I rode over to the cop where he stopped me on the side of the bike path.
Damn it … I think to myself.
“Sir, I’ve pulled you over today for not stopping at that stop sign just behind you,” he says to me. “I’m going to give you a citation for this offense. You may take a one hour bicycle safety course next Friday and pay a $35 fee to avoid this being counted against your driver’s license.”
The cop then proceeded to ask for my ID and take down my address and phone number. After giving him the information he needed, he presented me with the carbon copy sheet of his citation booklet, along with a yellow cardstock info sheet about the UCSB Police Department Bicycle/Skateboard Safety Class.
It should be noted that in the time I was standing there with the cop giving me my citation, eight other riders blew past the very same stop sign I had just rode by. The last one even had a child in tow behind him in a bicycle trailer. Despite the father’s stopping 10 feet from me and the cop to give his son some cinnamon raisin toast, the cop didn’t give him a single glance. The cop then said goodbye, walked back to his car and left as I read over the safety class information sheet.
Guess who it says to make the check out to? Not the IVPD or the Santa Barbara Police Dept., nor the state of California as the payment of my one other moving violation was written to, but to UC Regents. You know, those 26 board members who can’t wait to take your Tuesday night closing shift paychecks as often as they can fabricate reasons to do so.
The $35 I will spend in administrative fees to the Regents, granted, is much better than the $194 fine I would have to cough up if I chose not to do the Bicycle/Skateboard safety course. However, that $35 could have been much better spent in a donation to, say, Unite to Light, a nonprofit organization. Unite to Light founders John Bowers and Claude Dorais came to speak at my ENGR 111: Opportunities and Perspectives in Technology, Business and Society lecture last Thursday about their noble cause to provide affordable, durable LED reading lights to impoverished students in Third World countries. A simple $25 donation to Unite to Light buys you one of their bright, durable, water-resistant, solar-powered reading lights, as well as 19 lights for children in Ghana, or wherever else you choose to have the lights sent. Do the math and you get that my $35 moving violation (on a BICYCLE with nobody around, remember) could provide almost 27 reading lights to students who normally spend their nights breathing in the fumes of kerosene lamps in order to do their homework. To the pulmonary system, that equates to smoking two packs of cigarettes per day.
But no. My $35 is instead being lost in the black hole that is the wallets of the UC Regents. The regents play Jabba the Hutt as my money plays Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Chewbacca, fed to the insatiable sarlacc, only this time the heroic trio does not escape.
The UC Regents are desperate. This is evident in that police time is wasted as cops are planted simply to collect $35 fines from cyclists who will be drawing pictures in their notebooks as they listen to an hour lecture about how to properly ride a bike. So watch out, everyone, for although budget cuts have become a seemingly weekly event, and classes are so impacted that your pass time becomes more stressful than finals week as you draft your war plans to get into the courses you need, BKSFTY 152 still has many open seats.
Christian Platt is a second-year mechanical engineering major.