On my way to school this morning I passed Officer Ralph Nuno (bicycle campus police officer) stopping folks on bicycle at the north side of the Outdoor Adventures traffic circle. He was primarily looking for people who were listening to there mp3 players while riding their bicycle. I found this a bit outrageous, so I stopped to talk with him about what was going on. It turns out that he is the only bicycle cop on campus and is fairly new. He was very nice and gave me lots of great information on the situation.
He said that it was illegal to operate a vehicle on roadways with more than one earbud in, according to the California vehicle code. I have several issues with this:
- That bicyclists, especially on the car-free campus, are treated like motor vehicle drivers. We are in a car-free zone going at human speeds more akin to running and walking. I believe that the laws about bicycles should reflect this. He wasn’t citing walkers or runners for having more than one earbud even though they have to interact with the occasional car and/or bus. Bicyclists deserve to be treated different than motor vehicle drivers. Bicycles are much slower and not as nearly dangerous. Officer Nuno was enforcing the law to the letter, but the problem is the law.
- If the city and campus actually want to promote bicycling then we have to give bicyclists more convenience and privilege. Policy in America has long treated the bicycle the same as a motor vehicle. This creates an unfavourable environment for the use of bicycles. Until we change this fundamental idea, we will not see increases in bicycling. We have no problem giving cars more privilege than lets say…ATV drivers (even though there are lots of ATVs), or more privilege for buses than cars. There is nothing wrong with giving different transportation modes more convenience and privilege for the sake of a safer, an environmentally friendly society, but unfortunately automobiles are the dominant mode in America.
- Taking away your ability to hear on a bicycle will probably only cause harm to yourself. To clarify, I consider getting hit by a car while riding a bicycle as harmful but crashing into another bicyclist at normal bicycling speeds not really that harmful. Thus, I believe it shouldn’t be a priority that officers are told to go out and look for specific violations in a sting operation for minor infractions. Enforcing laws like these as Officer Nuno was doing today is only a discouragement for bicyclists.
- The earbud ticket costs over 100 dollars. This is outrageous. What at great way to discourage bicycling! Negative enforcement for these silly infractions are not helping to get more bicyclists on the road.
Not to be all negative, Officer Nuno did tell me about a couple of good things that the Campus Police are doing:
- The PD thinks the citation fee is way to high. They are working to lower the costs of bicycle infractions such as running stop signs and earbud use. I think this is good except that they will probably feel better about giving more tickets than just mostly warnings as they do now.
- The PD has teamed up with the Silo to give $7 coupons to people that are behaving well and following laws on their bicycles. He says the Silo loves it and they plan on continuing. Encouragement is an important key to get more folks on bicycles.
I would love to see the negative reinforcement for these minor infractions of the vehicle code be stopped, especially for bicyclists, and much more of the positive reinforcement and education increased.
– Jason Moore, UC Davis Graduate Student and member of the Davis Bike Collective