UC Santa Cruz sits on top of a mountain. Given the limited parking options and environmentally friendly mindset, many students choose to get around town by riding their bicycles. On a side street near the bottom of the mountain, right off the main road everyone takes to get down to the shops and restaurants in town, a sheriff’s deputy waits with a radar gun. It’s one of the busiest speed traps in town because so many people speed down that hill due to the steep decline. One of the most popular groups to get speeding tickets is student cyclists, much to their collective surprise.
Tickets Come As a Surprise To Many Cyclists
A lot of cyclists don’t discover that they are subject to most of the same traffic laws as motor vehicles until they’re watching a law enforcement officer write out a ticket. This is likely more for the safety of cyclists than for motorists. After all, in a collision between a cyclist and a motorist, who is, for all intents and purposes, wrapped in thick metal armor, the cyclist is much more likely to be seriously injured or killed. There are also less traffic incidents when motorists can assume cyclists must follow the same laws as them, so motorists can predict the ways cyclists will behave on the road.
Other Traffic Tickets for Bicyclists
In addition to following the speed limit, cyclists are required to stop at red lights and stop signs and ride in the same direction as traffic. If a cyclist would like to go in the opposite direction of traffic, they are required to dismount the bike and walk it on the sidewalk or, if there is no sidewalk, as far to the right of the road as practicable. If a bike lane is available and the cyclist isn’t riding as fast as traffic, the cyclist should use the bike lane.
Unlike drivers, cyclists are allowed to use a handheld cell phone (possibly because that would be such an impressive balancing feat that few attempt it, so there haven’t been enough accidents caused by this behavior to force legislation). But, like motorists, they are not permitted to wear headphones in both ears, as hearing the world around them is an important tool in staying safe while sharing the road with other vehicles.
New CA Bicycle Safety Law
However, there is good news for cyclists with tickets out there. A California law was passed in late 2015 that allows cyclists to take a bicycle safety class. Traffic violations are treated the same for cyclists and motorists, so a cyclist who ran through a stop sign would be fined the same amount, which can add up to $400 depending on the court that’s handling the citation. The class would allow those with tickets to reduce the fine from the courts, which is especially appealing, as many people ride their bikes in order to save money.
Also, there’s a lot of training, regulation, and requirements regarding who can operate a motor vehicle, but no similar program exists for bicycles. Cyclists generally learn to ride their bikes as children and assume they know everything they need to know. Because of this inconsistency, the bicycle safety class also aims to train cyclists to ride safely and obey traffic laws. It’s basically California traffic school for bikes.
For now, there are only a few of these safety schools in the state. While the new law made the safety school an option through the court, there’s still the issue of actually opening the schools and hosting classes. Hopefully, this idea can catch on and save more bicyclists from the dangers of the road and the high fines that come from traffic tickets.