Berkeley Students Ballistic Over ‘BikeBusters’ and Fines

Gabriella Hoffman, Advertising Manager

In September, I warned about the advent of bike bans at American universities. McGill University in Montreal, Canada implemented similar “reforms” and faced scrutiny from its student body. At UC-Berkeley, similar measures discouraging bike riding on campus are underway. Universities are asking for unhappy campers if they go ahead with fining students for “disregarding bike rules.”

Having the right to bike around campus is essential to students. With high parking fees and other inconvenient charges abound, students rely on biking to get to classes. It is a simple way to navigate around campus when driving a car proves dangerous and costly. Why would a university want to punish its students for using more “sustainable” transportation approaches?

It is not surprising that leftist hotbed UC-Berkeley is going after bicyclists. In such a politically correct city where military recruiters are discouraged, patriotism is frowned upon, and hobos run rampant, UC-Berkeley’s police force feels it imperative to punish bike riders. Rather, they should be focusing their efforts on tackling real criminal offenders—not students minding their own business.

An example of one Berkeley student’s encounter with the law and subsequent bike fine was when UC Berkeley freshman Devin Shoop got a $220 ticket in September. His crime: locking his bicycle to a railing instead of a bike rack. He got another ticket two weeks later: $220 for rolling his bike through a stop sign instead of fully stopping. Now he has to go to traffic school to keep a moving violation off his driver’s license.

The SF Gate reports further reports on the outrage surrounding these bike fines: California’s law requiring the same traffic fines for cars and bikes isn’t new. But at UC Berkeley, where campus police have vigorously enforced the laws at a time of unprecedented tuition hikes, students are furious. They’ve started a Facebook page for critics of the fines, they’ve done bicycle civil disobedience, and they’ve written letters to campus police. Citations are up only slightly this year over last, and the fine is just a touch higher, but students have reached the boiling point.

Heckling students is not the best way to mitigate frustrations over UC fee hikes. It will only aggravate them more. The reason behind their motives is outlined here: “Our main interest is to ensure the safety of pedestrians. We’re not involved in setting fines,” said Lt. Alex Yao of the University of California police, who have nabbed 41 percent more bad bikers this semester than during the same period last year: 103, up from 73.”

Frankly, I would not feel safe knowing that law enforcement officers—who are supposed to look out for their citizens’ best interests—pay attention to meaningless things. Sure, basic safety rules for biking should be observed and enforced. Yet, quasi-1984 patrolling a biker’s every move will do all but discourage “bad riding.” Nevertheless, the University of California police cite moving violations for both cars and bikes under the Vehicle Code:

UC police have been citing students under the state’s Vehicle Code, which generally doesn’t distinguish between cars and bikes for moving violations. Parking violations usually are local matters – annoying, but not devastating to the pocketbook. In the case of Shoop’s parked bike, however, police slapped him with a violation of Section 21113 of the California Vehicle Code, which outlaws parking on public property without permission.

As a college student, I rely on my bike to get around campus. It is impossible to park at UCSD because numerous S-spots (student spots) are being converted and more expensive parking passes are tentative next year. If students are going to be fined for makeshift rules slated to “ease tuition hikes,” then American universities are in more peril than imagined.

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One comment

  1. A. Crowley · ·

    I graduated from Berkeley in 2001 and have been a Berkeley resident ever since, so I am very familiar with the campus and the bicycle/pedestrian issue. Walking to classes, I often felt imperiled by the way that many people rode their bikes through the well-known “dismount zones” where bicyclists were supposed to walk instead of ride their bikes. It is not a campus-wide ban- it only involves certain narrow areas of particularly high pedestrian traffic. One of the dismount zones involves a hill down to the Valley Life Sciences Building where as a science major I had many classes- bicyclists regularly coasted down that hill at breakneck speeds and made those of us on foot very anxious that we might be hit from behind. More than once, I’d been bumped by someone bicycling through a dismount zone and even though I wasn’t maimed, still it didn’t feel very good.

    The rules about bicycles were clearly gone over in the student orientation from the beginning and pamphlets delineating policies were handed out. The dismount zones are clearly marked with several signs. It’s definitely not a secret where you shouldn’t bike. The university is definitely very walkable- I did so the whole time I was there- and I didn’t have a car. It would be very wrong to characterize the campus as being “unfriendly to bikes.”

    I think it would be an eye-opening experience for people critical of the bicycle policy to visit the campus and walk through the dismount areas while there are people are biking through them. It’s just not safe. And that’s what this is all about.

    http://police.berkeley.edu/prevention/bike.html

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