The latest collaborative effort between LAPD and USC’s Department of Public Safety could end up costing bikers up to $250.
LAPD and DPS are joining together to step up enforcement of bicycle laws around USC. The effort will include an LAPD task force — officers dedicated entirely to monitoring bike safety at USC — that will patrol key intersections near campus on specific days and issue citations.
“We will have a task force because the bicycle issue is becoming a very serious issue,” said Officer Boyce of LAPD’s South Traffic Division.
There are three specific traffic laws that students often violate, Boyce said. He said LAPD has repeatedly noticed students biking against the flow of traffic, not stopping at stop signs and riding their bikes through intersections, all of which violate regulations.
Boyce said there will be one or two officers out each day, but the larger task force will monitor the area occasionally.
DPS Assistant Chief John Thomas said DPS is most concerned with the intersection of Hoover Street and Jefferson Boulevard and the intersection of McClintock Avenue and Jefferson.
Thomas noted that the goal of the increased is not to aggravate or punish students, but to make the intersections safer.
“You don’t want to write a citation if you don’t have to, but we have to clean up those intersections because we have seen accidents occur there,” Thomas said.
DPS Capt. David Carlisle said DPS has seen many of the same types of traffic violations as LAPD.
“If bicyclists want to ride through the intersection, they should do so as a car would,” Carlisle said. “If they’re going to be in crosswalks and they have a bike they’re supposed to walk it, but they usually don’t.”
At crosswalks, Boyce said, bikes are considered vehicles, and by riding through intersections they are interfering with pedestrians.
Students who are found violating a traffic law can be ticketed by LAPD.
Currently, only LAPD officers are issuing city traffic citations, but DPS officers are being trained to be able to cite bicyclists as well.
The maximum penalty for a traffic infraction is a $250 fine. Citations can also involve appearances in traffic court.
“It will likely involve a fine,” Carlisle said. “The idea is not to punish, it’s to change behavior.”
Though DPS has asked LAPD to issue warnings before giving out citations, Boyce said it is at the discretion of the officer whether to give a warning or an actual citation, and some citations have already been issued.
Anna Phillips, a sophomore majoring in international relations and economics, was stopped by an LAPD officer on Wednesday while riding her bike through the intersection of McClintock and Jefferson.
Phillips was given a ticket, and was told the amount of the fine would be sent to her by mail.
“I would have an easier time understanding all of it if they had publicized these rules,” Phillips said. “If I had known it was illegal to bike in that manner then I wouldn’t do it.”
Other students were also irked by the decision to enforce bike rules.
“I’m not from here, so I don’t really know the bike laws and I don’t want to be punished for something I’ve never been educated about,” said Nicole Katekaru, a sophomore majoring in East Asian languages and cultures.
Some students, however, thought the citations could be a good thing for student safety.
Jessica Erskine, a senior majoring in theatre, said she thought it was students’ responsibility to learn the traffic laws.
“If you’re breaking the law, I feel like there’s not much you can do about it,” Erskine said. “I don’t think there’s any case for us to say that’s not fair. There are rules of the road and they’re there for our safety.”
To help educate students, DPS gave out fliers last week detailing the laws they and LAPD will be enforcing.
Laura Driscoll, a freshman majoring in international relations, said she didn’t think the new push for bike safety would lead to a long-term change in students’ habits.
“We’re at school and we’re in a hurry,” Driscoll said. “People may take the time to think about getting off their bike if cops are giving tickets, but if people don’t see a cop, they’re probably not going to get off.”
DPS and LAPD officers will continue to monitor bike safety at least through the end of the semester, Boyce said.
DPS officers cannot yet issue tickets, but they can cite students to USC Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards.
Though LAPD would not confirm which days the task force will be around campus, resident advisers in Troy Hall were told by the “Adopt a Hall” DPS officer in the building that the task force would be out and ticketing on Sept. 17 and Oct. 8, according to Pablo Ortiz de Urbina, an RA in Troy.