DPS stumped on enforcement of bike policies

USC’s Department of Public Safety announced in September that they would be cracking down on bike safety and security, but more than a month later students continue to break the rules of the road without consequence and DPS says they don’t have the resources to follow through.

“Quite frankly, there are so many bicycles that it’s impractical,” DPS Capt. David Carlisle said. “We would impound more bicycles than we have room to store.”

Locked up · Jack Buntmann, an undecided sophomore, locks his bike in front of the Student Union, where there are no bike racks. Though the Department of Public Safety threatened to impound all unsecured bikes, few students have had their bikes impounded. - Mike Lee | Daily Trojan

Locked up · Jack Buntmann, an undecided sophomore, locks his bike in front of the Student Union, where there are no bike racks. Though the Department of Public Safety threatened to impound all unsecured bikes, few students have had their bikes impounded. - Mike Lee | Daily Trojan

Early in the semester, DPS sent emails warning students that bikes not secured to racks would be impounded. But students said they have not noticed any change, and DPS says it simply doesn’t have the resources necessary to handle all bike offenses.

Unsecured bikes can be found all over campus, but few are ever actually impounded.

Instead of impounding, Carlisle said DPS has been relocating bikes to areas near racks.

In an effort to combat another bike safety issue — riding in crosswalks and on the wrong side of the street — DPS also distributed fliers listing the “Rules of the Road” and cautioned students that bicyclists who broke traffic laws would be ticketed by LAPD.

Though LAPD, in conjunction with DPS, cracked down on biking laws one day in late September, and occasionally stations an officer at major intersections, students continue to violate traffic laws, biking through intersections and riding on the wrong side of the road.

“It’s still the same,” said Franklin Lopez, a sophomore majoring in civil engineering, of the new initiatives. “Nothing has changed.”

DPS Chief John Thomas said that though bike safety is a big problem, DPS hasn’t put the brake on bicycle violations because they want to give students an opportunity to change their habits themselves.

“We have been giving students an opportunity to correct the behavior themselves,” Thomas said. “We’re giving as much time as possible for students to self-regulate.”

But some students think the infrequent LAPD presence is already too much.

“It’s a waste of time; they should be doing something else,” Lopez said. “It’s a waste of resources.”

Thomas agreed that LAPD has more important things to do than hand out tickets to bikers.

Carlisle added that the problem was complex, and would require more work than just citations and tickets.

“There’s no simple answer to the problem,” Carlisle said. “It’s not uncommon for students to ride on the wrong side of the road. I find it particularly annoying that I have to stop for bikes — annoying and illegal — but bikes are a problem with no simple solution.”

Last year, DPS specifically dedicated more of their resources to the campus bike problem, with more DPS officers warning students about violations. The problem became more manageable and it seemed students were better handling the situation, Thomas said.

“Now students are regressing,” he said. “We’re seeing more students going back to the way it was, going back to the same old habits.”

22 replies
  1. Chris Miranda
    Chris Miranda says:

    My main concern as a biker is avoiding the bikers and pedestrians who are on the wrong side of the road. Oftentimes, these are the people who are talking on their cellphones, oblivious to their surroundings. And as long as I know people who have been tackled off their bikes at intersections, I will not stop.

    LAPD and DPS… help me feel safe. Stop this silliness of citing people for riding in crosswalks, and stop those who text/talk on their cellphones while riding. Stop those who ride on the wrong side of the road.

    At 2:45 in the afternoon, am I really being unsafe, riding carefully through in a crosswalk, when there are at most 5 pedestrians crossing? I sincerely hope that the Master Plan will help me, not requiring me to make an unprotected left turn from McClintock onto Jefferson. By far, the safest way to make a left turn is on the crosswalk.

  2. CD
    CD says:

    My main concern as a pedestrian is to be able to safely cross campus without being hit by a bike, skateboard, motorized whatever.

    Why not try having designated bicycle areas, say, around the periphery of the campus, with enough biclycle racks there for parking. Bikes would be allowed on the roads, of course, and maybe wide paths such as Trousdale Parkway. Red traffic cones could separate bicycles from pedestrians. Once the rules are clear, enforce them.
    Any able-bodied student should be able to walk in the interior of campus. The rest of us do.

  3. MC
    MC says:

    I am surprised by some of these responses. As a graduate of USC 03 ( I never had a bicycle in 4.5 years) I have never seen the bike problem so serious, I see a big diffusion of responsiblity by the students who seem to think that a bicycle is a magical device that allows them to ride anywhere without sonsequece. As a current staff member I have the unenviable job of sometimes going to California Hospital to interview some of those unlucky students who have just learned a painful lesson, sometimes it can be serious. If you don’t beleive me ask other USC staff members they are sick of bicycles and all the issues they cause…most students never really will understand unitl something happens to them or someone they know:(

  4. Biker chick
    Biker chick says:

    Is it really necessary to ride a bike all over campus? Why not have the bike parking in certain peripheral areas to allow for the students to ride to campus, then – walk to classes. If you have a class on the other side of campus, ride it around the exterior of the campus. It is too dangerous and the bikers go in these small narrow places just not meant for bikes and pedistrians.

  5. Fellow Trojan
    Fellow Trojan says:

    @ MC

    Is this really your serious solution? Clearly you put a lot of thought into that. Maybe we can all drive on campus? Helicopters should be able to land on a few spots on campus, too. That should ease the congestion.

    Or, you could leave things relatively similar to the way they are. Cyclists simply need to focus when riding and not be texting or making phone calls. Pedestrians also need to LOOK where they are going. Just because you are on foot, doesn’t give you a license to become a fool. I had an incident a couple of weeks ago where the sidewalk narrowed and I slowed down and eventually came to a stop, waiting for the pedestrian to look up…she was texting. She walked in to me. I was stopped. Take a peek next time before you cross; you’d do that for a car wouldn’t you?

  6. MC
    MC says:

    I think the only real solution is major bicycle restriction. I have attended several campuses in the southern california and I have never seen anything like what happens on a daily basis at USC. USC is to small to accomadate every single student who wants to ride instead of walk. A severe restriction on riding into the campus will finally free the USC campus from the bike monster.

  7. Eric Bruins
    Eric Bruins says:

    @ Pedestrian:
    I completely appreciate and sympathize with your perspective. As a commuter, I am now more frequently a pedestrian on campus than a cyclist. Both of those incidents violate existing rules about how cyclists are to operate on walkways. The relevant law is LA Municipal Code 56.15 which prohibits riding on the sidewalk with willful or wonton disregard for the safety of persons or property. A cyclist that collides with a pedestrian is in obvious violation and should be cited. Additionally, California state law prohibits talking on a handheld mobile device while operating a vehicle. A cyclist on a sidewalk is in a grey area, but it would be easy for DPS to establish as part of their campus bike policy that cyclists may not ride while using a cell phone to call or text.
    The issue that cyclists face, and the reason that LAPD and DPS have not earned the cycling community’s respect, is that rather than enforcing reasonable existing rules, they seem to make them up on a whim. To be fair to the officers, they are often trying to “do the best they can” to improve safety for everyone. But, the ad hoc approach to cycling enforcement neither changes behavior or improves safety.
    In the state of California, bicycles operating on the roadway have all the rights and responsibilities of a motor vehicle. The applicable code is CVC 21200, which requires cyclists to ride as far right as practicable, among other things. In the City of LA, bicycles are permitted to ride on the sidewalk as well. LAMC 56.15 requires the cyclists to operate without disregard for the safety of pedestrians. USC’s policy is to follow the CVC, but also permit cycling on pedestrian pathways.
    The confusion results from all the grey areas where cyclists must transition from being vehicles to pedestrians and vice versa. Particularly at Hoover and Jefferson, there are no options to enter campus without becoming a pedestrian on the campus side of the street, regardless whether the cyclist came from University (a walkway) or Hoover (a roadway). At McClintock and Jefferson, there is an option to wait for the vehicle light after the pedestrian cycle, but it would continue to be inconvenient. Furthermore, cyclists coming on the sidewalk from Orchard should use the pedestrian cycle because they are legally using the sidewalk as pedestrians.
    DPS and LAPD need to do a better job training their officers on the applicable regulations. LAMC 56.15 is adequate to cite cyclists for riding recklessly without going to great lengths or making up laws (such as no riding in crosswalks). Avid Cyclist is correct that the yellow signs are advisory, not regulatory.
    For more information, refer to: http://www.bicyclelaw.com/blog/index.cfm/2009/9/28/An-Exercise-In-Absurdity

    • Chris Miranda
      Chris Miranda says:

      Eric Bruins: Question::

      Would CVC 38300 apply to the situation on Jefferson-McClintock, when riding bicycles in the crosswalk?

      “Division 16.5, Chapter 5, Article 1
      Off-Highway Vehicles: Off-Highway Vehicle Operating Rules: Traffic Signs, Signals, and Markings

      Unlawful to Disobey Sign, Signal, or Traffic Control Device
      38300. It is unlawful for the driver of any vehicle to disobey any sign, signal, or traffic control device placed or maintained pursuant to Section 38280.
      Added Ch. 1093, Stats. 1976. Effective January 1, 1977. “

  8. Evangelina Armetna
    Evangelina Armetna says:

    After reading this article i found it to agreeable. The LAPD is doing all they can and their job is not to babysit people/students who are beign careless about it. They don’t appreciate all that they do and if the student wants to be careless and leave their bike unlocked then it’s on them. They can’t just take advantage of them and expect them to be at their side taking care of their belongings while they live life day by day .

  9. Spencer Kassimir
    Spencer Kassimir says:

    Honestly there are two problems:

    1. Lack of bike options such as secure ample parking and designated paths

    2. Lack of enforcement for actual laws and too much emphasis on other ineffective ‘unofficial’ rules

    Easy solution: Provide ample bike parking and designate certain lanes or areas for bike traffic. With that, write citations to all of those who are actually endangering others such as biking on a cell phone without an earpiece.

    You can’t simply ticket people and not offer improvement to an already overcapacity and neglected major portion of the student, staff, and faculty population.

    PS Towing cheap bikes doesn’t particularly work since the point of a cheap bike seems to be the result of the fact that bikes are stolen far too often on campus thereby making them expendable. Few will care if their cheap bike is towed because the status quo as it stands is no different than having it potentially stolen.

  10. Pedestrian
    Pedestrian says:

    I’m a doctoral student in the evenings, a disabled individual, and a pedestrian, pleading for cyclists to be mindful of their responsibility. I walk from WPH (Rossier School of Education), across the pathway of Trousdale to get to Taper Hall. We’re talking 20-30 yards at the most. Twice, I have been hit by people on bikes who are either on their cell phone with one hand glued to their ear, or even better, the freshman who was texting with both hands on his phone, looking down, as he was pedalling at break neck speed. He can move faster than I can, and on a WALKway, I get hit. As I try to walk into Taper Hall, I have to navigate around bikes parked or just dropped on the ground, sometimes 10-20 bikes deep, just to get to the front door. My solution…bring a flatbed truck, and every bike not secured gets hauled away. Too bad ! Load ’em up and ship ’em out! If a student comes to claim their bike, DPS should cite them for not abiding by the rules of the campus. It has ben posted, printed, e-mailed, etc., thus fair and widespread notice has been made. It’s like tacking up a notice in the middle of the town square. If someone chooses not to read it, there is no fault on the one making the notice. Students have been put on alert. I have no sympathy if they don’t secure their bikes, or operate them in a safe manner.

    • meghan
      meghan says:

      I totally agree with “pedestrian” Haul away bikes not secured. Rules are rules. Why is everyone treating USC students with kid gloves. No one learns anything by coddling them this way. And you don’t have to be disabled to get hit. I once got hit by a bike rider in another city, left unconscious in the road, and am still paying for it! Head injuries, head aches, neck problems. It is not fun. It is unbelievable how students ride while texting and talking on their cell phones. This is the height of arrogant, non caring disrespect for life. I felt such relief about the idea of tickets being issued and hoping that would control this out of hand problem. But now they are waiting it out giving it more time?? Since when does anyone think students will “self regulate”?? Are you kidding me?? So everyone is bending over backwards to ENABLE students to continue BREAKING THE LAW! I repeat they are BREAKING THE LAW!!! What has to happen for anyone to take this seriously and put an end to this reckless riding that endangers not only the bike riders but everyone and anyone around them and that includes drivers in cars trying to get through Jefferson as bikes come at them from the opposite direction in THE WRONG LANES. Thanks again, DPS, Carlisle and USC for doing NOTHING, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!! to keep the rest of us students safe.

      • Chris Miranda
        Chris Miranda says:

        I agree with your statement. I believe there is definitely room for improvement in signage around campus and at intersections. I believe that DPS and the LAPD should be targetting unsafe bicycle riders (especially those using cellphones and riding on the wrong side of the street).

        I believe your argument would be more sound if you refrained from making unfounded and unfair claims, such as your claim that students riding while texting/talking on cell phones is the “height of arrogant, non caring disrespect for life.” I do not believe that anyone is bending over backwards to enable students to continue breaking the law. I believe that police and DPS are simply unsure of how to enforce the laws which apply to bikes. Also, it is not against the law to leave a bike unsecured. It’s just irresponsible.

        My issue with the citations is the lack of respect that the police officers show when giving these citations. It makes us bikers believe that we are not meant to be on the streets.

        I don’t think you understand how scary it is to be on the road with two-ton vehicles. The drivers are not in danger. Bikes are like flies compared to cars. Making that unprotected left turn from McClintock onto Jefferson on a bike is impossible, and dangerous. Bikers need some protection, too.

    • Chris Miranda
      Chris Miranda says:

      Many cyclists are mindful of their responsibilities. Many cyclists would never use their cell phone while riding.

      I sympathize with your problems at Taper Hall. I have the same problem at VKC. Plus, it is difficult to find park when bicycles block bike racks. The bikes which are left on the ground are an unfortunate consequence of a lack of parking. As far as I know, it is not against the rules to leave a bike unsecured. It’s just dumb.

      Has it really been posted, printed, and emailed? I must have missed that.

      From my point of view, the real nuisance is skateboarders, who lack brakes. Yes, they can hop off their board, but that board keeps rolling. Skateboarders (especially longboarders) also lack the mobility of cyclists. When will skateboarders be subject to the scrutiny which cyclists are experiencing now? Why are skateboarders allowed to ride through crosswalks?

  11. Jordan
    Jordan says:

    Yeah, cyclists should be careful and obey the laws. If there aren’t the necessary resources available for them, than something should be done to take care the problem. Bringing in the LAPD doesn’t solve the situation, it just brings intimadation and awareness for when they are there and pulls valuable resources away from the city. You have to find the root of the problem to solve it.

  12. Jared
    Jared says:

    I agree with the above comments. There is no vehicle code or municiple code that says bicycles are not allowed in crosswalks. It is 100% legel to do so in Los Angeles. Just do it in a safe manner.

    Students should be made aware of this and fight any citation for violating LAMC 56.15 in court. More often than not, the rider in question was not violating this code so long as they were riding in a safe manner and yielding to pedestrians.

  13. Chris
    Chris says:

    I second what the commenter before me said!
    First, the yellow signs AC mentioned. Second, here are the laws:
    No biking on sidewalks in such a way that shows a “wanton disregard for pedestrian safety.” Unless you have an explicit ban on biking across intersections, I would consider them to be pedestrian walkways, right? By riding in a crosswalk, you’re a bike in a pedestrian area, just like you would be on the sidewalk. So, if you’re biking in a responsible manner in such a way that you won’t run anyone over, I’d be hard pressed to say that it constitutes a wanton disregard for safety.
    You wanna ticket us for that, then go get City Council to actually pass a law to that effect.

    …as far as the bike parking goes, there clearly need to be more racks in certain areas. The bookstore, Student Union… there are even a bunch of extra bike racks piled up under the steps of PED! Move them 10 feet out towards the book store, bolt those babies in, and that solves one of your problems.
    Once there is enough parking, then there would probably be fewer transgressors and DPS could realistically enforce it.

  14. Avid Cyclist
    Avid Cyclist says:

    I agree that the LAPD are completely wasting resources when they try to nail us cyclists on trivial issues. But remember your rights as cyclists and know the rules of the road!

    For instance, know that in California, signs that have a yellow background are cautionary, meaning that they are not enforceable. The signs that tell you to walk your bike in the McClintock-Jefferson and Hoover-Jefferson intersections have these yellow signs, meaning that you break no law when you ride your bike in a crosswalk!

    If the LAPD wants to get picky, they should really ticket riders who ride on the wrong side of the road and endanger other cyclists.

    • Yep
      Yep says:

      I agree. And it’s egregious when that LAPD motorcycle cop is hiding next to the “University of Southern California” marquee waiting, or trapping, those who ride their bicycles across the Hoover and Jefferson crosswalk. About a $500 violation—yep, talk about conspiracy in light of the dismal economy. That yellow sign is not a warning then. Any law students want to comment on this?

    • Educated Cyclist
      Educated Cyclist says:

      Avid Cyclist: FALSE! You must have missed the part of CA law that states there are two ways to ride a bike: in the road, with traffic, obeying vehicular traffic laws OR on the sidewalk, riding more slowly, yielding to pedestrians, and WALKING YOUR BIKE ACROSS THE CROSSWALK.

      Yes, that’s in the law. Whether or not the posted signs are yellow is irrelevant because they serve as a reminder of CA statute.

      Good job.

      • Chris Miranda
        Chris Miranda says:

        Educated Cyclist: Show me where CA states that you must walk your bike in the crosswalk. Really. According to the CVC, crosswalks are “the prolongation or connection of the boundary lines of sidewalks.” If we can ride on the sidewalk (true), we can ride in the crosswalk.

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