The Department of Public Safety and LAPD will be conducting a second bike traffic enforcement effort today, despite sentiment from many students that the first crackdown was ineffective and unfair.
The crackdown on bike traffic will focus on the intersections on Jefferson Boulevard at Hoover Street and at McClintock Avenue. It will mirror the enforcement effort on Sept. 18, when LAPD gave out about 120 traffic citations, according to DPS Assistant Chief John Thomas.
Since then, Thomas said, LAPD officers have sporadically come to campus and ticketed students, but Wednesday’s enforcement will be the first concentrated effort since September. Still, Thomas said he hopes the periodic citations have helped decrease the number of offenders.
“We’re expecting them to write fewer tickets this time, meaning the behavior is changing and students are at least more mindful,” Thomas said. “If we write more of the same number we’re not having the impact we need to see.”
Despite Thomas’ optimism, many students said they have not noticed a difference in biking habits.
“People still ride against the traffic and in the intersections and they just hope they don’t get caught,” said Jeremiah Forkkio, a junior majoring in business administration.
DPS Capt. David Carlisle, however, said the occasional citation efforts, even if they don’t make a noticeable change, help prevent collisions and other bike safety issues.
“If we don’t occasionally take action to impound bikes or give tickets the problems get worse and worse,” Carlisle said. “When the resources allow it, we need to keep some control and order with the traffic flow.”
Some students said they do not think it is worthwhile for LAPD to dedicate time and resources to patrolling the intersections.
“It seems like LAPD has a lot more problems it could be dealing with than if USC students are walking their bikes in the crosswalks,” said Alicia Johnson, a junior majoring in French and neuroscience.
But Thomas noted that it is LAPD’s South Traffic Division that enforces these traffic laws, and one of its primary tasks is ensuring traffic safety.
“Students say the officers can be doing something more important, but traffic safety is one of the most important quality of life issues in the city of Los Angeles,” Thomas said. “We have two of the most problematic intersections in our division, so it’s a good use of South Traffic Division’s resources.”
Other students argued that the cost of the citations is too steep given the magnitude of the violation.
Rachel Fuhrman, a sophomore majoring in international relations, was given a $212 ticket in September for failing to obey posted traffic control signals. But Fuhrman argued the signs were not clear enough.
“There was a sign that said, ‘Walk bike in crosswalk,’ which is pretty much illegible because the ‘bike’ part is graffitied out,” Fuhrman said. “It just says, ‘Walk in the crosswalk.’”
Fuhrman said she thinks tickets should be given just to students who are biking
dangerously. She does not think students should be ticketed for coming to a near stop and then slowly entering the crosswalk.
Still, Thomas said, officials must consider pedestrian safety when deciding whether or not to ticket.
“The crosswalk is an extension of the sidewalk,” Thomas said. “But with the number of bikers causing the people walking to get out of the bicyclists’ way, we consider that disregard for the safety of others.”
Thomas noted, however, that most of the citations issued were not for biking through the crosswalks, but for riding in the wrong direction.
Geoff Montgomery, a sophomore majoring in business administration, said he received a $174 ticket for biking against the flow of traffic. Montgomery plans to appeal the ticket in court, however.
“I think the city realizes that by making students jump through hoops, a lot of kids will just pay for it to avoid the hassle,” Montgomery said. “It would be one thing if it were a $30 bike ticket but it’s more than some speeding tickets that my parents have gotten.”
Despite students’ wariness of the enforcement efforts, Carlisle said they are worthwhile if they make even a small difference — and he thinks they have.
“We have noticed students walking their bikes in the crosswalk at Jefferson and McClintock and that may not have been the case in recent years,” Carlisle said. “It may be a small incremental increase in compliance but if that makes fewer accidents then we’re happy.”