Watch out Aggies, there’s a new sheriff … well, officer in town.
Officer Ralph Nuno of the UC Davis Police Department began patrolling campus grounds for all bicycle related offenses this Monday.
Lieutenant Matthew Carmichael of the UC Davis Police Department said the need for a bicycle officer on campus has to do with “common courtesy” and “recognizing one’s own safety.“
“Stopping at a red light is the right thing to do. Stopping at a stop sign is the right thing to do. Not riding on a path where people are walking is the right thing to do,” Carmichael said. “It’s really a choice. We either choose to follow the rules of the road or we don’t – and when we don’t, unfortunately, sometimes people get hurt.“
The city of Davis, also referred to as the bicycle capital of the nation, is home to over 100,000 bikes, 60 percent of which are contained on the UC Davis campus, said Philippe Chordas, the business manager at Bike Barn.
In the core of the campus, bikes are the number one mode of transportation and with so many bikes, many obvious and flagrant violations occur on campus, Carmichael said
According to Nuno, aside from violations such as wearing headphones with two earphones while riding, utilizing the phone for calling or texting purposes while riding, not obeying signs that say to walk one’s bike along walking paths – for example, by the flagpole – the most obvious violation occurs at stop signs.
“I think [cyclists] forget that [bikes] are considered a vehicle and that they do have to come to a complete stop at stop signs,” he said.
A retired officer from the Oakland Police Department, Nuno has completed over 20 years of service and has had many assignments that have included bicycle enforcement. He opened bicycle substations within his Oakland community and recently facilitated the opening of UC Davis‘ substation in Shields Library.
Nuno was appointed the official bicycle officer after interviews conducted by ASUCD Student Police Relations Committee Chair Kara Rodenhizer, TAPS Coordinator David Takemoto-Weerts and a UC Davis Police Department supervisor.
“Officer Nuno is the man,” Carmichael said. “He’s only been here a short time and I can tell you, he is part of this campus already.“
Nuno’s shift is going to be Mondays through Thursdays, 10 hours a day, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. with great flexibility. He may work weekends and some days he may work nights, but primarily when the majority of the bicycling population is expected to be on campus, Carmichael said.
“I’m going to be patrolling primarily the core of the campus,” Nuno said. “I’ll be looking for students that are not only violating the laws, but also [those] that are acting appropriately and then rewarding them as well.
“I mean, just because you see me doesn’t mean you’re always going to get a ticket.”
With no pre-set quotas, Nuno’s goal is not to write tickets all day. In January, the UC Davis Police Department partnered up with the Silo, creating the Bike Light program to provide positive reinforcement for those that abide by the rules.
“Officers have tickets with them – they are not mean tickets or bad tickets – and they’re not fine violations,” Carmichael said. “They’re actually gift certificates for lunch at the Silo.
“So if an officer sees a student or somebody doing something right, like say stopping at a stop sign, they’ll ask them if they can speak with them. If the person agrees, then they’ll thank them for their good biking habits and give them this Bike Light ticket which in reality is a meal at the Silo,” he said.
Nuno can be seen on a police bicycle, fully equipped with a red light and siren to pull cyclists over.
“[The UC Davis Police Department’s] not asking for a lot,” Carmichael said. “We’re asking more for this to be a partnership. If people start respecting one another with the rules of the road – with bicycles – eventually it’s going to catch on … and there will be a day when we’ll come down Hutchison Drive and all of the bikes are going to stop at the light.
“If you know the officers are out there focusing on bicycle enforcement, then you’ll be a little more conscious when riding your bicycle. The whole idea is for safe bicycling on campus. That’s the bottom line,” he said.
POOJA DEOPURA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.