The more seasoned UC Davis students know that in order to get around campus, one needs a bike. Not only is it convenient, but as the largest campus in the University of California, it has become a necessity for many students.
Some incoming freshmen, like Paari Kandappan, are more excited about biking to class than intimidated.
“I’m really excited about commuting in a place where bikes are so popular because of the better conditions it provides for bikers,” Kandappan said, an incoming economics major.
Although enthused, Kandappan’s excitement can be a rarity for new students that have not yet biked in Davis, or have not biked since they were five years old. For those who have limited experience in biking, here are a few guidelines on how to safely get around town.
Obey all traffic laws
It may not seem like it but bikes are seen as vehicles in the eyes of the law. Therefore, all the traffic laws that apply to vehicles apply to bikes, including stopping at stop signs, yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks and not riding on sidewalks.
“Most students forget that a bike is a vehicle and that all the rules of the road for vehicles apply for bikes as well,” Officer Ralph Nuño said, UC Davis’s very own bike cop.
This even includes riding a bike intoxicated. Students who ride their bike while intoxicated can receive a Biking under the Influence citation (BUI) and the penalties are as severe as if the person was drunk driving.
Students who do break the law on campus can face a citation of almost $175 after going through the Yolo County. However, Officer Nuño has been working with the university to set up a new avenue for students who break any bike laws on campus to reduce the cost of a citation. He also plans on having a bike safety course set up by the end of the year in lieu of a citation.
“The most common laws broken on campus are not stopping at stop signs because [the students] don’t think they have to stop,” Nuño said. “Having two ear phones while biking is also commonly broken – you can only have one in while you’re biking.“
Despite all the rules, Officer Nuño has only given out one citation since he started in April. Instead, he has been handing out incentives to students who follow the traffic laws and are an example that other students should follow.
“The incentive is a $7 coupon for the Silo,” he said. “I give one out, for example, if I see a student stop at a stop sign. I’ll ask that student for a second and reward them.“
Bike circles (Roundabouts)
Possibly the most daunting part of the UC Davis bike world, the bike circles or roundabouts are a frightening parade of bicycles during the peak bicycling traffic hours during the year.
As intimidating as it could be, by following two simple rules, new students unfamiliar with roundabouts have a chance to survive the bicycle onslaught.
Traffic in the bike circle is always counterclockwise: that means all the bikes must go in that direction. Failing to do so will result in a horrific crash and your first of many embarrassing moments while riding a bike.
The second rule is that the bikes in the bike cycle have the right away and students outside of them must yield. This does not mean that one should stop your bike, but gently maneuver to merge gracefully, according to the Transportation and Parking Services‘ (TAPS) web site.
Riding your bike at night can be especially dangerous to a novice bike rider. There are two important things to remember when riding your bike at night.
The first is that you must have a bike light in front of your bike. This allows you to see the road ahead and for others to see you as well.
Bikes at night must also have either a reflector or a light on the back of the bike. It is the law and can result in a citation.
The most widespread crime in Davis is bike theft. It is very common to hear students complaining that their bike(s) have been stolen, some as early as the first month of school.
To help recover a stolen bike, students can register their bikes with TAPS. It costs $10 to register a new bike and $5 to reregister an existing bike registration. Doing so will allow police to identify the bike and increase chances of getting your bike back. After registering, the easiest way to prevent theft is to properly secure the bike with a U-lock to a bike rack. Students are not allowed to lock bikes to any campus building or lamp posts.
Even after correctly following anti-theft strategies, bikes may still be stolen by crafty thieves. If this is the case, Officer Nuño said that students should report their stolen bike to the UC Davis Police Department’s web site. Once submitted, he will receive the report and follow up on it.
Nuño has some final words of wisdom for new bikers that can be applied to safety in general around campus.
“Always be aware of your surroundings,” said Nuño. “Be cautious and be safe.“
NICK MARKWITH can be reached at email@example.com.